I am new to banjo, and to classic banjo, and have recently bought a 'Hawkes & Son' 5-string which I think was probably made by John. G. Abbott, since a very similar instrument is shown at http://www.vintagebanjomaker.com/#/abbott/4568572023. The Hawkes tailpiece appears to be identical to that shown, save for the fact that it appears to have taken a knock resulting in the horizontal bar (beneath which the strings pass) being slightly dented in the middle so as to form a 'V' shape. Since this possible distortion is centred, I was at first unsure whether it might be an Abbott design feature, so left well alone and strung the banjo without attempting to straighten it out. As a result, with strings and bridge in place, the centre of the 'V' bears down, pressing the inner strings against the vellum. While this doesn't look right, it seems to have little if any effect on the sound, and causes no buzzes.

But now seeing the online Abbott tailpiece I think that my 'Hawkes' tailpiece would ideally be straightened. My question is: can it be straightened without breaking it? Is it brass beneath the chrome, so probably bendable; or another metal that will crack? And if bendable, any suggestions as how best to go about the straightening? Or should I continue to leave well alone? Thanks for any advice.

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a bass guitar ' string  for the middle G  , tuned at the  regular pitch ... ?  ?

...says the Metallurgical Engineer.

thereallyniceman said:

Well, I never thought it of  banjo players... What a bunch of wimps!

 ........ Get it in the vice ;-))

Seriously though, if it ain't broke, don't fix it could be the sensible view.

Maybe I am a bit "gung-ho" as if I broke it I would strip the nickel, re-braze it, polish it and have it re-nickel plated and then it would be as good as new.

4 stringers like to upgrade too.  Like taking a #1 Stewart UF and turning it into a #3 TB.

Trapdoor2 said:

I have spent most of my life following the philosophy of "If you can't fix it, get a bigger hammer." Now that I'm older, not so much. Were this mine, I think it would have gone in the vice right off the bat...as I said, just to take the downward bow out though.

I always find it interesting that the bulk of collectors of elder 5-string banjos prefer them to retain their "patina"...vs the collectors of 4-string banjos, who prefer them to be "better than new". I met a guy with a fancy Stewart banjo that he had totally rejuvenated...polished nickel, freshened engraving, gold brackets, bolts and hooks, etc. It was amazing...and I was totally put off by it. It looked too smooth, too shiny..."tarted up".


thereallyniceman said:

Well, I never thought it of  banjo players... What a bunch of wimps!

 ........ Get it in the vice ;-))

Seriously though, if it ain't broke, don't fix it could be the sensible view.

Maybe I am a bit "gung-ho" as if I broke it I would strip the nickel, re-braze it, polish it and have it re-nickel plated and then it would be as good as new.

I have a similar Hawkes/Abbott banjo.  This is what my tailpiece looks like:



Rock Chidley said:

Again, my thanks to all for your views and ready advice. My tailpiece apparently differs from the illustrated Clifford Essex only (excepting the 'V') in that it does not have the two prongs that allow for vertical adjustment above the vellum. Just two holes to take two threaded bolts.  Pictures can't tell the whole story, of course, and from the nature of the V 'distortion' seen in the round I'm inclined to share thereallyniceman's view - namely that there is damage caused by a fall. It may not therefore be coincidental that, as bought, the vellum had split at and beyond that point. That said, I'm persuaded for the time being to take Jody Stecher's hippocratic line and leave well alone until such time as I develop at least some playing technique, or the newly fitted velum splits - whichever comes first.

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Trevor Boyd said:

I have a similar Hawkes/Abbott banjo.  This is what my tailpiece looks like:



Rock Chidley said:

Again, my thanks to all for your views and ready advice. My tailpiece apparently differs from the illustrated Clifford Essex only (excepting the 'V') in that it does not have the two prongs that allow for vertical adjustment above the vellum. Just two holes to take two threaded bolts.  Pictures can't tell the whole story, of course, and from the nature of the V 'distortion' seen in the round I'm inclined to share thereallyniceman's view - namely that there is damage caused by a fall. It may not therefore be coincidental that, as bought, the vellum had split at and beyond that point. That said, I'm persuaded for the time being to take Jody Stecher's hippocratic line and leave well alone until such time as I develop at least some playing technique, or the newly fitted velum splits - whichever comes first.

Thanks, Trevor, for uploading the picture. That really seems to clinch it, then - bent it was. So next time I restring I'll straighten it, if only enough to lift the centre off the vellum. One thing that I didn't mention before, that you may be able to address: the two threaded bolts are, on my Hawkes tailpiece, not horizontal - from left to right they go 'uphill', to the extent that the right hand bolt would (and did!) foul the vellum on the flesh hoop if fully driven in. I don't know what quality control Abbott/Hawkes imposed, but this looks to be both an original and a poor job. Nothing I can do about it, but I'd like to know if on your Hawkes/Abbott the bolts sit as I think they should - level. Thanks.

Hello Rock.  The bolts on mine look more or less horizontal.  Not easy to photograph but I have had a go - I hope this helps.

I bought my Abbott about 3 years ago from Elias Sibley who is a well-known young classic banjo player in the UK.  He told me that when he acquired it had been strung as a tenor and he converted it back to a 5-string.  I had it set up by a local banjo builder and luthier.  It is a nice little instrument - very light - although the friction tuning pegs are a bit of a pain!

Trevor

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