PO Box 882, Elkins, West Virginia 26241
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Page updated 4-8-2017
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FIVE STRING BANJOS
Openback 5 string banjos are a specialty here at Smakula Fretted Instruments. Everyone who works here plays clawhammer banjo, a style well suited to the open back five string. We rarely have resonator Bluegrass banjos for sale, but from time to time we will have one or 2 in stock. Please inquire, as those instruments might not make it to the web page.
Fifth String Railroad Spike Capos; Installed free on request when you buy one of our banjos.
2005 Goose Acres T11M. This Cleveland, Ohio made banjo will bring you more years of happiness than LeBron James brought that city's basketball fans. However, this banjo won't leave you, millions of others, and a city's economy in despair when is deserts you for Miami because it is a simple yet superbly crafted banjo with an 11" 2-ply maple rim, a brass tone hoop, Remo Fiberskyn head and no-knot tailpiece. The neck is straight maple with an ebony headstock overlay, 26-1/4" scale length ebony fingerboard, and Schaller tuners. It plays better than Johnny Manziel did for the Browns, and sounds better than any lame Cleveland sports analogy I could ever muster up. No less, these are great banjos and they never last long here. Snap it up at $1,350 With a brown Superior Case. Sorry, Sold, Photos
New Enoch Tradesman by Enoch Instruments. 11" or 12" rim with black finish, 25 1/2" scale, natural finish walnut or cherry neck with a Dobson-style profile and round heel, Richlite fretboard with dot inlays and an adjustable trussrod. Geared Gotoh planet & 5th tuners and cool octagonal dowel stick. Available fretted or fretless. In our opinion, the best new utility banjo on the market. GB; $1,185 fretted, $1,115 fretless. A fretboard scoop is a factory option at an additional cost of $35.
Enoch Tradesman 1/2 Fretless. So you like playing fretless banjo but are afraid of hitting a wrong note up the neck? Then this is your banjo. It's fretless to the 6th and fretted from #6 to 17. 12" rim with a cherry or walnut neck. It's new with a gig bag. $1,360. Photos
Enoch Tradesman Flush Fret. A great place to start your fretless career. Instead of raised frets, this instrument has inlaid white lines where the frets normally go. You can get the fretless sound and have the accuracy as long as you are looking. New with a gigbag, with Scooped fingerboard; Walnut neck with 12" rim and neck scoop in stock. $1.190.
Click here for a list of new Enoch Tradesman banjos in stock and ready to ship today.
1903 Fairbanks Whyte Laydie #2. The three most exciting things to come to Elkins, WV in the past decade:
1) The Randy Travis concert in 2011 where he made the college basketball gym bleachers rattle with the low notes on "Diggin' Up Bones."
2) Sheetz opened a location next to the Goodwill in 2015, allowing for one to buy a burrito filled with tater totz, deep fried Mac and Cheetos, and multiple copies of "Twister" on VHS in a matter of minutes.
3) A gentleman in Australia sold Smakula Fretted Instruments this truly incredible pre-fire A.C. Fairbanks Whyte Laydie.
This is possibly the best banjo we have in the shop. The tone is full and rich, with astonishing clarity. The high end is crisp and clear, and the low end flat out rumbles. It's one of those instruments that inspires and pushes the player to create. Yeah, I know the Sheetz Mac and Cheetos were hyped like this too, but unlike those greasy little cholesterol bombs, this banjo will make you feel uplifted and not strung out on regret. It has a 10 3/4" maple rim with a renaissance head. All rim hardware is original except eight hook and nut sets and the reproduction wire armrest. The maple neck has a chunky soft V-shaped profile and a 1 5/16" nut width. The original fingerboard, headstock overlay, and heel cap were all made of crumbling pressure died maple when we received the banjo, so we replaced the fretboard with ebony and the peghead overlay and heel cap with our proprietary colored wood that replicates the colors of the original, but with out the crumbly part. While the Icilio Consalvi engraved peghead inlays are original, the inlays on the 25 7/8" fingerboard are reproductions engraved by the incredible inlay artist and banjo builder Kevin Enoch. The tuners are ABM planets with a Schaller geared 5th, but the grained ivoroid buttons are original to the banjo. It plays effortlessly, and is somehow more satisfying than a one AM Sheetz run. We love it. You will too. $5,000 With Hardshell case. Sorry, Sold. Photos We invite you view some photos of this banjo before the Smakula Fretted Instruments restoration; Photos
1910 Fairbanks by Vega NO 2 Whyte Laydie. If offering more quality vintage openback banjos for sale was a contest, it is likely that Smakula Fretted Instruments would be the clear winners. Including this instrument, we now have 9 (Nope, down to 8) vintage original five string Fairbanks and Vega banjos for sale, all properly repaired/restored and ready to play. This example was manufactured just after the discontinuation of the iconic A.C. Fairbanks & CO. plate, but still has the same features as the earlier instruments. The neck is natural blond finished maple with an engraved gryphon peghead inlay. The 26" scale original ebony fretboard has the standard engraved inlays you expect to find on a Whyte Laydie NO 2. The 10-3/4" ;////, 13/32" thick rim retains all it's original hardware, including the No-Knot tailpiece. We did upgrade this banjo with a few modern parts. New ABM planet tuners with a Schaller 5th (original grained ivoroid knobs installed) and a new Remo Renaissance head. All in all this instrument is in very good plus condition. Amazing to hold and play. $4,000 with a recent TKL hard case. Photos
1905 A.C. Fairbanks Whyte Laydie N.O. 2. Getting these banjos through the shop never gets old, unlike the Christmas candy that I just ate. Though the fact the cast of Full House was on the packaging should have been a giveaway that these Crackle's days of being fit for human consumption are long gone. This post fire banjo is far more sweet anyway. SFI's master banjo craftsman Andy FitzGibbon replaced the decomposing ebonized hardwood head stock overlay & fingerboard, installed modern ABM tuners and a new Schaller 5th, but other than that this banjo is remarkably original and clean with all of the pearl engraving intact. It has a 10 15/16" maple rim with a calf skin head and a neck with a 1 5/16 nut width and a 27" scale length. Unlike most Whyte Laydie N.O. 2s, however, the maple neck has some very subtle but quite attractive figuring on the bass half. It sounds like a great Whyte Laydie, because, well, it is. It's just bright enough with some really nice depth to the tone. Come try it out and you'll understand why these are perpetual favorites around here. Plus, if Uncle Jesse on Full House played banjo, it would be this one. $4,500 with brown Superior Hard Shell Case. Photos
