Banjola buzz fixing and new tailpiece/bridge?

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Kevin D Williams
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Joined: Mon Jan 20, 2020 3:47 am

Banjola buzz fixing and new tailpiece/bridge?

Post by Kevin D Williams »

Howdy all: I didn't do an "intro", but a quick 50 cent update. My brother and I during our college years had an ongoing instrument war of sorts. Long distance phone calls produced a couple bars of a new instrument. Back and forth and I ended up loving and playing the Banjo (sort of?), Mandolin, and Dulcimer. My latest acquisition was a Gold Tone Banjola from Elderly Instruments. Here's a look at it:

https://www.elderly.com/products/gold-tone-banjola

Really nice looking "Wood Banjo" for lack of a better description. Great craftsmanship all around save for the corners cut on the tailpiece (think sheet metal mandolin), and the bridge (think a cheap version of an adjustable bridge made with rosewood or other rather soft wood). Well after tuning it up and an afternoon of play, I started getting a buzz. We're talking an all the time, open or fretted, buzz. They had set it up with what looks like a piece of rag between the strings and where they contact the edge of the tailpiece. Also, I have a habit of "leaning" on the instrument with my picking hand. While I was playing I guess I leaned a little too hard and the wood pieces of the adjustable bridge slipped over the screws that adjust it. Not happy with either of these cost cutting additions to an otherwise fine instrument (it really sounded great right out of the box by the way). So my plan was to copy the equipment found on an Octave Mandolin I had Kevin Jones of Olympia Dulcimer Company build me. You can see that one at this link, but you'll have to scroll down to the ninth instrument. It's basically his eight string Safari model that I had him make fully chromatic and put some octave mandolin strings on. Not too much of a stretch for what he was already building as a Walkabout Dulcimer. Here's the link.

https://olympiadulcimercompany.com/products/

I've figured out that the tailpiece is an Ashton Bailey chrome mandolin tailpiece and I've been searching everywhere. I have a knock off that looks identical coming from overseas. The bridge and saddle is what I'm having difficulty with and need you all's help. I first bought a compensated banjo bridge that's 5/8" in height. That bridge from Stewart Macdonald is the correct spacing and height, but it's really fragile. I've busted standard banjo bridges in the past (again, that "leaning" thing) and so the instrument mirrors my Octave Mandolin, I'd really love to get a hard wood bridge and saddle.

This instrument is certainly a flat top affair so a guitar bridge would make sense, but again going through Stewart Macdonald they have one that is slotted with holes for the bridge pins (I don't want holes) and a similar one that has no machining on it. I'd be unable to cut the saddle slot by myself. So what do you folks suggest? Anyone know of a saddle slotted hard wood guitar bridge and associated saddle that would give me the 5/8" height? Love to hear any of your suggestions. Smithy.

Kevin D Williams
Posts: 3
Joined: Mon Jan 20, 2020 3:47 am

Re: Banjola buzz fixing and new tailpiece/bridge?

Post by Kevin D Williams »

Anyone? Just a decent hardwood guitar bridge and saddle for a 5/8" height? I need you all's help.

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Bob Gramann
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Re: Banjola buzz fixing and new tailpiece/bridge?

Post by Bob Gramann »

Why not make a solid wood floating bridge like the one in the Elderly Instruments photo?

Michael Lewis
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Re: Banjola buzz fixing and new tailpiece/bridge?

Post by Michael Lewis »

Have you looked at the Stewart/MacDonald catalog?

You want a glue on type bridge with no pins? Maybe more like a classical guitar bridge? What sort of structure is on the inside of the soundboard? 5/8" is pretty tall for a glue on, but much more realistic for a floating bridge.

Michael Lewis
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Re: Banjola buzz fixing and new tailpiece/bridge?

Post by Michael Lewis »

Oh yeah, you have to isolate the buzz before you can fix it. That can be an entertaining process. Without hearing the particular buzz I can only offer some ideas of where to look. Tuning machines: buttons can loosen, washers under the bushing on the face of the headstock, loose bushing, loose screw holding the gear to the string post.

Is it a rattle of a loose part or is it the strings rattling on frets? Is the noise loud or quiet? Does the noise have a pitch?

Check all fasteners

Michael Lewis
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Joined: Thu Jan 12, 2012 1:22 am
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Re: Banjola buzz fixing and new tailpiece/bridge?

Post by Michael Lewis »

A button on your clothing can contact the instrument and buzz at certain pitches.

Kevin D Williams
Posts: 3
Joined: Mon Jan 20, 2020 3:47 am

Re: Banjola buzz fixing and new tailpiece/bridge?

Post by Kevin D Williams »

Thanks all for your reply's. I ended up finally talking my Octave Mandolin maker (known for his "Walkabout" Dulcimers) to make me a bridge/saddle. Measurements I took of the Banjola vs the Octave Mandolin had the bridges being a string's width apart from each other. I asked that the saddle width be slightly enlarged to 2.5" and that wasn't a problem. A few days later and 50 bucks shorter I ended up with a perfect bridge/saddle combination for the instrument. Now all I'm waiting on is an Ashton Bailey tailpiece from Stewart MacDonald. It was also used on the Octave Mandolin, but the builder didn't have any to spare. Seems like that item is a bit hard to come by? Smithy.

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