PO Box 882, Elkins, West Virginia 26241
Phone Hours; 9:00 AM to 6:00 PM, Eastern Time, Monday through Friday and occasionally on Saturday;
Banjos, Contact us...
Page updated 3-13-2023
Please Visit our Home Page for links to our guitars, fiddles, mandolins, and more.
New Enoch Tradesman Fretless Banjo. Click here for details.
New Enoch Tradesman Fretted Banjo. One with cherry neck & 12" rim available. Click here for details.
2016 Enoch Tradesman Fretless Banjo. Walnut neck, 11" rim, Scooped fingerboard, $1050 On Hold. Photos
2010 New Enoch Tradesman Fretted Banjo. Cherry neck, 12" rim Scooped fingerboard, $1100 Photos
2013 Chuck Lee Ovilla. Details below. Photos
1887 Fairbanks & Cole Imperial. $2,000. Details soon. Photos
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 do have resonator Bluegrass banjos for sale from time to time. Send us an email or check back.
Fifth String Railroad Spike Capos; Installed free on request when you buy one of our banjos.
1986 First Batch Goose Acres Electric. 1986 would prove to be a prophetic year for the American entertainment industry. It saw the births of Lady Gaga, Robert Pattinson, The Olsen Twins, Lindsay Lohan, Shia LaBeouf, and Drake, to name a few. And what cheesy, egomaniacal, overproduced hellfire hath been wrought in those brief 32 years. Meanwhile, in Cleveland, Ohio, the Goose Acres banjo company was catering to an entirely different sector of the "entertainment" "industry." Calling back to an earlier America when the five string banjo actually *was* a leading symbol of popular entertainment, these rare Goose Acres Electric banjos day represent a benchmark in modern banjo construction. Personnel on file at this time include Kevin Enoch, Bob Smakula, and Peter H. Smakula, to give you an idea of the quality of this instrument. It has an 11" spun over rim with scalloped tone ring, mahogany neck, 26 1/4" ebony fretboard, and engraved mother of pearl inlays. With the exception of new, SFI-installed frets, and a fresh bridge and Fiberskyn head, this instrument is all original. Tone is clear and snappy and projects like an opera singer, or, perhaps, Lady Gaga? We'll let you be the judge. Sent straight to your domicile in a hard case, plus shipping. (P.S. - Goose Acres banjos never hang around for too awful long, so if you want it, move quickly!) Sorry, Sold. Photos
1978 Goose Acres Style E 5-String Banjo. Serial number 171. There are a few of you out there. who remember the first Goose Acres Folk Music Center retail store in Cleveland, Ohio's University Circle. A tiny storefront with a teaching studio and a woodworking workshop in the back. Unbeknown to us, it was a great place to start a music shop that became an institution for nearly 30 years. In these early days, we made mostly aluminum rim banjos that were similar to the Stewart-Macdonald kit banjos. But every now and then we would be inspired to make a wood rim openback or a Gibson Mastertone style bluegrass banjo. This particular instrument has a hand carved mahogany neck with an ebony fretboard inlaid with pre-cut mother-of-pearl inlays that were commonly available in 1978. We did hand cut GA logo for the peghead. The rim is beech, from Stew-Mac, and has a one-piece flange and a cast bronze tonering that was likely turned by P.H. Smakula. After 45 years it did need a little spa treatment. Here at the SFI shop we cleaned, refretted, installed new tuners, reset the neck to accommodate the use of a 5/8" bridge. A few new parts include; a new frosted top Remo head, Gotoh planetary and fifth string banjo tuners (the original 5-Star planets worked, but not as good as the Gotoh tuners) and I added a mother of pearl block at the 22nd fret engraved with the words "Goose Acres". Letting the world know the maker of the banjo, and not just having them guess what the GA logo that looks vaguely like the well-known anarchist's symbol. All in all, it is in very good condition, plays and sounds great, and will take you back to the first and third Friday pickin' sessions at 2019 Cornell Rd. 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; $1,475 fretted, $1,375 fretless. All our Enoch Tradesman Banjos are made with the optional fretboard scoop.
Enoch Tradesman banjos are in short supply. Currently we have 2 new and 2 used in stock. Click here for details regarding the Enoch Tradesman banjos we have available and on order.
