Lange 5-string Conversion

 

Hi, folks, I have not done any updates here for the better part of a year. Mostly, I have been doing repairs that were already discussed here in one way or another. Also, I got a little pug pup who takes quite a bit of attention. His name is Ozzy and he is a fat little bundle of joy. I can't begin to tell you how much I love the wee fart.

 

 

 

 

Anyway, here is a banjo project:

Some years ago, I bought an attic lot of mandolin-banjo parts. Deep in the pile was a very pretty unmarked mandolin-banjo that had really suffered in its life. The neck was a lost cause. The heel had been repaired maybe four times, each more clumsy and desperate that before. I did salvage the fingerboard and some of the peghead inlay.
The rim was a nice heavy piece with bird's eye maple veneer.

You will note the little studs around the top edge of the rim. These are steel, force-fitted into the rim. I don't know how long they are since I was not able to get one out.

Directly over the studs is a heavy steel tone ring. It is stout, being 5/16" diameter stock.
Two brass alignment pins keep it in place, centered on the studs.
The ring is stamped "20". Your guess is as good as mine.

Its got a heavy notched brass tension hoop and handsome, matching hooks, brackets, and bolts. I covered it with Yellowstone brand synthetic material, which you should read about here: Yellowstone link

After much internet searching, I concluded that the rim was made by Lange, probably in the 1920s. Lange is the Lange in "Rettberg & Lange", the guys who bought out Buckbee.

Lange made Paramount banjos and the great Orpheum banjos. The rim bears a number of similarities to Orpheums. The main difference is that Orpheum tone rings sat on rectangular tabs, not studs, and their rings were sized to make an arch-top configuration. I was able to find one ca. 1915 Lange 5-string on the web at Intermountain Guitar & Banjo, as shown to the left. It is identical except for the color of the rim cap. See also some history of Rettberg & Lange that I put together here: LANGE
Since the mandolin neck was trashed, I figured that this rim would be a good candidate for conversion to a 5-string. From my stack of necks, I chose a factory second Gold Tone neck that I have had around for a few years. It was probably intended for the Gold Tone CC 100 or similar model.
When this was made, Gold Tone was using a thick, glossy finish. I don't know exactly what it is, but I have never cared for a thick, super-glossy finish. So, I scraped it off (it is VERY durable). The photo at left shows the finish where it had been chipped somehow. I am not critical of Gold Tone; their products are quite good. Its just that their finish is not to my taste.
Since I had a Lange pot, I thought it would be fun to cut the peghead to a shape used by Lange. Looking around, I found that the Paramount peghead shape (left) was similar to the Gold Tone cut. Here (right) is a scan of the Gold Tone peghead sanded down to bare wood.
Now, superimposing the Paramount shape on the peghead scan, we get a pattern used for cutting. I use Photoshop Elements for this. In this case, I cut the Paramount image in half and re-sized each half to fit. Then just cut it out with the Dremel drill press and applied a ebonized maple headstock veneer. I left it un-inlayed so the new owner can put down whatever she/he wants.
The rest is straightforward. I drilled the heel for a dowel stick and recut the heel to fit the rim. I also added an ebony heel cap. The neck is simply finished with a little ColorTone stain and 4 coats of clear lacquer to resemble the rim.
I added some generic planetary tuners with replacement ebony buttons.
The tailpiece is from my "spares" box and the bridge is a Veerman "Mystery Wood" model.
Overall. Decent rosewood fingerboard with basic diamond inlay. Black plastic binding. Scale length is 26 1/4"
Reverse. Rim thickness is 11/16". Rim diameter is 10".
(will try to get an MP3 file here soon) It is a nice player. It has some of the best bass response I've experienced. For sale over at Banjo Hangout in the Classifieds.

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