1908 Fairbanks Style G Whyte Laydie Banjeaurine. We do pride ourselves in attracting the more unusual of instruments to our shop. Banjeaurines come through our doors on occasion, but we have had only one other original Whyte Laydie. The neck is what you would expect with an original instrument of this time period. The maple neck has an ebonized veneer glued in the center. The 19-7/8"" scale ebony fretboard is a replacement done here at SFI (the original was decomposing ebonized hardwood) and has the original fully engraved mother-of pearl inlays. The replacement peghead overlay features the original engraved gryphon with star and bell thingie. The 10-3/4" rim has the Whyte Laydie bracket band and scalloped tonering. The tuning pegs are modern ABM planet tuners and a Schaller geared fifth with the original grained Ivoroid knobs installed. We tuned this banjo up to B, perfect for the bluegrassers that don't want to use a capo, but for the rest of you, tuning to G or A is not a problem. The price of this excelent condition instrument is $4,000. We were lucky to find a well fitting vintage hard case to include with the purchase. Photos
1902 A.C. Fairbanks Imperial Electric. #0. Amazingly we have had 4 similar original Fairbank`s Imperial Electric banjos through our shop in the last couple of years. The last one we had for sale was purchased within hours of it being available. So what are you waiting for? A description? Fair enough. The blond maple neck is very similar to a Whyte Laydie N.O. 2 of the time period. A Consalvi engraved mother of pearl gryphon is the centerpiece of the peghead with the other familiar corresponding engraved mother-of-pearl inlay. Antique small shaft planets have been added for tuning ease. The original dyed maple 26" scale fretboard has turned to an attractive shade of cocoa brown. Though it exhibits some wear, it is in solid condition. The original inlays are still present and attractively engraved. The banjo's10-3/4" rim has the internationally known Electric Tonering, early two point shoes, and barrel style nuts. The only repair on this instrument we notice is an over coat of clear finish on the peghead. Not offensive at all. Tone is full with a good volume. Played clawhammer style over the neck you can get a good pop on the strings. String height is a little high for some players, but 9/32" at the 22nd fret is perfect for some. The price with an original case is $4,000. Photos
1898 Fairbanks Special Electric NO.5. This shop has seen its share of visually stunning instruments, from the hot pink Barbie guitar I procured at a South Elkins yard sale for fifty cents to the finest works of Boston's turn of the 20th century banjo makers. The latter definitely describes this rather rare and elegant instrument. It has a 10 3/4" spunover rim with an Electric tonering, cobra hooks, a skin head, and two point shoes. The rosewood neck has a multi-layered backstrap, a 27" scale ebony fingerboard, and a truly tasteful quantity of inlay. Presently, this instrument is set up with its original ivory? Tuning pegs and tailpiece, so it is strung up with nylgut strings. You could become one of the fancier members of your neighborhood classic banjo club, as this current setup would sound quite good for your version of "St. Louis Tickle" (definitely not my version of "St. Louis Tickle", which is as tragic as the ending and soundtrack to Titanic.) It also has a nice mellow pop that lends itself to clawhammer quite well. And in exchange for $6,000 it'll lend itself to making you look really classier than Sinatra drinking non-gas station wine. Includes a hardshell case. Photos
1899 A.C. Fairbanks Electric No 5 As Is. Sometimes I think that to work on a nearly priceless artifact you really should have approval from a committee. This formerly great banjo has been reduced to a puddle of it's former self. But the good news; The committee has approved you to purchase this banjo to repair or restore. So here's the good things first; The mahogany neck has the beautiful flower carving at the heel. The 27" ebony fretboard has a mix of original and replacement inlays. Peghead (front and back) are original inlays The 10-15/16" full spun rim has a great looking scalloped tonering and the rim's interior is bound very figured wood. And the not so nice? Replaced dowelstick (lose) with an Intermountain repro Fairbanks plate. New cobra hooks & nuts. Refinished neck. A fretboard that looks like it was backbowed ad then sanded flat to make it straight, so it is a little thinner in the middle than the ends. Give the pictures a look over and see if you have the fire to get this one up and going again. Price is $1,500 with a Harptone hard case. On Hold. Photos
1882 Fairbanks and Cole. Audrey Hepburn. Bugatti automobiles. The Biltmore estate. Sure they might seem like unquestionable icons of classic elegance, but in comparison to this instrument, they have the sophistication of getting arrested in the parking lot of a Tudor's Biscuit World for selling pirated DVDs. The 11 9/16" spunover rim has a gorgeous new Stern Calf skin head in it, a bone tailpiece, a two foot bridge similar to what it would have had originally, and a surprisingly comfortable original Walker's Arm Rest. The mahogany neck has an ebony backstrap, peghead overlay, and new 26 3/16" fingerboard installed here at SFI. All inlays are original save for a few on the fretboard. While the ebony violin style friction pegs aren't the most ideal in terms of functionality, they are what this instrument would have had originally so given its age and originality, we opted to install new reproductions.. Its stung with Nylgut strings, and paired with the fresh set of frets it has, it plays effortlessly and sounds mellow with just a little but of snap, as required by many black tied classic banjos players. Be the classiest person you know and get this. It embodies the best of 1882, in contrast with The Chinese Exclusion act and the death of Mary Todd Lincoln. $2,200 With TKL Hardshell case. Photos
1916 Vega Whyte Lady rim with Recent Doug Unger neck. Compared to some of Mr. Unger's works, the inlay on this 26 3/16" scale fingerboard and neck is pretty subdued. However, it is still quite stately against the reddish tinged snakewood fingerboard and peghead overlay. The back of the Maple neck has some light figuring and a heel carving, and the amber tuner knobs complement the overall color scheme of the instrument quite nicely. The 10 1/8" rim shows a few signs of its 98 years on Earth, but is still in pretty nice shape and includes all original hardware. A great sounding, elegant banjo that looks like no other. The $5,000 price includes a TKL case. Photos
1926 Vega Tubaphone #3. When this banjo was manufactured. 87 years ago, tenor and plectrum 4 string banjos were all the rage. Original five string banjos from any of the major manufacturers were available, but certainly not common. This great example of a Vega five string banjo has a mahogany neck with a carved heel, a 27" scale ebony fretboard, and a mother of pearl inlaid peghead with the word Vega surrounded by a floral vine. New ABM small shaft planet tuners with the banjo's original grained ivoroid tuner knobs have been installed along with a complementary Schaller geared fifth string tuner. The 10-15/16" Tubaphone rim is in great shape and includes a new No-Knot tailpiece and Remo Fiberskyn head. The only issue with this banjo is a repair to a broken peghead ear. The repair is strong and will not fail. All in all the banjo falls in excellent minus condition category. The price with a modern Superior bump hard shell case is $3,000. Photos
