PO Box 882, Elkins, West Virginia 26241
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Banjos, Contact us...
Page updated 11-22-2021
Please Visit our Home Page for links to our guitars, fiddles, mandolins, and more.
2016 Gold Tone OTMH Marc Horowitz model. EC, Details below. Photos $1,800
1924 Bacon Style 1 Banjo Uke. New Ebony fretboard, Gotoh tuners, and hard case. More info and pictures soon. $750
1925 Bacon Style C Tenor Banjo. Irish Tuning. Details soon. Photos $600
1895 Fairbanks & Cole LeGrande Imperial Banjeaurine. Details soon. Photos $3,000
1918 Fairbanks by Vega Style N 4-String Tenor Banjo. Irish Tuning. Details below. Photos
1919 Fairbanks by Vega 4-string Banjo Uke/Melody Banjo1923. Details Soon. $650. Photos
1923 Vega Style L Whyte Laydie Mandolin Banjo. Details Soon. $900 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
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; $1,335 fretted, $1,265 fretless. All our Enoch Tradesman Banjos are made with the optional fretboard scoop. Currently all Enoch Tradesman Banjos are sold out. We will update availibility as orders come in.
Click here for a list of Enoch Tradesman banjos on order.
1901 A.C. Fairbanks Special Electric. No doubt this banjo deserves it's Special Electric moniker more than any other we've had. Starting with the neck material; It's rosewood. Not sure exactly which species, but it is dark red and very heavy. Some of that weight comes from the extra large size. Neck width is 1-5/16" at the nut and a 1-1/16" depth. The new ebony fretboard (replacing the decomposing ebonized hardwood) has a 27" scale. All the original Consalvi engraved mother of pearl inlays have been re-inlaid in the new fretboard and peghead overlay. The ABM planets with the Schaller 5th have vintage grained Ivoroid knobs installed. A slightly large 11-1/8" diameter electric rim has a Fiberskyn head installed and all the original hooks, nuts, and shoes. The new reproduction No-Knot tailpiece and armrest are not out of place. Do notice in the pictures the one small black mark on the neck. That is an original repair from the Fairbanks factory. It appears there was a small nick in the wood and that was their idea of an appropriate repair. Also notice the hole in the dowelstick. At some point a Farland mute was added. Disappointing the hole had to go directly through the Electric stamp. If you want us to instal your Farland mute, we're ready to go! This is a great bright toned banjo that plays with precision, and it your hands are bigger than average, all the better. Price is $2,700 with a modern Superior case included. Photos
1917 Fairbanks by Vega Tubaphone NO 3. When the movie "Psycho" was released in 1960, people thought it was pretty dang scary. The film remains a classic, but in 2021, it probably doesn't register very high on the average viewer's Scare-O-Meter. This banjo is like that. At some point, it was far scarier than it is now. If you don't believe us, just ask the hole in the dowel stick which used to hold the resonator attachment. If there's anything out there more egregious than a Tubaphone with a resonator, it should probably run for president of the United States of America. This powerhouse banjo came to us with the walnut neck trimmed from the heel carving to the 5th string tuner, for the purposes of converting it to a plectrum. Our master banjo technician, Andy Fitzgibbon, built a new bass side for the neck, running from the carving to the tip of the peghead. Other repairs include a new 25-7/8" scale ebony fretboard, new peghead overlay (preserving the original mother of pearl inlays), and a new Fiberskyn head. It has a 10-3/4" rim, outfitted with aforementioned Tubaphone tone ring, and the metal hardware is in excellent condition. Set-up for precision playing, this banjo is amazingly crisp, articulate, and powerful. Break this out during your next stay at a sketchy backwater motel, and the knife wielding maniacs will be the ones running from you. All the banjo you can possibly handle and then some for $3,000, including a brown Superior hardshell case. Sorry, Sold. Photos
