My current pair. On the left a fretless SSS Orchestra 2 - the dowel rod says SSS Champion, but the neck is definitely the Orchestra 2. It's in fine condition.
O the right is a Temlett "Special Mozart Model" which has a few minor issues. The refret could have been done better: I can feel the jagged ends of the frets on the right-hand side as we see the picture. The action has to be too high in order to clear the frets - it needs a proper set up. I'm sure it has more to offer than I', getting out of it at the moment.

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Comment by Joel Hooks on April 10, 2019 at 22:58

Cool!  What size is the SSS rim?  11.5" and it is a Champion,  Orchestra's were 12" & 13."  That was a very consistent designation across the board from the early/mid 1880s on.

The Temlett looks nice too-- nice to have a three octave neck, I love me an English banjo lately.  If I am not playing my Gariepy Van Eps then It is my CE Professional or CE Concert Grand.

Comment by Rob MacKillop on April 11, 2019 at 5:45

That's the odd thing, Joel. Despite saying Champion on the dowel, it has a perfectly 12" rim. Might have been a commission, or a mistake at the factory, or some other reason. 

 Bernunzio's are packing my fretted Orchestra 2 off to me today, so in ten days or so I'll be able to compare the two more closely. This one arrived with the ultra-smooth nylguts, even the 4th. I prefer the old rectified nylguts, which give both hands something to grip with, so I took them off. The only replacements I had lying around the house was an old gut set for A tuning from about ten years ago. Being made by my favourite gut-string maker, Damian Dlugolecki of they are still useable. Allthough you mention C tuning was almost universal by 1890, it's all I have at the moment. I have to say the banjo sounds magnificent, rich and deep, not a paint-stripping sound by any means, but just how I like it. 

The serial number is 10700, which - according to some private correspondence with Marc Smith, places it roughly 1890-94, before the neck adjuster was added. 

It also has the stamp of instrument importer, Ball Beavon & Co., London, meaning it has probably spent its life in the UK since shortly after it was made. 

Comment by Joel Hooks on April 11, 2019 at 12:04

Well there you go!  You have the Champion of all Orchestra banjos!!

As to names-- I believe that "Champion" is a sarcastic shot at the banjo contests of the generation before SSS, perhaps even a direct shot at the Dobson family's obsession with fake contests.  "Orchestra" is also a bit tongue in cheek too as was calling Banjo Clubs "Orchestras."

Comment by Rob MacKillop on April 11, 2019 at 12:06

"The Champion of all Orchestra banjos!!" - I'll scratch that all the way down the neck ;-)

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