Recent Eastman Whyte Laydie. The hotdog piled with macaroni and cheese that I made for lunch wasn't a precise reproduction of it's inspiration, "The Rat" from Bob's Hotdogs. No doubt Norton, West Virginia's former finest restaurant/date spot (closed in March of 2017, sigh...). I'm pretty sure Guy Fieri hasn't visited it on Diners, Drive Ins, and Dives because even he would have been intimidated by their portions and the baseball bat that Bob wields whenever there is trouble afoot in his establishment. Likewise, this banjo is by no means a precise reproduction of its inspiration, the Fairbanks Whyte Laydie No. 2. No less, lunch was great, and after a thorough hand washing, I've came to realize so is this banjo. Soundwise, it has a delightful warm pop (this is a good thing with banjos. When it comes to Mountain Dew I had with lunch, warm pop is a bad style) thanks to the 10 3/4" maple rim, Whyte Laydie tone ring, and Remo Renaissance head. The neck and rim are curly maple, which while historically inaccurate, looks fantastic. Said neck has a traditional Fairbanks chunky, U shaped profile, a 25 11/16" scale ebony fingerboard, Gotoh Tuners with ivoroid buttons, and a 1 5/16" nut width. It's a good value on a great banjo. We promise it won't smell like "The Rat" hotdog by the time you get to play it. $1,000 With original hardshell case. Photos
1910 Vega-Fairbanks Tubaphone rim with Bob Anderson "Bee and Thistle" neck. Easily the fanciest bee- themed banjo in the shop. The Cocobolo neck has a 23 3/8" scale fingerboard festooned with inlays of honey bees, honey combs, thistles, and possibly the most elaborate bee hive ever inlayed on a banjo. The peghead overlay has a rather large thistle with bee on top presumably pollinating it, and the peghead's back strap is adorned with the rear view of that image. The neck also features extensive thistle themed heel carving that extends all the way up to the seventh fret, as well as Five Star Planetary tuners that have elegant amber knobs. The 10 3/4" rim's hardware is all gold plated minus the original cammed No-Knot tailpiece, and has the typical Vega blonde finish. Oh yeah and there are some more bees on the dowel stick. Overwhelmed? Yep, me too. But if you need a bee-lated Christmas gift for your favorite old-time banjo/apiary enthusiast, I humbly submit a suggestion. With TKL hard case, $6,500 Photos
Recent Rickard Maple Ridge. Our favorite thing about Canada is definitely Shania Twain, but this banjo right is up there with 55 gallon drums full of maple syrup and a clerk at Canadian Tire apologizing profusely for a minor inconvenience when it comes to fantastic things in that country. The 11" maple rim has aged brass hardware and a Dobson Tone Ring that is conductive to tone warmer than a Tim Horton's Croissant and with more pop than Shania's dance remixes. The maple neck has a chunky, soft V profile, a 1 3/8" nut width, a 25 9'16" scale ebony fingerboard. To describe it with Shania songs, this banjo will draw to mind "Forever and Always" and "Still the One" rather than "That Don't Impress Me Much." Take it home for just $1,200 (George Washingtons, not "loonies"), and it includes a hardshell case. Photos
1970s Gibson RB-175. Even though it says Gibson on a fiddle shaped headstock, this is no utensil of Stanley sound. That's because any instrument with a 31 15/16" scale length isn't gonna cut it on the "How Mountain Girls Can Love", or even more modern Stanley family "classics" like "Papaw, I Love You." Yes, it's a long neck banjo, as favored by folks who know all the words to "Where Have All the Flowers Gone" and "Charlie on the M.T.A." This one in particular has an 11" 10 ply maple rim with a rolled brass tone hoop, which lends itself surprisingly well to a really cool, field recording type old-time sound. The lanky mahogany neck has a 1 3/16" nut width and a D profile. Its fun and easy to play, though a little too easy to knock into things given its giraffe like proportions. For $1.200, it can knock into your things! Includes the original cardboard case. Photos
1962 Gibson RB-170. This banjo somehow escaped its Kalamazoo, Michigan birthplace without a long neck in midst of the folk boom, so you might have to do some tuning if you're really set on playing "Where Have All the Flowers Gone" in E. However, this instrument has plenty of 1960's character (a charming kind, not the Cuban Missile Crisis or the Cuyahoga River in Cleveland catching on fire kind of character) and thanks to a fresh SFI set up and refret, plays and sounds better than it probably ever has. It has an 11" full thickness (3/4)" maple rim with a brass tone hoop, which gives it the archtop appearance. The mahogany neck has a 26 1/2" scale rosewood fingerboard with new frets, and a new set of Gotoh tuners. There is some finish checking throughout and a ding on the neck by the 13th fret, but otherwise it's held up pretty well in its 55 years of existence. It can be yours for $1,100, with hardshell case. Photos
1900s A.A. Farland Concert Grand. If you like large quantities of Birdseye green beans, we'd like to direct you to the frozen food isle over at the Food Lion. However, if you like large quantities of Birdseye maple, look no further than this Farland banjo. The 11 1/2" birdseye maple rim has the typical Farland bevel top in place of a tonering, and has some remaining parts of a Farland mute affixed to the dowel stick (it looks like a mustache!) The neck, which is a little less intense with the birdseye figuring, has a carved heel and a 27 9/16" scale length ebony fingerboard. The floral decorated headstock overlay was replaced by SFI using the original inlays. Also, the neck has a few circular divots that while odd (capo marks? Tooth marks?), don't impede the excellent playability of this instrument. The tuners are ABM planets with a Schaller 5th and the playability and functionality has never been better. This is a large banjo, but you'll have a large time with it. $1,800 with superior hardshell case. Photos
1894 S.S. Stewart Universal Favorite No 2. Samuel Swain Stewart's catalog from1896, just a few years after this banjo was made, advertises 'Thousands (of SSS Universal Favorites) In Use" And with the restoration of this UF No 2, it's safe to say likely there are still thousands still in use. For those unfamiliar with the SSS UF line, here are a few details. 11" maple spunover rim with way cool faux rosewood on the inside. 27" ebony fretboard with an attractive handful of crescent moons, stars and other pale abalone inlays. The neck is cherry and has a 1-1/4" width at the nut. We brought this banjo to the late 20th century with a neck reset and geared tunes by ABM (peghead planets) and Schaller (geared 5th) When we received this instrument the area of the 4th string had a badly repaired break. We rebuilt it. Including a replacement peghead overlay (all original inlays thank you) to insure it will never have a chance of failure at an inopportune moment. Tone is well-rounded ad bright with medium steel strings. Price is $1050 with a hard case included. Pictures coming soon.
