10" rim assembly - 20 fret tenor - 21.5 scale - 32" total length
Dale Small


This fine example of a Dale Small mini banjo has been through some hard times.
It was in some environment that caused the celluloid's to prematurely "Gas out" and this caused cracking and heavy oxidation on the metal.
This happens on many vintage instruments over time but something caused this to occur many years too soon.
There is no reason that it cannot be restored either partially or fully.
The worst thing is that the entire celluloid  back is gone, someone must have pulled the remnants off in hope of repairing it with another back and it fell by the wayside.
I still work with the original engraver, Ron Raymer and he will contract any repairs in that area, all I need to do is add the new celluloid's
I am awaiting estimates on his part now.
The plating is compromised with the oxidation from Gassing, but will clean up somewhat.
Neck is straight, all other aspects are within the boundaries of a decent restoration.


I will remove the degraded celluloid and replace it.

The green stuff is called
This is an oxidation caused by many elements like moisture, galvanic corrosion and in this case, celluloid gassing

This is a solution of vinegar and baking soda, it will react and remove most of the verdigris.
No matter what, under it will be degraded plating but this will take off the bad and a light buffing of the good will help tremendously.

That is after 2 applications and swishing with fine brush.

Only a few spots left to work over but by and large it came fairly clean and this is a hard gold, that really helped.

removed the rest of the one layer of veneer and binding, back cleaned for new celluloid.

The original binding was lathed. I will make up the same dimensions with stacked layered binding.

An example of an 11" BD to show the 10" difference.

We will order some celluloid's and get them off to Mr Raymer, and be back with you soon
We are planning a full #4 back again, with shields from a #6 gracing the areas between the hook sets.
We will leave original Patina headstock overlay and reverse, and heel cap.
I will tint the back to match the older yellowed  finish and detail the fingerboard with new frets and finish.


Frets out
I have decided to wetsand at 600 to look at whats under the yellowed finish
It is a very white straight grained Ivoroid so I ordered that from Axiom
It turns out I have to buy full sheets of anything that has width so that was a chunk of $
It also carries a Haz Mat fee now "Flammable"
So I got that and my usual binding order together so I could pay only one Haz mat fee.

Gassing is the worse  inside the flange part of the heel cap, I wonder why, chemically.

Starting on the back

OK, I think I will try to hide the crazing with bone acrylic and repaint the detail to see how it looks

Celluloid arrives, it is straight grained but now it is no longer available in white.
It looks like the old original BD stuff, and does not have to be yellowed to mimic this appearance.
You can see plain white binding for contrast, that does not have grain in it.

So I will not be able to live with a back of this color and then go back to yellow on the other that is already super degraded so...
Boom goes the dynamite, time for me to enact "Executive Directive #714"
Off the old will come, new laminates where needed, install all new celluloid's on everything.
This will give Ron clean surfaces to work with instead of paying me or him to try and touch/fake/gliss over the totally shot original stuff.
It will make for a stunning look, and much more "Montana".
It looks like alot of work and it is , but I have done this a few times so it does not scare me.

heel cap first, its crumbling
I will place all pieces on cardboard to stabilize them for posterity

Upper coming off in 2 pieces

Came off clean, will not need laminate.

Now for the back. Slow glue release, I think it was contact cement so I have to use alcohol and go slow

No matter, its so degraded and that center piece is FUSED
Why is it always tighter in the center?

Stabilized, that's that.

Now to remove this laminate

These are Dale Small's actual tools that came to me from him.
A gouge, and 3 "Rifflers"
What better way to restore a Dale Small banjo could there be?.

And this is also from Dale's shop, the last of the old laminate.
So that will be used on it as well.

Rough shaping

Now, you can all breathe easier (me included)
OK the easy part is done, ONWARD!


Well, the initial pics of the cutting, gluing, clamping reaming and forming of the topside were lost in a dig pic snafu so we will go from here.
Ready for the back and heel cap!

Shaped and reamed.
Profiling the backstrap last, after gluing and clamping the tail

Roughing in the edges, and then it is a radius sanding of the top side.

Getting close
It is not a perfect science!

Polishing the celluloid's to high shine before sending to Raymer
They will be engraved and then detail painted with no finish on the overlay, like original BD.

It is a little easier to see now without the black background
Wood has  coat of sealer
Heel will remain as it is color wise, I like the lighter contrast of the White holly now back to its original look, on the upper neck.

I plan to go with this standard color from a #4, not the gold that was on it.
I like this look better and KC agrees is OK by her.
I will polish the celluloid to high gloss and have  Ron get the engraving in  and I can do the paint.
Also, I want the periphery line to be close to the edge like this one, not wide like the original.
I'm hoping Ron can copy a more exacting replica of the letter sizing to  give it a tighter look on this smaller peghead.
Who am I kidding, there ain't nothing he can't do!

