Fairbanks/Vega Tu-Ba-Phone conversion Model 5 String Banjo (1910), made in Boston, Mass., serial # 26761, natural finish, laminated maple rim and neck, ebony fingerboard, black hard shell case.
This banjo consists of a lovely old 1910 Tu-Ba-Phone #3 rim in the intermediate 11 1/2" size fitted with a later handmade neck based on the Fairbanks #9 pattern. We'd describe this neck as a bit of an artistic homebrew; it's patterned after a standard #9 style but is very much a creative re-interpretation. The neck and dowel are handmade of high quality materials, but is not a straight Fairbanks copy. The neck profile and headstock shapes are subtly different, with a thicker contour and longer backstrap. The carved heel is thicker and the headstock and fingerboard inlay is engraved in scrimshaw style on what appears to ne bone instead of pearl. The fretwork is very good, in fact all the wood and inlay work is well done but rather eccentric in style. The dowel has the matching serial number stamped and a plaque with the name "Alex Shester" who may be the original artist or owner. We don't know the story on this one, but it's a very interesting piece for sure.
Overall length is 38 1/4 in. (97.2 cm.), 11 1/2 in. (29.2 cm.) diameter head, and 2 3/8 in. (6 cm.) in depth, measured at side of rim. Scale length is 27 in. (686 mm.). Width of nut is 1 1/4 in. (32 mm.). The banjo is overall in very good playing condition; there is some typical wear to the rim and hardware, plating loss to a few of the hooks and shoes and scrapes to the bottom edge of the rim. The newer neck and parts show a lot less play wear and there is some chipping to the lacquer on the headstock. This is an excellent playing and sounding banjo, with the typical Tu-Ba-Phone shap and resonance and some extra depth imparted by the larger 11 1/2" rim size. A unique instrument for sure, but a good sounding and playing banjo nonetheless-actually one of the best sounding old Tu-Ba-Phones we have had.