Jim Rentfro's
Gibson TB4
The "Bob Wren"

Convert to 5 string leaving all original parts and finish
Create Neck faithful to the original tenor neck

FON # 8733-1

For all the good provenance on this banjo,
Go to Greg Earnest's fine website and check it here








I got my Celluloid's (Which now carry HAZMAT FEES) in from my supplier   http://www.axinc.net/  and am pleased with the color and the quality.
There is apparently no one, NO ONE, that produces Grainless Ivoroid in the world today so it will be straight grain all the way down the board instead of just headstock
You have to have on Magnifiers to tell anyway, so its a moot point.
All of the gravings and paintings and strings over it anyway
The custom binding is also great, and that's the backing board which will make up the entire fingerboard

Plenty to work with on the topside

I will have Mr.Ron Coleman make the fingerboard calculations as to how thick a fingerboard will go under the celluloid to end up with correct thickness for his Walnut 5 string neck.
Then he will have Mr.Randall Wyatt cut the board and overlay and truss cover, the the fret slots
I will do the side markers and frets and finish/setup
Ron Raymer will do the engraving and paintings

Like the original, it will be bound in the same color as the fingerboard to stay correct.


Fingerboard returns from Randall Wyatt

Everything looks great, and Ron Coleman has shaped the peghead and truss cover (with a couple extra)
My Wyatt used ebony for the backside of the board.
Now Ron will mount it to the Mahogany neck.

Ready for binding

Binding installed, ready for heel shaping, Next to one of Mr.Coleman's "Outlaw" banjo necks, pretty cool huh?

Fingerboard details

Joe Spann showed us the light when he created and published his
"Spann's Guide to Gibson 1902 - 1941
(Centerstream Publishing)
He identified the original artist responsible for the Florentine, whose name was Neil Keivit.
You can read about him and his time with Gibson as well as a wealth of other Gibson info in Joe's book
Anyone that though they knew all about Gibson has to own this book.
Thanks Joe.

First, a few pics of an original Florentine, to show that the original Kievit etchings are not all that finite.
They are "Artist rendition's " and that is what Mr Raymer will give to us expect with actual scenes from the Florence area, not Venice


Ron's Preliminary sketches

These are the first will be much more detailed when they are graved, and then they will have full color acrylics to make them stand out.

The pics below are resonator backs Ron has done for me on other custom banjos.
 "The Captain" and the "Great White North" , the "Magpie", the "Prancing Horse" , The "Arizona".... just to name a few of the creations he has made me look good on.


Ron has never failed to please me when it comes to this type work, it is as if he reads my mind.
Maybe he likes "Short Stories" :):)

Visit him at www.raymerstudio.com


 Blackening the lines




I'm 100 percent pleased with the effort Ron applied in capturing Mr. Keivit's artistic thought's and carrying it to the next level.
I can't wait to get some frets in it and get this thing on down the road.



OK, now its my turn....

Side markers first, 1/16 black
Now for some protective clearcoats over the paintings

The only finish I use is Mohawk

It also will work over this particular celluloid without crazing
First coat applied


4th and final, I do not want any thicker on the celluloid.


I will go over the binding
Stewmac 147 wire is my choice.

Ready to Pip

Truss cover and nut installed







I played a few Western Swung songs on it as a Tenor to honor Mr.Wren..., then stripped her on down.
I will be using the original co-rods which utilize small 8/32 Lags so I ordered 2 from Siminoff today and will focus on the color

The bottom lags in these original's are "L" shaped, many get snapped when people think they are standard.
Now for a 3 piece heel cap

Profiled and ready for final sanding and clear sealer

This particular Mahogany is going to be too "light" and too "yellow" with plain clear so I will want to darken and redden a tad

I will keep a little of the golden because it is akin to the rim color

The Neck and resonator are darker

My choice was 3 drops pure black aniline, then 3 oz.  Reducer-Mohawk Lacquer 50/50 for the tint coat

Now for some clear

This is close to what the resonator and original neck would look like stripped and with new finish.
The old Varnish is darkened, yellowed and slightly opaque so we will leave it here and build on the clear


All frets leveled ,dressed and polished to high shine
Fingerboard buffed and waxed

I will utilize the original Grover 4:1 tuners, they are smooth.

Nut installed

I'll use a quality 5th peg, Waverly 2 band
Also, Im jetting the new button and going with a vintage ivoroid that better matches the originals

I have a VG prewar Grover Patent  Presto that is period and correct for this instrument
I'm drilling the center hole so it will accept 5 strings, a common procedure.
No one wants to pay 500 bucks for an original punch!

Grover 1/2" bridge
Strings courtesy of www.bedfordbanjoshop.com

It tuned up nicely, Ill let it settle down tonight and start on the adjustments next

Showing off its Bowtie brethren, nice tone on the original skin
Final adjustments done, its playing VG on a low action, perfect intonation up and down the board.










Ok Mr. Wren, I hope I ain't done you wrong!

Well that's it, time to get this thing home to Jim and some notes played upon it
I thank him for the opportunity to be a part of this project.
Thanks to  Ron Coleman, Randall Wyatt , Ron Raymer,, Mohawk Finishes,Stew Mac, Mike Amato, Axiom
Without good folks like this, my job would be...........looking for someone just like them to make me look good.
Thanks for watching