1886 Fairbanks and Cole Imperial. This banjo was a mere 81 years old when Frank and Nancy Sinatra recorded their iconic single "Something Stupid". I think it is safe to say that today, a good 50 years later, was the first time a modal version of that song was played on this banjo. Though originally intended for the "popular in it's day" style of Classic Banjo, the tone and playability of this instrument is inspiring to sneak out of the box and try new things. The mahogany V-shaped neck has a 3/16" thick ebony fretboard with attractive abalone and mother of pearl inlays. The frets, tuners and tailpiece appear to be ivory. One of the tuners does not exactly match the others, but it's real close. The 11-7/16" maple rim is elegantly finished with black shellac and all 32 brackets are original, though not all the washers are patent applied for. If that's a deal breaker, you better just purchase the 1881 F&C listed above, which has not been graced with something stupid, or anything stupid for that matter. Price is $3,000 with a sort of beat hard case. Photos
1971 Vega PS-1, Pete Seeger Longneck. Pete Seeger - singer, banjo player, activist, and face of the American folk revival, thanks in no small part to his classic show, Rainbow Connection, which featured the likes of Elizabeth Cotten, Roscoe Holcomb, and . . . wait... Quest! The show was Rainbow Quest. Sorry. But I have to admit - a Seeger/Kermit co-hosted talk show would be nothing short of heavenly balm for the troubled world we live in today. But alas. Let us turn our attention to this dashing 1971 Vega Longneck. Built shortly after Martin Guitar acquired Vega, the parts of this banjo were made and assembled in Needham, MA then sent to Nazareth, Pennsylvania for distribution. It has a 32" scale, 10-15/16" diameter, Tubaphone tone ring with late period "dogbone" holes, maple neck, ebony fretboard, and Grover Rotomatic tuners. With the exception of an SFI fret job, strings, and new Remo frosted head, all parts are original and in excelent condition. It also comes with the original Lifton "Built Like a Fortress" hard case. This instrument is in excellent condition and sounds fantastic, balanced perfectly from the rich low end to the clear, shimmery highs. When I play this instrument I always gravitate to Frank Proffitt's "Pretty Crowing Chicken". Sent straight to your door for $2,500 plus shipping. Photos
1896 S.S. Stewart Solo Banjeaurine Grade 3. Though now a coffee shop, 221 Church Street in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania was once home to a very prolific banjo factory. When this instrument was made in 1896, the Stewart firm had already made about 15,500 banjos and had thousands more to go. This example was designed to play the solo parts in a banjo orchestra back in the day, but is currently popular with musicians that need a smaller banjo because of physical limitations. The neck is cherry with an ebony peghead overlay and a 21" scale ebony fretboard. The peghead has 22 individual pieces of pale abalone decoration and the fretboard has 53. The 10" spunover rim has 26 brackets and decorated inside with wood marquetry. A few modern appointments; Frosted top. Plastic head, nylon strings, and Pegheds brand planetary geared tuners. This banjo is bright sounding and very comfortable to play tuned in the key of G, but tuning to A is no problem. $2,200 and the price includes a nice modern properly fitting hard case. Photos
2016 Gold Tone OT-MH Marc Horowitz Model. If you have ever been to the Appalachian String Band Music Festival at Clifftop, WV, you know how dicey the mountain weather can be. From a perfect sunny 79º day to a torrential downpour that thrusts high humidity on your entire stay. Mr. Horowitz attended many of those festivals and felt like he was spending more time adjusting his banjo than actually playing it. Being a sales rep for both Gold Tone and Nechville banjo companies, he arraigned a collaboration between the two to come up with his ideal outdoor festival banjo. The neck is carbon fiber with a 26-1/4" scale. The inlays are simple with dot position markers and a star at the 5th fret and peghead. The end of the fret area has a light ogee scoop and the 5 geared tuners are Gotoh. The 12" walnut rim is block construction and has a Remo Fiberskyn head. The rim design is such that there are no shoes and only 18 hooks and nuts, helping lighten the load as you trudge from the pit to Geezer Hill. The Little Mountain brand black Corian armrest offers playing comfort and complements the visual aesthetic. Sound? Warm with a great bass response. A perfect fit in the stringband session under a tarp during a microburst, or the cool clear summer night where you can't decide between playing Kentucky C-tunes or watching the Perseids meteor shower far from the night time lights of your home city. In nearly new condition the price is $1,800 and includes a nice Access brand gig bag. 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...