1893 S.S. Stewart Universal Favorite N0.4. After not having very many S.S. Stewart banjos in the last few years, we are currently experiencing a minor wave of these finely made instruments. This particular banjo comes from the era when Samuel Swain Stewart was in his full glory, publishing catalogs and newsletters filled with important banjo wisdom like; "If you must use your banjo for a snow shovel, do so; only don't wonder why it sounds dull afterwards." This banjo was obviously not used as a snow shovel. Not only is the tone bright and precise, there is no indication of contact with gravel or rock salt. To achieve the utmost in playability we recently performed a neck reset, refret and set it up with a new Remo Renaissance head. This upper grade instrument has gorgeous shell inlay on all but 6 frets that actually sort of reminds you of falling snow. Please also admire the sweet engraving on the side of the spun-over rim, the layer of marquetry on the inside of the rim, and the nicely carved heel. The neck was refinished decently and new geared tuners have been installed. At 124 years old, it still looks great and has plenty of life to go. With a Harptone brand case, the cost of this banjo is $2,000. Sorry, snow shovel and banjo are sold. Photos
1893 S.S. Stewart Orchestra No. 2 Flush Fret. Stewart's Orchestra model banjo was their largest of their standard production. A 27-1/2" scale and a 12"rim (though 13" was optional) this is a fairly big banjo. The number 2 ornament has an attractive number of pale abalone inlays in the peghead and fretboard and a nicely carved heel. The original beaded celluloid tuning pegs have been properly fit and work very well with the Nylgut strings. This banjo even has a Stern calf skin head, so there is nothing you would want to change. One well-executed repair is a replaced peghead ear at the first string. This instrument's long time owner purchased this banjo with a chunk of pine nailed there. He had SFI restore that portion of the banjo in the early 1990's, when this banjo was only about 100 years old. Seems like I can not keep S.S. Stewart instruments in the shop for more than a few weeks these days. Better get it while the getting is good! $1,500 and includes a sturdy TKL gigbag. Photos
1897 S.S. Stewart Presentation Solo Banjeaurine. This is a gorgeous example of the work that came from the 221 & 223 Church Street factory just before the turn of the 19th century to the 20th. The peghead is adorned with vase with flowers and 3 butterflies. Of the 20 frets, there are only 6 that do not have glittery trademark Stewart inlay. And what is a Stewart without a carved heel? Certainly not this one, as the carving is a crisp as it left the factory 120 years ago. And to add just a little more, the inside of the rim is layered with multi colored marquetry. The specs; 19-3/4" scale, 11" rim with a Remo Renaissance head, cherry neck, original friction tuners with Nylgut strings. One bit of weirdness; All the metal are chrome plated. As commercial chrome plating was not available until about 1925, we are sure this was originally nickel plated. This is a great sounding and visually striking Stewart banjo. Cost is $2,000 and a vintage hard case is included. Photos
1910's Clifford Essex. Roger Miller's loving tribute to English people and lifestyles, "England Swings", somehow failed to mention this charming artifact of London's banjo making heyday. Some of the great minds of this shop have formed the hypothesis that Mr. Miller wrote said masterpiece after drowsily watching Marry Poppins, so based on that assumption we'll forgive him for this slight. It has an 11 1/16" spunover stained maple rim, set up with a renaissance head for a pleasant tone that is both warm and bright. The mahogany neck has a 26 3/8" scale ebony fingerboard, which has a fresh set of frets in it. Plus it is a handsome instrument that thanks to the fresh setup and new Gotoh tuners, functions and plays as good as it looks. And to paraphrase Roger Miller, If you huff and puff and you finally save enough money you could buy this banjo from Smakula Fretted instruments for $800 let me tell you where to go, go to England ohhhhhhh. Includes chipboard case. Photos
1920's Washburn Style C Rim with New 5-String.Neck. The SFI craftsmen/historians have been in hot debate over the pedigree of this particular 5-string. The rim is great sounding 10-3/4" diameter Washburn. The neck.? Maybe a Ramsey, or a neck made in a Ramsey "Build a Neck" class. It's maple with a 25-5/8" scale ebony fretboard, 1-1/4" nut width, 5-Star tuners, and fresh frets properly installed here at SFI. The 5th fret inlay is quite a bit off center, making us think it was a student that made the neck. It's a little on the quirky side, but big on tone and playability. And at $650 with a Superior hard case, this one will not last long. Photos
1997 Bart Reiter Grand Concert. When Bart Reiter isn't on his motorcycle touring the countryside or target shooting at the landfill, he makes some darn nice banjos. This instrument is the now discontinued Grand Concert Internal Resonator model. Simple inlays on a 26-1/4" scale fretboard. The rim and neck are both maple, with the rim having an 11" Stewart-Macdonald Bacon style tonering. The head is a fairly thick premounted calf skin, giving the instrument a plunky meaty sound. Great condition and fun to play. Price is $2,000 and we include the original TKL hard case. Photos
2014 Deering Vega Old Tyme Wonder. A nice, yet simple instrument from the United States' most prolific modern manufacturer of banjos. The maple neck has a 26-1/8" ebony fretboard with pearloid dot inlay and a fretboard scoop near the rim. The 11" maple rim has no tonering to enhance the lower overtones of the banjo. 24 brackets, a No-Knot tailpiece, and a Remo Fiberskyn head complete the business end of this banjo. With the original Deering Vega branded superior hard case, the price is $1,100. And in excelent condition. Sorry, Sold. Photos
1973 Gibson RB-250. Imagine running a freight train at 57 miles per hour and suddenly seeing that 2 other trains on the track ahead have had a collision. What does this have to do with one of the best banjos money could buy new in 1973? This banjo's original owner was the engineer of the locomotive and through fortuitous circumstances, walked away from the 5 million dollar wreck. Like his former locomotive, this banjo has plenty of power. The 2 pound, 3 ounce 20 hole flat head tonering is fitted to a full thickness multiply maple rim that has a 2 piece flange. The 26-1/4" ebony fretboard is decorated with the traditional '250 leaves & bows mother of pearl inlays on the mahogany neck. Also has the original Gibson branded Schaller tuners. We just gave the instrument a good cleaning, a fresh set of frets, three properly installed railroad spike fifth-string capos, and a new Remo medium crown frosted top head. Costing significantly less than the above mentioned clean up, this excelent condition 44 year old bluegrass powerhouse can be yours for $1,700 and we include the uncompromising protection of the original hard case. Photos
