Sunday, October 13, 2013

1927 Gibson RB-3 Partial Restoration

This is what it looked like when it showed up at the shop. All (or about 98%) original 1927 Gibson RB-3,
5-string banjo. Not a tenor conversion. The real deal! A client is having me prepare it for sale. More to the story at the bottom of this post.

Kinda dirty, some tarnished metal, but in excellent shape otherwise. I'll give it a complete cleaning to remove the grime but not re-finish or replace any parts other than the head.

And by "kinda dirty", I mean filthy-wash-hands-every-20 minutes-disgustingly dirty.

It had 70's era cam-style tuners that left an impression in the headstock.

Some grunge around the 5th string tuner, but the binding is still in great shape

The resonator is pretty rough. I don't want to try and refinish it. It was well-played and shows its age naturally.

The back of the headstock has some residue from the cam tuners, but it's on the surface and I think I can get it off without going into the finish.

These look to be the original Grover tuners. Dirty, but seem to function properly.

Every part of the banjo, every screw, washer and nut has been removed. I hope I remember how it goes together.

The metal cleaned up very well, the fretboard and inlays look great.

The tension hoop had worn through the nickel plating in one area, but the tailpiece is in excellent shape.

"Under the hood."

The wood rim has no cracks or flaws other than cosmetic. The rim rods and nuts polished up nicely.

The tuners are discolored from age, but not nearly as grungy as before. The cam tuners left a dull spot, but it's not bad.

The RB-3 in 1927 was not the fanciest banjo in the Mastertone line, but I really like the simple elegance.

The "Rest of the Story" as they say:
This banjo was owned by Ralph Stanley until 1963, when it was sold to Buster Jenkins, a fiddle player from Kansas. Buster passed away around 2008, and my client acquired it from his estate. This banjo has all the mojo of a genuine pre-war Mastertone, plays and sounds like a dream. It's got the archtop vibe that brings out the Ralph Stanley and Doug Dillard in everything you play, and is crystal clear all the way up the fretboard with just enough low end to make you feel every note in your gut. This banjo is bonafide!