So I have a 1926 Model M Vega and I'd like to lower the action. I took off the resonator off and had a look at how it "might" be done. But without knowing anything positively I'm not inclined to mess with it. I'm just a bit paranoid in tinkering with a vintage banjo that currently sounds great when I pretty much just play in the first position anyway.

Anyone familiar with this model of banjo and has thoughts on the subject I'd love to hear from.

Views: 1995

Reply to This

Replies to This Discussion

Hey Fishmonger,

The Style M that I had didn't have any neck adjustment hardware, and I'm assuming that yours is the same. You can sometimes get a bit of adjustment by loosening the neck, and then tightening it again with the neck pushed back slightly. (This is if if the hole in the rim that the dowel goes through is slightly oversized).

The next easiest adjustment is to put a little shim between the neck and the rim, right underneath the fret board. This can affect the tone of the instrument a bit sometimes, but I've usually been OK with it. I usually use a thin strip of metal, and if you make sure that there is a solid connection between the neck and the rim, it won't noticeably affect the tone. This isn't hard to do. You basically just take the strings off, and then loosen the dowel, by removing the tailpiece, loosening the tailpiece screw, which is screwed into the end of the dowel, and then loosen the dowel tensioning hardware. The neck will then get loose enough that you can place a shim in there. Then it's just a matter of re-tightening the neck, and putting it all back together. If you're at all mechanically inclined, this shouldn't be too scary.

Keep in mind that high action on a vintage banjo is usually a sign of the neck warping over time. The old Vega banjos have a really fat "baseball bat sawn in half" kind of neck, and they usually resist warping pretty well. But if it gets worse, you might want to send it to a luthier to have him pull the fret board off, and "heat press" the neck back to the proper shape, with the proper amount of relief.

It's also possible that it has some kind of neck adjustment hardware on it. There are several different systems that do this. One of them is a bracket mounting system at the end of the dowel, inside the pot, right by the tailpiece. If it has a bracket there, with a screw, you can adjust that to change the neck angle a bit. There's another system that has two metal plates in between the neck and the pot, with screws that allow you to do the same thing as I was mentioning with the shim. But I don't remember seeing either of those on a Vega. (But I also haven't worked on that many Vegas...)

Good luck! If you need help with that, I can maybe post some photos of what I'm talking about.
Here's the inside of my banjo and the components I thought would need to be adjusted in some way to lower the action.
On the inside of the "heel" (I think that's what it's called) or bottom of the neck.

Below the tail piece which in this case is visible at the bottom of the image.

Yep. Nothing there is for adjusting the neck angle. The part inside the heel is the dowel tensioner. So tightening that screw is what pulls the neck in to the pot nice and tight.

So if you loosened that screw, you could try pulling the neck back a bit, and then re-tightening the screw, while you're still applying a bit of pressure on the neck. If there's any play in the dowel through the rim, that might be all you need. If not, then loosening that and putting a shim in would be the next option.
OK, thanks for the info. I'll just wait for the time being and take it to an experienced luthier. I don't want screw anything up. :-)
Inserting a shim between the neck and the rim worked fine on my Vega style M. Loosen things off and insert a small rectangular piece of old credit card and when you re-tighten you should find the action significantly lowered. There is even some scope for fine adjustment by comparing bits cut from credit cards of different thickness!
So from what I understand, the shim would be placed where I've indicated in the image? The section near the top of the pot looks like if I added the shim there, it could start a split in the neck.
I was thinking layered strips of aluminum foil might work even better than a piece of sheet metal or a credit card.
By the way, you can see how high the action is at the 17th fret in this pic. About 6 millimeters from the fret board to the top of the string. I'd like to make it 3.

No, you want to put it up further, against the tension ring, at the very top (right under the level of the fretboard) so that it's making the neck tilt back a bit. Layered foil should work, and it would allow you to adjust the amount of shim.
OK. Thanks Reverend. :-)
Have you tried just cutting down the bridge? I've tinkered plenty with my bridges (including making a couple of my own). The bridge is consumable, like strings, it should not be considered part of the "vintage" aspect of the instrument. I have a 1924 StyleM myself, but I don't really worry any longer about it's being "vintage". The StyleM was a student model, seldom if ever used by professionals in the Jazz Age. I dithered a long time about making modifications to mine, then discussed it with people on a tenor banjo yahoogroup. Their opinions were that the StyleM was a great banjo for playing but would probably not appreciate in value much and that I should make any modifications to help playing. In my case that meant removing the original friction (!!!!!) tuners and replacing them with planetaries. That did involve removing a little headstock wood, so it's pretty much a one-way path. I've never regretted it, especially when I discovered that I could fit my ivoroid buttons to the new tuners and throw away the ugly modern pearloid buttons that came with the tuners.
You want 3mm of clearance at the 17th fret? From the board or the fret top? Sounds awfully low for almost any acoustic instrument, I think you're asking for a lot of string buzz on G and D strings unless you want to play pretty quietly. This is a Banjo, right?

Chris Youlden said:
So from what I understand, the shim would be placed where I've indicated in the image? The section near the top of the pot looks like if I added the shim there, it could start a split in the neck.
I was thinking layered strips of aluminum foil might work even better than a piece of sheet metal or a credit card. By the way, you can see how high the action is at the 17th fret in this pic. About 6 millimeters from the fret board to the top of the string. I'd like to make it 3.

Dave Linden said:
Have you tried just cutting down the bridge?
I got this banjo from Mike Keyes and the bridge is one he made. As such I doubt the bridge needs any tinkering at all.
Dave Linden said:
You want 3mm of clearance at the 17th fret? From the board or the fret top? Sounds awfully low for almost any acoustic instrument, I think you're asking for a lot of string buzz on G and D strings unless you want to play pretty quietly. This is a Banjo, right?
Yeah it's a banjo. lol Maybe 3mm is too low. That's why I've posed the question here as pretty much everyone here knows more about tenor banjos and how to play them than I do. All I can really say is that it "could be lower" and I'd like to make that happen.
I'll probably wait to mess with it until it comes time to change my strings again then change the strings, change the head to a fiberskyn and tweak the action a bit.

RSS

£5 Donations!

Please chip in, to help with the cost of keeping this site online.

Thanks, Dick



Events

April 2014
SMTWTFS
12345
6789101112
13141516171819
20212223242526
27282930
       

Birthdays

Badge

Loading…

© 2014   Created by Dick Glasgow.   Powered by

Badges  |  Report an Issue  |  Terms of Service