I have recently been fortunate enough to pick up not one , but TWO beautiful banjos!

I know that showing off is a very bad thing to do, but please try to remember that envy is worse :-))

I was fortunate to find this extremely rare but seemingly tatty Clifford Essex Boudoir Grand in a music shop quite nearby. The banjo was filthy, but actually in superb condition, so with a bit of time and effort here is the end result:


The CE Boudoir Grand is an exceedingly rare instrument and this is the first that I have seen in the flesh. It is a cross between a  Clifford Essex Wood Hoop Special and a CE Concert Grand. It does not have a metal tone ring, just a bevelled edge to the laminated wood hoop. It does have the bracket band and hoop as found on the Special XX and Concert Grand.

One odd thing about the instrument is that, despite all the talk about dating of CE banjos by the batch mark notches in the metal work and marks on the woodwork... I can for certain tell you the exact day that this banjo was manufactured!   APRIL 1st, but I don't know what year.

I know this as all parts are marked with three lines, the hoop, the dowel rod, the tension hoop ...BUT on the bracket band you can see the top side has a matching three notches....but on flipping the band over it has been marked with FOUR notches.

This must have been a real joke on the banjo assembler as he hunted for the correct parts when they came back from the electroplaters :-)

For those who are interested, and to show you that even I can use a digital micrometer, here is the width of the  CE Boudoir Grand Hoop.

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I've seen and played one of these before (in Australia) and seen another in a photo (it lives in London) but neither were in such good shape.

Did you have to do much to get the metal to look so good?

How does it sound?  

I guess the bevel would make it part Farland as well.  The purple color is nice too. It reminds me of  the color of early 20th century string instruments from Calcutta. They called the color "Baiguny Black" (purple black like an eggplant (aubergine).

What is your second new banjo?  

You've done a brilliant job - it looks brand new!   

Out of interest, what product do you use to clean the metal parts?

SUPERB! What a beauty, Ian.

Beautiful!  What did you use to polish the rim?

Beautiful banjo! You did a great job cleaning it up. The metal parts looks especially good.

This banjo has been given the full treatment!  Many years ago I graduated as a Chemist, so stripping nickel plating from brass, by reverse electrolysis, is a snip by using battery acid, a few strips of lead sheet and a battery charger. :-)

I took the banjo apart and stripped all the metal parts, then polishing by hand and by polishing machine until they have a mirror finish and wired them all on several pieces of copper wire electrodes..

... THEN THE CLEVER BIT:  Have a friend who owns an electroplating company and for the cost of a few beers the banjo now looks as good as the day it left the workshop, or maybe even better.

The nickel plating is absolutely beautiful. The rest of the banjo was immaculate with no fingerboard wear or fret wear. I think it had spent most of its life under the bed. It only needed a polish and the odd touch up on the hoop.

The sound from the banjo is beautiful. It is not as harsh as the Wood hoop Special and have a lovely mellow tone, but it is bright in the treble and has a great bass growl.  My friends like its sound more than my other banjos. The problem I have is that the neck and fingerboard are a little narrow for my fingers.

 Of course it is a Boudoir Grand... and who has a boudoir?   Yep, a lady, so maybe the Boudoir Grand was aimed at the female market as most females tend to have smaller hands than male players?

 It obviously wasn't a spectacularly successful idea as they don't seem to have sold that many as they are very rarely seen for sale.

I hope to bash a tune out with them soon :-)

Small world - I am also a graduate chemist, but have forgotten most of my chemistry by now (40 years later). Even more of a coincidence is that my father worked for an electroplating company and arranged for me to have a look around when I was doing my A levels.
I'm impressed by your hands-on approach.

Spectacular. Have to admire your restoration, Ian. Quite ingenious!

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