1986 Deering Golden Era Bluegrass Banjo. The original owner of this banjo recently decided to finally part with this excelent condition resonator banjo. Her comments; "I could never get my right hand to work correctly and I play fiddle now". So, what we are offering is a barely played, excelent condition, 31 year old bluegrass machine!. The Deering Golden Era is an homage to the classic Gibson banjos of the 1930's. Hearts & Flowers inlay, one-piece flange, and a 20 hole bell bronze flat head tonering. To sweeten the deal is the amazing curly maple neck and resonator finished in an amber-burst. Included in the $2,200 price is the also excelent condition case that the original owner had the foresight to have a case cover made. Pick It! Photos
2015 Gold Star GF-100 HF. Ever since their introduction in 1976, these Gold Star banjos have been redefining the way the bluegrass community sees imported banjos. Despite being manufactured across the Pacific ocean, these banjos have been seen onstage with some of the most influential groups in recent bluegrass music (The Johnson Mountain Boys, Ricky Skaggs and Kentucky Thunder, and Lou Reid and Carolina to name a few). This banjo features the famous hearts and flowers inlay pattern on its peghead overlay and rosewood fingerboard. It has an 11" three-ply maple rim, a twenty hole flathead tonering, a Presto Tailpiece, and a one piece flange, which are all staples of the classic prewar banjos of the greats. The Mahogany neck has a 26 1/2" scale length and a 1 3/16" nut width. If you need to move "High on the Mountain" of bluegrass banjo tone but don't want to sell your "Old, Old House" or deplete all your "Money in the Bank," you'll "Hit Parade of Love" this instrument. And if nothing else, buy this so other customers don't have to suffer through that terrible sentence of bluegrass song puns. $1,200 With hardshell case. Photos
Recent Gold Tone BG-250-FW. This utensil of 'grass has the 11" maple rim, flat head bell brass tonering, one piece flange, and the large quantity of weight and volume one would hope for in such an instrument. How loud? The guy across the road just called to tell me that the way I just played "Theme Time" "ain't like Mr. Scruggs played it." Which he's right, given that it's a Bill Emerson tune. Anyway, it's got a maple neck and mahogany resonator finished in a brown sunburst, 1 5-16" nut, and a 26 3/8" scale rosewood fingerboard. Plus if you're trying to cut back on carbs, forward rolls are way better for you than those offered by Pillsbury! Sorry. I'll stop. $700 With a gigbag Photos
For the last few years we have been looking for a decent low cost and good sounding openback that is perfect for folks learning to play Old Time Music. There are several manufacturers out there making banjos similar to what I want, but their quality control is inconsistent. The banjo you receive could be completely different from the sample you saw. Then came Gold Tone's latest offerings. Nicely made instruments that look and sound the way we think Old Time banjos should be.
New Gold Tone CC-OT. This model has a maple neck with a 26 1/2" scale rosewood fretboard. The 11" diameter rim comes with a Remo Fiberskyn head The tuners are all geared. We upgrade this model with 4 to 1 Gotoh planet tuners on the peghead and a matching Gotoh geared fifth. The neck comes from the factory scooped near the rim for clawhammer playing and Gold Tone even includes a 5th string railroad spike capo. And to sweeten the deal a little more the package comes with a gigbag, a strap and an instructional DVD. List price is $589 (not including the Gotoh tuners); we sell them for $450. This model is also made with an optional shorter "A" scale. We have that model in stock at the same price. Photos
New Gold Tone CC-OT Left Hand. The same as above, but with the neck manufactured in a mirror image. And yes, we do upgrade the tuners with Gotoh planets for your tuning pleasure. With gigbag, strap, and instructional DVD $490. Photos
New Gold Tone CC-Carlin 12. A banjo similar to the CC-OT, but with a blond finish and a 12" rim with a Remo Renaissance head. The natural finish maple neck has a rosewood fretboard with a 26-3/16" scale. Simple pearloid position markers guide you to the right place up the neck and the scoop after the 18th allows for the over the neck pop Round Peak style players appreciate. As with all banjos in Gold Tone's Cripple Creek line, we upgrade the tuners to Gotoh planets and a geared 5th. Price with a gigbag is $490. Photos
New, Gold Tone BC-120. Like the other models in Gold Tone's Bob Carlin line, this banjo has a 12" maple rim mated with a maple neck that has a 26-3/16" scale scooped fretboard. The finish is an attractive dark walnut color. Geared planet tuners & a geared 5th keep you in tune. Tone has a great bass and good pop. We sell these with a gigbag for $675 and you can upgrade to a Superior 1536 or 2536 hard case for only an additional $90. Photos
New Gold Tone CC-100+. If your playing demands a bright sound and a modest price tag, this imported modern offering from Gold Tone might just fit the bill. With an 11" rim with a frosted plastic head and a rolled brass tonering, this banjo has more pop than the cooler at a fifth grader's birthday party, and is almost as loud as said party would be too. The 26 1/2" scale fingerboard is simply ornamented with snowflake inlays, and the headstock overlay is subtle curly maple. Need a simple, tough, low frills banjo that will cut through at any jam or middle school talent show? You'll like this. Offered, with a gigbag, for $555 Photos
New Gold Tone WL-250. The addition of the Whyte Laydie style tonering makes this imported banjo a little brighter and clearer that the other Gold Tone banjos we sell. The comfortable, slim, maple neck is finished in a walnut color and features cloud inlays on the fretboard. 11" rim and a 26-1/4"" scale. The list price is $1,219. Our selling price with a blue Boulder Alpine gigbag included is $915. Photos
New Gold Tone CC-BG. For a basic level bluegrass banjo, you'll be hard pressed to find one that sounds or plays better for such a low price. It has an 11" rim with a frosted plastic head and a brass hoop tonering, which while not as loud as its Mastertone style counterparts, provides plenty of the volume and brightness required to keep the five alive. The neck has the standard 26 1/2" scale, and features an upgrade to Gotoh tuners installed by our shop. Plus, it includes fingerpicks, an instructional DVD, and an electronic tuner. If you're thinking about beginning the very enjoyable though incredibly roommate/neighbor irritating process of learning bluegrass banjo or simply need a simple, quality instrument to have around, this is a great way to go. $475, including the Gold Tone gigbag. (TOS) Photos
Six String Guitar Banjos
2015 Gold Tone BT-2000. Gold Tone has made the best sounding new Guitar banjo money can buy. With the 12" rim, this banjo has all the growl and funk you need in a guitar banjo. Not a wimpy, tinny sound you get from the easy to find 11" Asian imports. The list price is $1,229. We offer this lightly used model at $650 and include a good gigbag. Photos
J. French Cleve'd O. banjos. J. Lafayette French made banjos in Cleveland Ohio from the 1870's to about 1900. We are currently researching J.L. French and his banjos. If you have any information on J. Lafayette French the banjo maker, or his family we would love to hear from you. We are also documenting any banjos made by his company. Please click the contact button and let us know what you know. We will also gladly answer any questions about J. French banjos to the best of our ability. Check out the in progress web site www.jfrenchbanjos.com