1900 A. C. Fairbanks Electric. 11-15/16" diameter, long two point shoes. Replacement hooks and nuts. Will make a great conversion banjo. $500 Photos
1926 Bacon Style C Rim. 11" diameter, curly mahogany veneers inside and out. No tonering model. $350. 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
1925 Vega Little Wonder Banjo Rim. 10-15/16" maple rim with a pro natural refinish. No dowelstick. $450. 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
1918 Vega Style N Tenor Banjo. Set up with the GDAE Tuning popular with players of traditional Irish music, this little gem is a joy to play. This instrument has a 17 fret mahogany neck with a 19-7/8" scale and a 10-3/4" diameter maple rim with a Little Wonder style tone hoop. Mostly original, but we upgraded the friction tuners to geared Gotoh planetary tuners and replaced all the hooks and nuts so they would all match. With the low action this one is nearly effortless to play. Price is $600 and an original hard case is included. Photos
1930's Gibson TB-00. A popular candidate for 5-string conversions, this 1930s TB-00 is a surefire powerhouse regardless of how many strings are on it. We here at SFI are quite pleased with it in its current state of 4, and were we a little more sadistic, we might take it to the Thursday night local old-time jam and see who we can frighten. The maple neck has a 22-7/8" scale Brazilian rosewood fretboard, and an 11" diameter maple rim that is 5/8" thick at the top and 7/16" at the bottom. The head rests directly on a wood lip on the rim. No tone ring or tone hoop was ever on this banjo. Insteringly is has no factory order number that we usually use to pinpoint the date of manufacture. It is outfitted with a Waverly tailpiece, Grover two-tab tuners, and an otherwise good condition resonator minus some warping. Furthermore, one piece, pot metal flanges such as the one found on this instrument tend to curl up over time from the constant pressure exerted on them by the hooks and nuts. This particular flange has curled very little in its nearly 100 hundred years on planet Earth, so, party time, bonus. Bright and powerful sound. Yours for $1,600, comes in the original hard case with purple velvet lining. Photos
1922 Gibson TB. Though this blurber can't play more than a few paltry licks and chords on a tenor banjo, he is enamored all the same of this 1922 Gibson. With a 19" scale ebony fretboard, it's on the short side for a tenor banjo. The 10-1/2" rim is outfitted with a Renaissance head, but missing is the original trap door resonator. The maple neck has a snakehead style headstock (too cool!), outfitted with guitar style tuners. Missing trap doors? Snakeheads? What is this, a Vincent Price movie? And yes, the signature tenor brightness and volume is there, but it's tempered with just a bit of welcome roundness and warmth. All in all, it's a slightly out-of-the-ordinary instrument that's not flashy in the slightest but has a ton of personality where it counts. Yours for $700, comes in the original hard case. Photos
1928 Ludwig Kingston Tenor Banjo. Though the name Ludwig is synonymous with drums and other percussion instruments, this Chicago firm had a boom time in the 1920's through the 1930s selling banjos. This Ludwig Kingston is an excellent example of their craft during the 4-string banjo hey-day. The neck and resonator are both made of walnut, with the neck having a 22-3/4" ebony fretboard inlaid with mother of pearl slotted diamond shapes. The rim is Ludwig's proprietary top tension system, allowing the player to adjust the head tension without removing the resonator. A few well executed repairs have been done to this instrument. The original Ludwig planet tuners have been replaced by modern ABM tuners The head is a newer Remo Renaissance, and the square top tension head adjustment screws have been replaced by black finished Allen bolts. And do note that this banjo is not one of the many Ludwig banjos with the deteriorating die cast metal tension hoop. This one is made of brass and will not surprise you with disintegration. The lacquer finish is checked, but in good condition. This is a great sounding banjo that is set up for Irish tuning. Restringing for Jazz tuning is easy and can be done on request. Cost is $600 and includes the original hard case with the Ludwig Banjo badge. Photos
Alvarez Model 4291 tenor banjo. Like a Miyazaki film or a Murakami novel, this banjo was made in Japan and has a certain transportive quality to it. Indeed, when you play it, the rest of the world seems to fall away, probably because it's so unbelievably loud. Truthfully though, it's a lot of power for very little money, and any discerning tenor player would be wise to give it a second look. This high quality Mastertone style tenor has a mahogany neck with 23" scale rosewood fretboard, adorned with bow tie inlays. The 11" multi-ply rim is made up of a (likely) die-cast flat head Mastertone tone ring, one piece flange, single coordinator rod, Remo frosted head, and a rosewood resonator. It's also outfitted with modern 5-Star tuners. A great sounding banjo for a great price, take it home today for $550, in a gigbag. Photos
1920s Washburn Banjo-Mandolin. Yes, it's 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. Photos
1925 Weymann Style 35 Mandolin-Banjo. This is a clean and interesting piece of Weyman's ingenuity. A 9" maple rim, with Remo clear 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 $750 includes flat top hard case. 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. 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
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 very good/excelent condition. At the price of $550 it comes with gig bag. Photos
1920's Unmarked banjo uke. Vintage vibe is all over this banjo ukulele. The instrument has a very work walnut brown finish. The frets are directly installed in the neck wood (no glued on fretboard) and are in a 14" scale length. The 8" rim is made of maple, has a glued on resonator, and _" port holes between the brackets for sound to come out. The metal parts include a solid brass tension hoop tensioned with 12 brackets. All the original metal hardware has worn nickel plating. New parts include Gotoh friction tuners, a Remo Renaissance head, and a new No-Knot tailpiece. Price is $200 and includes a new Enoch Instruments banjo uke gig bag. Sorry, Sold. Photos
1925 Epiphone Banjo Uke. For the practical strummer with an ear and eye for the antique and the archaic (we guess)! One of two fairly similar Epiphone banjo ukes in stock right now, this 4+ lb mini-beast has an 8-3/8" diameter rim, high grade calf skin head, and a maple neck with a knot on the heel. Low precision action plus a new 13-7/8" inch scale ebony fretboard installed right here at SFI means it plays great. The natural maple finish, unique bracket band instead of shoes for hooks & nuts, and the original vintage Epiphone decal on the back of the peghead, means it looks cool, to boot. Snappy and articulate and plenty loud, it's yours for $550 with a gigbag. 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 .