2008(?) Doug Unger Prague Castle Commemorative Banjo. When you think of the Czech Republic, banjos are usually not the first things that pop in to your mind. This highly decorated banjo with an inlaid image the Prague castle sitting on the 12th fret has a good reason to have that design element. Builder Doug Unger was granted an artist's residency in Prague, Czech Republic in the summer of 1999. His daily walks had him studying the Prague castle for inspiration in both his paintings and the musical instruments he builds. The neck on this banjo is mahogany with a 25-7/8" scale bound ebony radiused fretboard. The engraved pale abalone and mother-of pearl inlay was inspired by Icilio Consalvi's work at the W.A. Cole company. I recognize the inlay designs being influenced by the models G and H (AKA 4000 and 5000). The back side of the neck features a carved heel and a back strapped peghead with a Fairbanks style dogwood blossom inlay. Most of the 10-1/2" Whyte Laydie rim came from Bill Rickard's shop, with the exception of the vintage long 2-pointed shoes, the square drive ball end nuts, and the vintage Common Sense tailpiece with a reproduction ivory rosette. Tone is warm and precise. Though the neck is bigish (At the nut 1-9/32" wide and 1-1/16" deep) it is definitely comfortable to play. The $6,000 price includes an Eastman bump hard case and all the afore mentioned engraved pearl work. Photos
Circa 2001 Doug Unger Cole style neck on Modified Cole's Eclipse Pot. To fans of modern interpretations of famous Boston banjos, the name Doug Unger carries a strong reputation for visual perfection. This particular instrument is strongly influenced by a Coles Eclipse 4500 model. The iridescent mother of pearl inlay fills nearly every fret space. With the delicate engraving lines reminiscent of Icilio Consalvi's landmark work this banjo takes you back 125 years to Boston's Tremont Street. The one-piece mahogany neck also has inlay on the back-strap and a carved heel. Look carefully and see if you can see the Greenman peering out at the world. The 10-7/8" rim is an original Cole's Eclipse that was modified here at SFI for a recent owner with the addition of a Fairbanks electric scalloped tonering. Though the wood and the tension hoop are original 125-year-old parts, the shoes as well as the hooks and nuts are modern, quality reproductions. Recent work done here at SFI to get this banjo in to top playing condition includes; new dowelstick and neck reset, new calf skin head, refret, and new planetary ABM tuners with a complementary Schaller 5th, outfitted with tortoise color buttons. The 27" scale offers a tension and precision to the warmth of the modified vintage rim. Yes, it plays and sounds as good as it looks. Price is $6,000 and includes a Harptone hard case. Photos
1909 Bacon Professional Model No. 2. According to early 1900's banjo phenom, Fred Bacon, the Bacon Professional was "built on scientific principles" and he guaranteed it to be "The best banjo in the world". Who am I to argue? This fantastically nice example was made by the Vega company before Mr. Bacon had his own factory. The flowerpot peghead and fretboard inlay are exactly what you would find on a 1909 Fairbanks by Vega Tubaphone NO 3. The neck on this one is mahogany with a 27" scale fretboard of ebonized hardwood. The 11" diameter "Internal Resonator" rim is made of maple and includes the Bacon Professional tonering. Appears all original with the exception of the Remo Renaissance head, Labella model 17 nylon strings, wire armrest, and 2 leg bridge made of beech. According to Bacon's catalog, "all instruments personally tested by Mr. Bacon." Though Fred Bacon likely played this instrument at least once, we do not guarantee that you will be able to perform Nola with the same skill and drive as he did. Though if you purchase this banjo you'll have a better chance at accomplishing that goal than anyone on your street. With a modern Superior hard case, this banjo is $4,500 Photos