J. French Banjos, Contact us...
1890's Unmarked Spun-Over Banjo Rim. This particular rim is very similar to an S.S. Stewart, but enough subtle differences that I would do not think it was made by that Philadelphia firm. The diameter is about 10-15/16". Depth is 2-1/4". We decided not to clean it for those of you that prefer the 120 years of patina on your banjo rims. Price is $250. Photos
1926 Vega Style M Tubaphone Rim. This is the wood shell only. There is no hardware at all. The perfect part if your original 11-13/16" Tubaphone rim has delaminated. Very good condition, $100
1920 Orpheum #1 Rim. This came attached to a neck in really rough shape (Brittany Spears's 2006 meltdown rough shape, if you will), so we elected to just sell it as a rim. This 12 1/4" maple rim has a possibly original calfskin head, the typical Orpheum archtop tonering, all original hardware, and enough playing wear to show someone had a good time with this banjo. These always sound great, so find a nice neck and get it started on another near century of fun. $400. Photos
FOUR STRING & MANDOLIN BANJOS
1925 Paramount Style C (As Is). Emphasis on As IS. This banjo presently resembles more of a steam punk fashion accessory than a musical instrument, though it certainly has potential as a restoration or five-string conversion project. However, it would also look in place paired with whatever brass goggles or leather helmet type accoutrements owned by someone who looks like they just escaped from the pages of 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea. That being said, this banjo is missing its resonator, tuners, and tailpiece, and all the hooks and nuts are replacements. The neck angle and frets are worse than being stuck indefinitely on board a futuristic submarine piloted by the enigmatic Captain Nemo (that means the neck angle and frets are bad), so if you were restore this instrument into its original glory, you'd want to take that into account. The maple rim with mahogany veneer is 11 1/8", and has the Paramount archtop tonering. The flange is easily removable if you want to use it was an openback (unless you enjoy the sensation of a thin metal object jamming you in the thigh as you play). All the fretboard inlays are intact (though the original engraving is worn off, though the Ice Cream cone with wings looking one on the third fret is respectable replacement. All the peghead inlays are intact & sill nicely engraved. It definitely needs love and patience, but it could be the recipient of your love and patience for just $400. Includes a faux alligator cardboard case. Photos
1911 Vega-Fairbanks 7 1/2" spunover rim mandolin banjo. This is by far the quietest banjo mandolin in the shop. Impossible, I know. But because we decided not to put strings on it, this banjo mandolin pulls off levels of non-earsplitting loudness that your neighbors, family, and pets will very much appreciate. We opted not to set this one up because of the high desirability of the Vega 7 1/2" spunover rim for a piccolo/pony banjo conversion. The rim is in overall great shape with a new calfskin head and minor tarnishing on the nickel plating. The original banjo mandolin tailpiece is riveted to the tension hoop, though that can be removed if the instrument is desired for a five-string conversion project. The mahogany neck has little evidence of playing wear (lucky for some early 20th century potential innocent bystanders of banjo mandolin music), with a 1 1/8" nut and original tuners. In case you want this instrument for future use as a banjo-mandolin, be forewarned that the neck angle is kind of bad and unless you are looking to innovate a personal slide banjo-mandolin style, it will require a neck reset. No less, this has great potential being paired with a custom short scale five-string or banjo uke neck. Or great potential to be really loud as it is, which is totally fine. Just as long you're not camped by any of us at Clifftop. $450. Photos
1920s Washburn Banjo-Mandolin. Yes, its loud. But there is a surprising warmth and nuance to this banjo mandolin that is rare in any eight stringed, banjo head equipped instrument. The 10 3/4" maple rim has a donut style tonering, which would be responsible for any trace of tonal subtlety this instrument has. The well-worn neck has a 13 1/16" scale fingerboard and a 1 3/16" nut width. This would probably make a really nice five-string conversion with some help from your favorite neck craftsman, but if you want your neighbors to "enjoy" your version of "Daybreak in Dixie" too, its perfect as it is. $600 with original hardshell case. Pictures coming Soon.