Rim work

Aggressive file to remove the bulk and get it semi flat so I can block it.

As a side note:
That white dust is as explosive as pure gunpowder because that is what Nitrocellulose is...smokeless gun powder.
Many an industrial accident has occurred when this dust gets accumulated and one spark hits it.
Of course  I burn it each and every time using a piece of old binding for the fuse.
You could pack this in a musket, slam a ball in and fire it.

Wax paper is being used to hold down the filled crazed areas that were left so they can be blocked.
#10 was injected, then accelerant onto the wax paper

1.095" is the mark

I guess I got enough product left to squeak by :)

Getting it all as flat as I can using the ring for a template
Will pull loose and glue up when its fitted
Not being able to lathe it means mucho hand piece work

After drill outs and neck notch, and then buffed back to high shine.

These two pieces are ready for Mr. Raymer's touch.
I will spray the inside with new gold before it leaves, I just prepped for that.

  I got the rough circle for the back and will decide the best route for the install.

I have looked thru all of my resonators to find a profile that matches the one of the Montana.
Turns out an NOS Stull Vox style was the ticket.
Even better, since Dale, Jim and I all worked together on many things.
I have lined it with wax paper, dropped in the celluloid, lined up the grain and will set in the back plate now.

The jog is comprised of the Stull reso, a Paramount Artcraft rim, and old acrylic backplate.
Clamping off and squeezing slowly and equally

All the clamps on it I need, 8 hour set

Out of the jig, no sticking,

Nice and uniform, worked well
Now to trim it for binding

After using the burr (and not practicing TJ's chart long enuf) I am filing the rest of the overburden away on the edges

Ready to add the binding
Boltoron was my only choice here because of the thickness I had to achieve to get it back to what the original width.
  Axiom did not furnish the ivoroid in the thickness I wanted so I went with what would work correctly.

After install/profile
Wet sanding it all down to 1500#

Ready for new gold

ready to machine buff

Ready to go to Raymer, he will return home on the 19th and I'll ship it out for beautification.


Work pics just in from Mr.Ron!
Fabulous as always, he is by hero.

getting the final lines engraved

Gold fill

He has it ready for me to do the color detail paint work.
I will buff it all back to high shine first

Another step completed, it will be here soon for more stylizing.

Thanks Mr.Ron.


The new tint is a little bright, so I will use aniline dye to give it a shade change.

one drop at a time, and then a test

This is where I need to be.
 By the time i get 2 coats and an overcoat of clear, and in 20 years it darkens, it will have the purple hue of the 20's

From now on out is is staying in the lines, and alot of breaks.
You quiver, you get up and do other things.
All under magnification so it turns out as best it can.

Every pic is a resting point.
Keeping the brush clean and re-loaded with this ultra thin coating is a challenge but the opacity is low and that what I like.

Now for the front

147 stew-mac Frets going in, and will be sealed then dressed

Starting on the rim

5 at a time is a good " break "  point.

A mock up look on the flange

You can see how the shield's line up with the tone ring and in the front, one wide one spans the tailpiece

After finishing the shields, going for the gold!

Now for the shoes
Since they were the worst of the plated parts, this will make them nice and uniform.

Rim assembly, now for some fret finalization before final'ing the neck, then on to the "maze" :)

The white background shows the look a bit better


Domino on "Quality control" duty.

Now for a quick 1500 scuff to knock the tips down, and some clear
But first, the inside, before I forget.


Since there was one nickel Schaller, I found a gold collar in my stash andwill paint the bodies all matching, leaving the collars gold.

And that is the turn-out, nice, and not breaking the bank with plating.


How it will look in the aggregate.

First coat of clear on , a nice glow is forming.

3 more coats and then a buff, will set it up in the meantime.


Starting off with the "no insert" bridge, playing nicely right off the bat, encouraging !

Since the old holes in rim were wallowed, I will drill them out and insert them with nutsert's.

Now to seal them in and go forth.

Will keep applying the back coats and tweak it for days


Some of the old gold bleeding thru, nothing is ever perfect with Dale or Me :)

Final coat, ready to wet sand

Now a buffing

All tuned up and ready to go.


I felt it was time for a bracer of the "Good stuff".
Felt right.

OK, super fun challenge, and I hope KC loves it for years to come.
Dale, thanks for help from above (Although it sounded much lower)  :O
Ron, thank you Sir, for bringing the fire back to it.
Annie, thank you for allowing us to own it.
Now the wringing of the hands begins, hoping it fills the bill.
Thanks for watching