Hi Richard, would it be possible to send me a better scan of the 1928 Clifford Essex Catalogue, page 9 (Boudoir Grand), as I have a 1910 version of one of these. It's a great banjo, in fine condition. The banjo has an interesting provenance, as the original owner actually played this banjo in the dance band on the SS Olympic, which, of course, was the sister ship of the ill-fated SS Titanic. I bought it of a friend of his about 15 years ago.
I will try to remember to do this for you, I have been very pressed for time just lately so may not be able to dig this material out of the pile for a while; if nothing happens remind me in a couple of weeks.
Peter, can you please describe the sound of the Boudoir Grand as compared to other Clifford Essex models? It seems to have an ebony "tone ring" which in theory should give the banjo extra resonance and a woody rather than metallic sound. But I've only seen and played one Boudoir Grand and it sounded quite ordinary. It was set up with steel strings and a three foot bridge though. And it also had no markings that said Boudoir Grand, but it had all the characteristics of that model. I've long been fascinated by this model, named for a piano! Thanks, Jody.
Shows a better photo of the hoop, which looks identical to my wood hoop special.. BUT my special also looks to have an ebony tone ring, but this is, in fact, just the maple wood painted black.
The peg head is a different shape and the MOP a slightly different design too.
The wood hoop does give a nice mellow (woody) sound.
I only really heard my wood hoop being played for the first time when Rob Murch popped in a few weeks ago. It sounds completely different when you are standing in front rather than sitting behind it :-)
It will be interesting to hear what Peter has to say, and how he has it set up too.
Ian is right ; the wood hoop is painted with black paint ; rosewood neck & beech hoop ( resewood ' covered inside & outside ) for the Boudoir . However , this for the late banjos from CE & sons ; & even for these productions , they could have been some exceptions , scalloped tension hoop on some boudoir ' banjos .
Prior to this , prior to 1920 , for my point of view , we do know nothing about the production because the banjos were from differents luthiers , experimental & anachronistic banjos ,
we could share our experiences & pictures to re discover the models
Marc is right, some early 'Specials' pre 1906 were made by Weaver, and are in all respects Weaver banjos, later models have none of the Weaver characterstics, the 'Imperial' model comes in various guises, but normally has a hoop similar to the one on Ian's 'Boudoir Grand' in the photograph. The 'Professional' model has some of the characteristics of the Weaver made banjos but of all of those which I have seen and owned, I do not think any were made by Weaver. Essex himself said that, in the early days, pre 1900, the demand for banjos was such that price was not a consideration with their customers and they got banjos from any reputable manufacturer who could supply them and merely put their own name on them. A lot of the early Essex & Cammeyer 'ordinary' banjos were imported Cole 'Eclipse' banjos, they planed the name and number off the perch pole and then restamped them, I have had several of these - sometimes a metal plate was pinned to the perch pole saying 'Made Expressly for Essex and Cammeyer' I suppose this was done where it was not possible to remove the original makers name.
Who said there was no tonering on a CE special ? ..... here 's a picture of an early ' one i have ( i believe made by Rich Spencer because of the similitude with some inlays i saw on Z _ Bjs ) ; The rim is painted black ; all is original and i think the luthier took his inspiration from the Washburn ' tonering system . the tonering you don 't see on the photo is the simple one , tubular like you could buy in the Stewart shop , but all steel and 10 7/8 . because this CE special is 10 7/8 . ....strange ; isn't it ?
It appears that there were all sorts of design of banjo hoop/ tone ring used by CE, or their sub-contractor luthiers. I said to Jody that his sloped "tone ring" looked like the painted one on mine:
You can see the same sloped profile, but on mine I know, definitely, that it is not ebony as I repainted the original that had become scratched and worn through over the years.
In the picture below you can even see the laminated maple showing through the new paint. Maybe Jody's Boudoir Grand does have an ebony tone ring. It seems that there was no standardisation on these CE banjos.
I don't own a Boudoir Grand. I don't even have a boudoir to put one in. The photo I posted was sent to me about 4 years ago by the banjo's owner (Richard Evans. somewhere in the north part of London)when he was selling some of his banjo collection (but not the Boudoir Grand) on eBay. I've never actually handled or seen this banjo. I saw one unmarked CE banjo in Australia that had some Boudoir Grand characteristics but I'm not sure it really was one. So I've probably only seen photos and pictures.
My Boudoir Grand dates from about 1910, the hoop is 3 ply maple with a rosewood veneer. Just the rear edge is painted black but about a third of my black has worn off due to 10 decades of rubbing against clothing. The name is engraved on the shield which is on the tuning head, however on some examples the letters could have been removed by over-enthusiastic polishing. It is fitted with a plastic skin - not a Remo, and a Grover 3 leg bridge with bone inserts. The neck is dead straight and the action is superb. As the banjo was originally designed to be fitted with gut strings, I avoid the temptation to fit heavy strings and always use either D'Addario or D'Aquisto light gauge, with a phosphor-bronze wound 4th. The banjo is well suited to fingerstyle playing and has a mellow sound, quieter than the Imperial which I used to have, but great for accompanying vocals. I have played a Concert Grand of similar vintage but I didn't like it as much as mine, however the setup was not great.
Is it possible to have some pictures of the instrument , Peter ?
Here are some of mine which is a " pré boudoir " , i think early 1900 , may be before ; the banjo is 10 1/2 and the rim isn 't painted like yours . I think , exactly like the "special XX " became later the "Concert grand" , this one which is a" special X" became later the "boudoir grand" . However , i don 't understand why this is not mentioned in the AP Sharpe ' specifications ' bout banjo ' models ?