1920's Weymann Style 40 Mandolin-Banjo. Like Will Smith's character in "The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air," this banjo mandolin was West Philadelphia born and raised. While significantly older than Mr. Smith, this well preserved instrument has retained it's freshness through the decades just as he has. Anyway, the 10 1/2" rim and neck are both maple, and all hardware is original. The nut width is 1 1/4", and the scale length of the original refretted ebony fretboard is 14 3/16". And yes, it's loud, but it's a banjo mandolin so you knew that. $700 with original hardshell case. Photos
1925 Weymann Style 35 Mandolin-Banjo. This is a clean and interesting piece of Weyman's ingenuity. A 9" maple rim, with it's likely original calf skin head and the Weyman patented neck adjuster coupled with a one piece hard maple neck with a 13-7/8" scale fretboard. The big bonus with this instrument is the slip on resonator. Sure it's louder, but you also don't have to feel the neck adjuster dig into your belly when you stand up to play. The straight neck and recently dressed frets make this instrument play like a dream. We also made a custom compensated bridge so it plays in tune. Hmm The best of both worlds? Probably not, but this puppy has the punch to be heard in any jam session. From Jug band to alt rock this one will fit. In excelent condition and the price of $950 includes a boulder alpine gigbag. Photos
1921 Gibson TB-0. By the looks of this banjo, it's had an owner or two who spent a lot of his or her free time playing tenor banjo. Given that my free time is often spent loitering in the K-Mart parking lot with a six pack of Kool Aid bursts (blue flavored, of course) until security politely yet firmly asks me to leave, we probably wouldn't have hung out. This is a bummer because some seriously fun times have been had with this banjo. Its got a 10 1/2" rim with no tonering that's 1/2" thick and is setup with a Fiberskyn head. It has a 20 7/8" scale fingerboard with new frets, 1 5/16" nut width, and guitar style two-on-a-plate tuners. New hardware includes all the hooks and nuts, The coordinator rod, the cam neck tensioner, the No-Knot tailpiece and the tailpiece attachment. We have it set up and tuned to jazz tuning (low string is a C). It's a neat piece of Gibson history that even has that great old instrument smell, and is more affordable than my court cost for the K-Mart trespassing charge. Priced at $500 with original hardshell case. Photos
1926 Gibson TB-3 Mastertone. Gibson banjos, with all their interchangeable components, are often like Erector sets. Parts get swapped in and out, and trickery can run rampant. That's why it is a joy to behold this uncirculated banjo that is not only remarkably well preserved, but was well played and enjoyed as well. All parts are original save for the head, though there is a charming note left in the case by the gentleman who last changed it some 40+ years ago. On the-three ply maple rim, the Presto tailpiece, ball-bearing archtop tonering, and two-piece flange are all intact and very clean. The neck, which has a 22 1/2" scale rosewood fingerboard and a 1 3/16" nut width, has some fret and finish wear from decades of continual use, with some likely finish overcoating on the neck only, but is otherwise completely original, down to the Grover Ideal tuners. As this banjo is a prime candidate for a five-string conversion neck, we have opted to leave it in as found condition and leave playability decisions up to the next lucky owner. Included are some Gibson owner's manual-type flyers and a very clean original hardshell case for $2,800. Photos
1915 Fairbanks by Vega Tubaphone style M Tenor Banjo. Manufactured only a few years after Vega first started producing tenor banjos. This one, like most style M's, has a maple neck. The scale length is 21" and has a freshly refretted ebony fretboard. The rim diameter is 11-13/16" and has all the original hardware with the exception of he reproduction No-Knot tailpiece. Set up for Irish playing, with low tuning and the Remo Fiberskyn head, this banjo has a full tone that is sure to please. 2 minor alterations worth mentioning; a filled hole on the back of the peghead & refinished headstock (good work) and new Gotoh tuners. In very good to excelent condition with an original hard case, this banjo is $1,200. Photos
1914 Fairbanks by Vega Tubaphone 5 String Tenor Banjo. Vega made a reasonable number of oddball instruments over the years. This banjo falls into that category. In 1914, tenor banjos, as we know them today, were in their infancy. Vega had just started manufacturing them 2 years earlier. At this point Vega had not even assigned model names. Here are the specs of this odd duck; Neck is mahogany. The peghead has a torch inlay while the 19-5/8" scale fretboard has engraved dots, star, and bell thingie. The heel of the banjo is carved in a modified form similar to Vega's Tubaphone #3 5 string banjos. Unfortunately the heel was cracked, but repaired well. To accommodate the 5 strings, an extra hole was drilled in the peghead inlay. The first string is double strung, like a mandolin. The 11-1/2" Tubaphone rim is all there and conforms to factory standards. The Kershner tailpiece has 5 lugs for string loops, but only 4 holes at the edge of the tailpiece. We are selling this banjo as is. To get it up and playing well will take a little bit of repair, but some folks see a banjo like this, with it's rare 11-1/2" Tubaphone rim as a good candidate for conversion to a conventional 5 string. All in all the banjo is in very good plus condition and ready for the direction you want to take it. Priced at $1,200. Photos
1920's Maybell by Slingerland Tenor Banjo. I like Pearloid Do you like pearloid? That is what I usually say to telemarketers when my day is interrupted by their annoying calls. Since they really can't answer that question they shut up, give up, and hang up. But I really do like pearloid, especially the engraved champagne colored overlay that decorates the peghead. This banjo's spec list includes a maple neck with a 22-5/8" scale fretboard. The 10-3/4" rim has a simple steel hoop for a tonering and a 13-12" resonator. The only significant new parts are the set of Gotoh planetary tuners we recently installed. We set it up in Irish tuning, but if you are committed to jazz tuning, no worries. One set of strings and a new bridge will have you on your way to a Harry Reiser tribute band. Hmmm, something new for the telemarketers; "I like Harry Reiser, do you like..." Nah, I'll stick with pearloid. This prewar banjo is only $400 and a case is included. Photos
1940 Wards by Gibson Tenor Banjo. A simple tenor banjo made by Gibson for the famed discount mail order and department store; Montgomery Wards. This banjo has a mahogany neck with a 22-3/4" scale dyed maple fretboard. The 11" diameter 2 ply maple rim is 5/8" thick and has 16 brackets. There was once a resonator, but is long gone. This one sounds great as a tenor and has great potential for a 5-string openback conversion. In better than good condition with a well worn soft (stiff cardboard) case. Price is $450. Photos
