Minstrel Banjo

For enthusiasts of early banjo

Just got this old banjo on eBay. It was listed as homemade or folk art, which is why there were no serious bidders.

I think it is an 1870s  H.C. Dobson, before he went to the more conventional design in the 1880s.

Any thoughts, pro or con about that I.D.? Haven't taken it apart yet, so don't know if it says  Dobson inside the pot.

Jim Jacquet

​Olympia, WA

Views: 673

Comment by Dave Culgan on November 1, 2013 at 6:50am

Jim, George Wunderlich put that kind of 5th peg set-up on the Boucher style banjo he made for me about 20 years ago. He would probably be able to answer your question from yesterday.

Strumelia, I think it was said that this pot appeared identical to the 1867 pat. Dobson banjo. I think I have the original neck to Jim's new banjo, it has flush frets.

Comment by Strumelia on November 1, 2013 at 7:17am

Dave, that's intriguing.  Any photos?  It would make sense- with all the veneering and mechanical gizmos going on too.

Comment by Jim Jacquet on November 1, 2013 at 11:19am

Dave--you have the neck??? To MY banjo??? I want it! lol

Comment by Dave Culgan on November 1, 2013 at 1:01pm

Well, it might be the neck that was originally on that pot. :) When I got it there was nothing else with it.

Comment by Dave Culgan on November 1, 2013 at 1:07pm

This is a detail of the banjo George made for me.

Comment by Strumelia on November 1, 2013 at 1:47pm

So Jim, I'm wondering if the inner pot somehow got rotated- there seem to be several more closely spaced screws/holes at around 4:00 on your pot- I'm wondering if one or two of those was meant for the tailpiece attachment. 

If we look at this other similar example, see the tailpiece screwhole:



That neck is probably original, it's more in keeping with the pot, neck looks to be maybe solid mahogany?-or someone else can guess the wood.

Hard to tell from your photos- is that veneer that it coming off parts on the pot, or just little cracks in the wood surface?

Gosh, it must be pretty heavy!  Are you planning on trying to make it playable or restored?

Comment by Jim Jacquet on November 1, 2013 at 5:58pm

Dave and Strumelia--thanks for the informative pics! Gives me something to ponder.

I wonder if it is possible to fashion a new metal tailpiece based on the one in that picture?

Took the banjo over to a friend who repairs and builds banjos. He feels the neck is not original, the frets are not only crooked but in the wrong place, AND there is a bow in the neck at the 5th fret, which means the neck will have to be planed down. Yikes! This will be more involved than even I realized.

Comment by Jim Jacquet on November 15, 2013 at 12:11pm
Well, with the generous help of Eric Prust of Prust Banjos, in Sequim, WA, my old Dobson-buckbee is playable for the first time in probably a century! Turns out the bow in the neck was not as pronounced as it had looked when the frets were in. The main problem we encountered was the top tensioning screws were mismatched and the screw holes were mostly stripped-out. Filled the holes with some new wood, and had to get some brand-new nuts, bolts and washers. head tightened right down after that.
New pegs, nut, tailpiece, and strings, and she plays really nice.


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