Sisters: Two SSS Orchestra 2's, one fretted, one fretless

For my Converse project, two Orchestra 2 banjos from circa 1890-94.

Serial Numbers: Fretted: 8917. Fretless: 10700.

Differences: The Fretless is a little lighter, and has a badge saying "Champion" on the back, yet has a 12" rim. The neck of the fretted model seems a little thicker/heavier, and has a carved heel, whereas the fretless heel is plain.

The fretless will be kept for a while at A tuning, but the fretted will be higher, currently a tone higher, not quite reaching C.

String lengths: Fretted 27 3/4" Fretless 27 1/2"

Pot sizes: Fretted 12 3/8 Fretless 12"

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Views: 82

Comment by Trapdoor2 on April 30, 2019 at 23:46


Comment by thereallyniceman on May 1, 2019 at 7:02

Instant banjo collection... good idea.

Two lovely banjos too.


Comment by Rob MacKillop on May 1, 2019 at 15:32

Buying them was the relatively easy part. Now to get to work on them. Surprisingly, the fretless is almost twice as loud, even if I swap the bridges around. Not sure why that should be. But the fretted has a beautiful sound, just at a lower volume. I'm pleased they don't sound the same. 

Comment by Joel Hooks on May 1, 2019 at 16:02


SSS' necks get thinner as time goes on.  He mentioned in the "Journal" that people wanted thinner necks.  The fingerboards got thinner too. He did this to try and avoid warping/bowing necks,  He claimed that the the cherry neck and the ebony would shrink at different rates and cause the neck to bend.  Better grades of banjos had multiple layers under the fingerboard to try and make the neck stronger.

Yeah, they can sound very different.  I think it has to do with how tight the cladding is.  Farland claimed that the cladding needed to be extreamly tight and that SSS would sort through stacks of rims to find one to use for Farland's personal banjos-- he used this to justify his wood rim banjos having no cladding.

Comment by Rob MacKillop on May 2, 2019 at 7:25

Interesting, Joel. Thanks for that. It's quite an education having them both to contrast and compare. Both necks are superb, I must say. Very impressive. 

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