1920's Weymann 150 tenor banjo. From the city of Brotherly Love (and Mummers!), here is a pretty clean example of the work of the storied Weyman Company. This banjo, which is clad in its original sort of green/brown hued finish, has a moderately figured curly maple neck with a 22" scale length ebony fretboard with 18 frets. The 11" maple rim, which also has some nice though subtle figuring, features a Little Wonder style tonering. A bulky, yet functional, "Weyman Patented Neck Adjuster" is attached to the heel and dowel stick, and its recent setup by SFI gave the instrument new Gotoh tuners, a modern no-knot tailpiece, and a fresh set of frets. $650 can take this one home in its new Superior gigbag. Photos
1923 Weymann Model 135 Tenor Banjo. This super clean instrument from the early jazz age is in mostly original condition. The blond maple neck has a 22" scale ebony fretboard with dot inlays with new Gotoh planetary geared tuners installed. Unfortunately the Weyman Keystone State decal on the back of the peghead has deteriorated. The 10-1/2" 6 ply maple rim has no tonering. The Remo Fiberskyn head sits directly on the wood. With the exception of the tailpiece, this banjo retains all it's original nickel plated hardware and includes Weyman's patented neck angle adjuster. Set up for Irish style playing, the tone is clear and precise. But all you early jazz fans take note that jazz tuning is as easy as a new set of strings and a bridge. An excelent condition instrument priced at $500, including a good gigbag. Photos
1926 Gibson UB-1. This is your chance to own a pre-war Gibson flat head banjo for about one tenth of the current market price of your coveted TB-3 conversion. Well, OK this instrument is not a Mastertone 20 hole flat head. Actually has no metal tonering at all. But it sure is loud! UB-1 were Gibson's least expensive banjo ever produced but with a maple neck and 2 ply 6" maple rim it does have the features of a high grade banjo. The resonator is a flat plate suspended with 4 spacers. I love the stenciled "The Gibson" peghead logo. In excelent condition. At the price of $550 it comes with a kinda big gig bag. Photos
1922 Bacon Number 1 Banjo Uke. Of all the reasonably priced vintage banjo ukes on the market, these simple Bacon instruments are the nicest. The maple 8" rim has mahogany veneers on the outer layers to match the neck. The rim's hardware is mostly original (we replaced the rusty hooks) and in very good condition. The calfskin head is old and a good chance it is original. It also includes some "interesting" graffiti on the inside of the skin. The mahogany neck has a 13-7/8" scale ebony fretboard (new frets installed here at SFI) and a graceful "Bacon" script inlaid in the peghead. We chose to add the recently introduced Gotoh geared ukulele tuners to this banjo to make tuning enjoyable. The price of $700 includes one of our new brown tolex covered hard shell cases. Soul & tone in a small, convenient package. Photos
1925 Bacon Style 1 Banjo Uke. This one is nearly identical to the one listed above. Similar condition, similar tone, and similar feel. Can't decide? Buy both! Very good condition with a newer brown hard banjo uke case. $700 Photos
1925 Epiphone, new ebony fretboard by SFI, 13 7/8" scale, 8 1/2" rim, heavy! EC; $550
1925 Epiphone, 13 7/8" scale, 8 1/2" rim, heavy!, EC+++ with OHC that is also EC+++ $700. Photos
1920's Gretsch Clariphone Banjo Uke. I think highly of the tone and playability of this budget minded professionally quality banjo uke. It has a 13-14" scale and a 7" rim. The rim on this one is a little egg shaped, but still structurally fine. We replaced the original friction tuners with new planetary-geared Gotoh uke tuners to make tuning a breeze! In very good condition and priced at $325 with a gigbag. An Enoch hard case is available for $70 with the purchase of this instrument. Photos
1920's Gretsch Banjo Uke. In terms of affordability and craftsmanship, I think these are the best instruments ever made by Gretsch. This particular instrument has a 13-1/8" scale and 1 7-15/16" head. Mostly original with the exception of the new Remo Fiberskyn head and the amazing Gotoh planetary ukulele tuners. An openback with a dark walnut finish. In very good condition and priced at $325. An Enoch hard case is available for $70 with the purchase of this instrument. Pictures coming soon.
New Banjo Uke Case For Vintage Gibson UB-2 and UB-3's. Several years ago noted banjo builder and inlay artist Kevin Enoch designed and had manufactured the nicest hard case for his banjo ukuleles (see below). They fit most any banjo uke with an 8" rim, with a notable exception; vintage Gibson UB-2's and Gibson UB-3's. The plate resonator of these instruments made them taller than the Enoch case could accommodate. Partnering with Enoch Instruments, Smakula Fretted Instruments has released a modified version of that case to fit those 8" diameter vintage Gibson banjo ukes. This case is attractive, sturdy and affordable. The introductory price is only $95 plus shipping. Photos
Banjo Uke Hard Case. Designed to the specifications of Kevin Enoch, this banjo case is certainly the nicest one on the market. It fits openback banjo ukes and 5 string piccolo banjos with an 8" diameter rim, 23-1/2" total length and a maximum depth of 3" (from the bottom of the rim to the top of the bridge). The simulated leather covering is brown, and the lid is arched for extra strength. Very nice. Retail price is $120, our discount price is $95. Photos
New Wire Armrest for Openback Banjo. One of the most important accessories we sell is this reproduction Vega and Fairbanks style wire armrest. Adding comfort to holding the banjo allows you to concentrate more on playing. Any banjo we sell that did not come with an armrest has one of these installed before the sale. And if you need one for your other banjo, they are only $18 for nickel plated and $15 for the raw brass. Photos
Guide to Physical Condition;
New; An instrument that came to us from the manufacturer. It has never been owned by a consumer and has it's full warrantee.
Mint; As the instrument came from the factory. No blemishes at all
Near mint; Almost as it came from the factory
Excellent condition, a very clean instrument that has a few minor blemishes
Very Good Condition, reasonable wear for its age.
Good Condition; plenty of player wear.
Plus or minus indicates the condition is half a grade better or worse.
We ship most of our instruments via UPS. Cost to ship a mandolin is $20 to $40. Cost to ship a guitar or banjo is $25 to $60. The cost of insurance is extra. We will be happy to quote before shipping.
Small goods like banjo heads and other parts cost $7 per order for Priority Mail shipping in the contenental US no matter what the order size. The cost of orders headed out of the contenental US will be quoted before they are shipped.
We are legally obligated to charge 6% West Virginia sales tax on anything purchased here at the shop or shipped within the state of West Virginia. We do not charge sales tax on orders sent out of state.
Please call us at 304-636-6710. For payment we accept checks, wire transfers and MasterCard & Visa. We now accept Paypal as well.
Email; Occasionally a customer will let us know that the "Contact Us" button will not work on their computer. If you have that problem, please use sfi<at>smakula<dot>com You will have to change the <at> and <dot> to @ and .