2013 Chuck Lee Ovilla. It is well known that Chuck Lee decided to start building banjos when he ordered a custom instrument from an unidentified banjo builder and the build took significantly longer than expected. From that bad experience, there are now about 850 carefully made Chuck Lee banjos in the world. This Ovilla model banjo was completed in early 2013. The neck is cherry with a black center lamination in the center. The ebony peghead overlay has a man in the moon inlay. The fretboard, also of ebony, has a 25-1/2" scale and abalone dot inlays. The peghead tuners are Waverly and the fifth is a 5-Star. The 11" rim is cherry with no tonering and is 3-3/16" deep. All metal parts are nickel plated. The required maintenance completed by SFI was minimal. A new Remo Renaissance head to replace the one with several bridge location marks and a refret to replace the significantly worn frets. This banjo is warm sounding, easy to play, and the 10 year old cherry wood has a beautiful glow. A new Ovilla model banjo from Chuck will cost $3,175, less case. This lightly used instrument is only $2,500 and we include a brown superior hard case. Photos
2000 (?) Boucher copy fretless by Bob Flesher. So just what does the late burlesque performer Blaze Starr have to do with this banjo? Well, besides Blaze having been a banjo player herself (pictured with a Gibson RB-250), it is a little-known fact that one of the several Boucher music business locations happened to be the same address of Ms. Starr's famed Two O'clock Club in Baltimore's theater district. Being a modern reproduction, the closest this banjo ever got to 212 East Baltimore Street was about a block away during a recent banjo history conference. The slightly tangential history is all well and good, but what about the banjo? The neck is quilted maple with a burnt orange lacquer finish. The checking on the lacquer makes the instrument look older than it is. The 5 tuners are ebony violin style pegs. The oak rim is 11-15/16" in diameter and has 6 wing nut brackets. The gut strings and high-quality calf skin head complete this reproduction of a banjo made 170 years ago. Being a player of fretless gut strung banjos myself, I love this instrument! Somehow the tuning landed in a C# and suits it very well. Oh well, no G-string on this banjo. Price is $2,000 and includes a hard case. Photos
1925 Gibson PB-4 converted to 5-string. I have always been fond of these Gibson ball-bearing tonering model banjos with the "shot gun hole" skirts. They seem to suit bluegrass and old time styles very well. Originally manufactured as a 4-string plectrum banjo, this instrument has a modern professionally made "Hearts & Flowers" 5 string neck. For authenticity the maker chose a Brazilian rosewood fretboard with a 26-3/16" scale. But for some reason made the main neck wood curly maple rather than mahogany to match the resonator. The rim and its parts, to my eye, is mostly original. The resonator attachment bolts, the coordinator rods, the tailpiece and tuners are parts significantly newer than the rest of the metal on the banjo. Set up with a 5/8" bridge, a new Remo frosted Weatherking head, and a set of D'Addario EJ61 string this banjo has the bright tone of Ralph Stanley's Gibson style 5 ball bearing banjo. Price is $4,500 and includes a modern Asian hard case and the original PB plectrum neck. Photos
New Recording King RKOH-05. Do you hear that? It's the weary and worrisome staff of SFI, breathing a collective sigh of relief for beginning banjo players everywhere. Why, you ask? Five words: Recording King Open Back Banjos. In recent memory, we've been consistently impressed by the quality of Recording King's budget priced guitars, and now we are happy to offer a similarly priced banjo of the same caliber. The RKOH-05 has a mahogany neck with 26-1/4" scale rosewood fretboard, and an 11" cross ply mahogany rim. Both neck and rim are attractively finished in dark red mahogany. It's outfitted with geared guitar-style tuners, and a Remo Fiberskyn head. 5th string railroad spike and SFI wire armrest installed at no additional charge. Tone is balanced and full bodied, and it plays great. A fine choice for anyone on the hunt for their first banjo, or anyone in need of a solid playable instrument that can handle overhead storage bins, festival mudslides, etc. Yours for $300 Comes with Superior gig bag. 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...
