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How does it sound? Pretty good, I'd say. I made a video once I'd put the the Clifford Essex Zither-Banjo Special Strings on, with the gut third. Unfortunately the set includes a varnished gut, which I really do not like, so that will get replaced with unvarnished gut as soon as I can organise it. I have a student arriving, so have no time in the next three hours to upload the video, but I'll share it here when I do.

Is that body made of rosewood?

The skin is in a rough condition, and the bridge seems too hard for the job. Plus the b string has a little zing to it, so either the action is too low or the nut groove is too deep. Notice that the gut string is too thick for the bridge groove. So, I'm on the hunt for a different bridge.

Otherwise I'm delighted with it, and all for £134. No case, but it arrived really well protected. The neck is a typical high-quality one from Temlett - multi-layered, and straight as can be. It really is beautifully made. 

I think the odd thing on the head is for a strap - there's another one at the base. 

Here's the video. I'm a little out of tune, which bothers me, but the strings had just been put on. The instrument needs a proper setup, new bridge - it's just not quite right at the moment. Not sure how do it all though, not being technically-minded.  I'll try the CE Cammeyer zither-banjo bridge for starters: http://www.cliffordessex.net/index.php?_a=viewProd&productId=270

I'm reading a couple of pieces from Ellis's Advanced Banjo and Zither-banjo Method:

https://youtu.be/U5WfDAmh1N4 

So, I don't think it is set up properly, but overall I like the instrument. 

Hi Rob,
Lovely to see you back on the banjos. Your zither banjo videos certainly inspired me to explore the possibilities with my Great-grand fathers Windsor zither.

I have recently replaced the head, strings and bridge and have started to coax some life out of it again - I have never played a open back banjo so have nothing to compare it to ... but it has always seemed a challenge to get a tone I am really happy with.

All the best
Philip

Very nice looking ZB, Rob. That bridge simply must go. CE sells a ZB bridge with rounded, peg-like feet...which is evidently something like original issue. My Windsor #1 wears one just like it (but marked "Windsor").

These things sometimes use really short bridges. Mine is only 10mm (3/8") high but it seems to work well.

I strung mine with steels taken from a standard J55 D'addario 5-string pack of strings, the 4th is a single from CE and the third is from a nylgut "classic banjo" pack. I could never get used to the steel strings so I eventually went with a full set of nylguts. I can live with it not sounding like a ZB...;-)

I'd take a shaving razor to that head...looks like a sheep that escaped shearing!

Pip - thanks for your comment. They seem to be difficult instruments to get an acceptable tone out of. A few hours after making the video I started getting a really nice tone by playing right on the edge of the rim, while playing across the string at 90 degrees. The volume also almost doubled. I'll try again later today, to see if I was dreaming...

Marc - the bridge is well under half an inch, and the CE website says their lowest one is half an inch, and anything lower means the set up is wrong. The action at the moment is not very low, and I fear a 1/2" bridge will raise it too high. Does this mean someone has changed the neck angle for, perhaps, bluegrass or ( with a higher bridge)  clawhammer? Yes, the head is crazy. Clearly it put up a fight! 

Well, after 20 minutes of playing today, this happened while tuning from C to D. The string seemed to get stuck in the nut, so the result was inevitable. Now, the nut presumably is original - it certainly looks it - so either the CE string is too thick OR the nut needs the grooves smoothed-out.  

Frustrating, but not the end of the world. I was beginning to get a really nice sound before it happened. C'est la vie!

All strings on the market currently are thicker than the strings used historically.

Rob MacKillop said:

Well, after 20 minutes of playing today, this happened while tuning from C to D. The string seemed to get stuck in the nut, so the result was inevitable. Now, the nut presumably is original - it certainly looks it - so either the CE string is too thick OR the nut needs the grooves smoothed-out.  

Frustrating, but not the end of the world. I was beginning to get a really nice sound before it happened. C'est la vie!

Well, if that's the case, what's the point in putting them on 100+ year-old banjos? Daft. 

Like many banjos of the period, the neck angle should be nearly zero, meaning if you lay the banjo face down on a flat surface, the head and neck should lay flat (without the bridge on). I thought the CE warning was "daft". IIRC I spoke with David Wade about this years ago and less than 1/2" is common for these things. Get a 1/2" bridge and sand down the height of the legs until the action is where you want it.

If the neck angle is negative (meaning the neck leans forward in relation to the head), you have an adjustment problem. I have no idea how to do that on a Temlett. I would guess it is a dowelstick banjo so changes like that are likely Stephanelli-level procedures.

If the neck angle is positive, you simply adjust your action by changing the bridge height. My Flesher has a full "Bluegrass" 3 degree positive angle...which means that gut strings needed a full 1" tall bridge to make them playable.

Rob MacKillop said:

Marc - the bridge is well under half an inch, and the CE website says their lowest one is half an inch, and anything lower means the set up is wrong. The action at the moment is not very low, and I fear a 1/2" bridge will raise it too high. Does this mean someone has changed the neck angle for, perhaps, bluegrass or ( with a higher bridge)  clawhammer? Yes, the head is crazy. Clearly it put up a fight! 

Sod's Law: the head appears to lean forward very slightly. Groan. 

RE: String sizes.  I think my favorite term "Presentisim" applies to this. 

My theory is that because the tension of wire strings has been what people are exposed to first, they want to simulate that with nylon (or gut).

Another theory is the idea that "olden days" were crud and "rustic" therefore they must have only been capable of making thick and heavy objects. This is a ridiculous idea considering how finely constructed the banjos are they are being strung.

The final theory, also presentist, is that tastes in music have been leaning more towards the lower register. Thin strings are much brighter in tone.  Since the modern ear likes the thuddy tone (influence of modern "old time") we presume that the deeper tone is "old"-- so the (small) market for nylon strings has demanded thicker and thicker strings. 

The maker of "nylgut" polyester strings has been leading the pack on this-- his banjo strings keep getting thicker.  With the absurd unwound 4ths that he if offering now he is off the charts.

Many times people have posted on BHO that their pre 1930 5 string must have been built for wire strings because of the thin notches in the nut.  Nope-- gut strings were just that thin.  Some were as thin as .016" for firsts.

It is often about 'degree'. "Slightly" plus the fact that you noticed some action buzz may equal a small adjustment to the bridge height...and you play the banjo for years that way. As you well know, action depends on many factors...not the least is the players preferences. As long as it sounds and feels good, no worries!

Joel: I must add that to my vocabulary. "Presentism". Cool.

Humans are funny animals. They can justify just about any action. That the early guys used thin strings may simply be because there were no "banjo strings" so they used what was commonly available, Violin strings...and passed that preference down. I dunno. I prefer to keep it simple. Try all the options and use what works for me!

I also think Aquila's solid 4ths are horrific. Like rubber-bands.

Rob MacKillop said:

Sod's Law: the head appears to lean forward very slightly. Groan. 

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