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Vintage Kay Archtop / Bruno Banjo Conversion

New Price$200
+ $25 Shipping

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Listed:3 years ago
Sold By
Nathaniel Adams
St Charles, MO, United States
Joined Reverb

The weirdest home-built combination of a Kay tenor archtop and a Bruno & Sons banjo yet surprisingly thought out

The banjo neck
This neck belongs to a Bruno & Sons No. 200 "Vernon" banjo from the early 20th century. The neck is birch (with a new carbon fiber reinforcing rod) and I believe has been refinished in black (it is a very old refinish if that). The fingerboard is ebonized maple with 22 nickel-steel frets and beautifully ornate mother of pearl inlays. The inlays are almost entirely intact except for a small missing piece. The board does still have a bit of a forward bow even with the carbon fiber but it is nowhere near as bad as it was originally. The tuning machines are period correct to the body and were originally in a 3 on a plate configuration. They have been carefully shaped around the contours of the headstock. The headstock has a cracked plastic faceplate with the name "DON" carved into it and underneath that faceplate is the mother of pearl fleur-de-lis that has been painted over. The headstock cap has some chips near the nut. The frets do have wear which is acceptable for the age of the instrument and there are small chips here and there on the board. The 5th string tuner is a new replacement. 

The archtop body
The body appears to be from a 1940s-1950s Kay tenor archtop and has some damage. The back and sides appear to be birch with a faux-flame and the top is solid spruce. There are a couple dents on the treble side where the body looks to have been smashed into something. There are also 2 big cracks on the top near the bass f-hole; one was glued back together with a non water-soluble adhesive and the other is still open. The bridge looks to be some sort of modified version of the original. The tailpiece has been slotted for the looped end of banjo strings and one extra hole was recently drilled to facilitate ball-end strings.

The construction
The screws used in this instrument are old flat head screws which lead me to believe that this was done a long time ago. I just went in and put it back together. The board has 4 holes drilled in it for screws (one is unused) and 3 of them are covered with black clay. The end of the neck has been cut and repurposed to form a pseudo heel for the neck to mount to the body. The neck attaches to the body via two screws into the neck block and one screw into the heel. The heel attaches via one screw into the neck block and has a bent metal shield hiding it. I filled and redrilled a couple of holes that were stripped.

This is the weirdest instrument I have ever come across and now it plays! The tone is, expectedly, just like an archtop tuned to a banjo tuning. But the neck feels like an old banjo and so its a curious compromise between the two.

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