1970's Gibson RB-250 multiply wood rim and tone ring. 11" diameter. No other parts. Uses a tube and plate. $250. Photos
1928 Vega Little Wonder Rim. 10-15/16" diameter. 2-point shoes, open ball end nuts, blond maple finish. Nice condition. $350. Photos
1920's Slingerland rim, labeled Varsity. 10-3/4" diameter blond maple rim. Head rests directly on the wood. No tonering. $200. Photos
1926 Bacon Style C Rim. 11" diameter, curly mahogany veneers inside and out. No tonering model. $350. On Hold. Photos
1920 Vega Style K Rim. 10-1/8" diameter maple rim with steel hoop tonering. Burnt orange finish with some flaking. New hooks and nuts. $250. Photos
FOUR STRING & MANDOLIN BANJOS
1923 Vega Regent Plectrum. 1923, by one estimate, was Vega's most prolific year. If the respected historian is correct, about 11,000 banjos were produced at the Columbus Avenue factory in Boston that year. Most were tenor banjos, some mandolin banjos, fewer were 5-string "regular banjos", and the smallest production was the 4-string instrument known as a plectrum. With the same length neck as a 5-string, the plectrum banjo is played with a pick to provide rhythm and chord melodies for popular dance bands of the day. This Vega Regent plectrum has a maple neck with a 27-1/8" scale fretboard. Simple mother of pearl dot inlays with a star at the 5th fret give you a good road map of where you are as you play up the neck. The 10-15/16", 6-ply maple rim is fitted with a spun-over tone hoop known to most as the "Little Wonder" tonering. 28 brackets with closed ball end nuts and somewhat rusty hooks tighten the inside frosted Remo head. String height is a very comfortable 1/16" at the 12th fret with a 5/8" tall bridge. We did upgrade this banjo by replacing the original tuners with Gotoh planetary geared tuners. Price is $850 and includes a vintage, period appropriate hard case. Photos
1925 Bacon Style C Tenor Banjo. Irish Tuning. Fred Bacon was a master classic style 5-string banjoist. I recently listened to an original 78 rpm recording of his rendition of Nola and was blown away by his artistry. 1905 was the first year that banjos built by the Vega company were offered with the Bacon trademark. By the time this banjo was built Fred Bacon was well settled in his Groton Connecticut factory producing a full line of banjos from the rare Ne Plus Ultra Silver Bell banjos down to the introductory Style C. The mahogany neck has the original 22" scale ebonized maple fretboard. The inlays on the neck include mother oof pearl position dots and a celluloid script Bacon on the peghead. The 11" maple rim has mahogany veneers on the inside and outside to match the neck. There is no tonering on this model, so the head rests directly on the wood. No major modifications were done to this banjo, but a few minor parts changes like new Gotoh planet tuners, a Remo Renaissance head, and a modern No-Knot tailpiece have updated this banjo to modern standards. Price is $600 and a Superior II gigbag is included. On Hold. Photos
1920's Weyman 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 its freshness through the decades just as he has. The 10-1/2" rim and neck are both natural finished, blond 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". With the light gauge strings it plays like a dream and with the Hennig compensated bridge, it plays in tune. Though you didn't ask, yes, it's loud, but it is a banjo mandolin so you knew that. $500 with original hardshell case. Photos
1921 Vega Style S Tubaphone Mandolin Banjo. A very good condition instrument, that to play as intended, will need a neck reset. As these instruments are popular for conversion to 5-string, we will leave the neck reset decision to the final buyer. The neck is birdseye maple with a 13-7/8" scale ebony fretboard. The rim is a fully intact 10-1/8" Tubaphone with a calf skin head. The rim's binding is loose in two places, An easy fix for those that are handy with glue. Price is $700 and includes the original hard case in solid, yet worn, condition. Photos
1921 Vega Style L Whyte Laydie Mandolin Banjo. Like the Tubaphone listed above, this banjo needs a neck reset to be a playable banjo mandolin. But with original Whyte Laydie banjo rims being in demand for converting to 5-string instruments, this one is an ideal candidate. The 10-1/8" diameter rim has a calf skin head and most of it's original metal parts. The tailpiece is a replacement and its maker is unrecognizable. The $800 price includes the original hard case that appears to have been coated with an epoxy of some sort. 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 the 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. The low G string just plain growels. 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. On Hold. Photos
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. Price is only $115 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. Affordably priced at $115. .
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 $9 per order for Priority Mail shipping in the continental US no matter what the order size. Micro orders weighing less than 12 ounces and valued less than $50 are usually shipped via first class mail for $6. The cost of orders headed out of the continental 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.
Call us at 304-636-6710. For payment we accept checks, wire transfers and MasterCard & Visa. If you prefer Paypal, please send us an email requesting a Paypal invoice.
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 .