Work page 7-2017
Wheaton's Vegaphone Artist Tenor
Restore as per customer instructions


Good condition overall, replacement armrest
Early model, friction pegs, will change to Gotoh

Resonator has slight dish and wrong screw. will correct.

Some inlay and fingerboard wear, graving's worn, possible re-engraving on a few inlay's.
Medium lift in the neck, needs heat press and compression fretting, or more, will test the flex.

Presto is stressed due to improper use of retainer screw. The most worthless screw ever made.
People try to use it for down force and its original design was to use it to touch the rim to steady it.
Problem is when head is pulled, and it is a high crown head, you pull the head into the screw and then that stresses the arm on the tailpiece because it is being dragged down onto the tension hoop.
You can visualize it with that description

Screw is under the head, head is pulling the screw down, stressing the arm.

All hardware correct

Good dowel angle, tight glue joint

All of the shoes are loose from whenever it was disassembled and much of the gold gone from the pieces and others have been already brought to brass, and a coating put on them, all needs to go.
My plan would either be full re-plate, very expensive or my Nikolas gold lacquer treatment and maybe a partial re-plate, that is up to the "Kingfish"

Surprised none fell off over time

OK. one was still tight!

Taping off, ready to pull frets

Frets and binding removal complete

Heavy wear on board and inlay gravings 1 thru 7

I always seal the heel cap inlay, the Star in the peghead and the front peghead MOP before doing any fretting
History has proven that when you hammer in the frets over the heel, the jarring effect can knock any of these out.

Beginning the finish strip
Pear wood cracks in overlays all sealed

Drilled out for ABM tuners
 a little #10 around tuner holes to seal pear wood

Time to heat and pull inlay for board work.
I can see that the 17  is broken in several places.
Whoever installed it the first time cracked it , cavity was tight

Heating them out

All came out Ok except 17
That is glue in 15

Now I am going up and down the board, getting it softened for pressing
My drill is heavy enough to make the neck drop once it is hot, and then I will cool it and look it over

Resonator finish stripped

Inside re- finished, all divots in flange lip repaired and dyed

Tints added, clear coats being applied


After cleaning, buffing, saving all the gold I could on the rim parts I will assemble it
The orig flanges are in poor shape and the gold wipes off them when I clean them so I will use a nice set of nickel flanges

Hooks have very little gold, and it was plated directly onto the steel so I will go thru my hooks, and pick out 28 of the nicest nickel ones I have

Renaissance head ready to go on

Aftermarket Vega armrest added, the gold that is left reflects onto the nickel and gives it a gold  effect

Now back to the neck
I dug around and found most every inlay I needed, so that they can be used instead of having the others re-graved.
Many times that fails, old MOP that is thin is easily blown out with the pressure of the graver.

I still need the one that shattered at 17, and the 15 marker needs a few lines and blackening

I looked around more in my misc inlay drawer and found pieces and parts that may work on 15.

That is a full 1/2 of another one, and below some pieces of the old one.

This is a rough look, I think I can shape the pieces to work, then make a backing for it and insert it when I am ready.
They serve no mechanical function and many inlays are setting n banjos looking unbroken, but are.

You get the idea.
Then fix up the 15 and I'll have that ready to go

Squaring up the board, you can cam see on the Bass side its low after the heat press.
The press stayed back well, that is encouraging.

All ready to deepen cavities.

Setting engraved inlay requires that you get it right, not too high or you will level off any lines. Too low and it collects dirt.
So its really close to needing to be a perfect height.

After I get my depth and level I add my glue, then top it with wax paper and press flat with a flat bar to ensure I am level with the board
The wax paper will peel after glue kicks

As I move down, I am adding dye to the lines

Scuffing off the tops with 2000 to remove excess dye for a look
Still have the one shattered inlay at 17 to deal with, gluing in 12 ,15 and 19 first

Removing excess glue as I go. 1 Teflon dam to hold back the repair glue where piece of fingerboard powdered away

All in except 17, a little oil on the board.
Even after leveling this board shows signs of chipping in the slots.
I will clean out the slots, dam them all with Teflon and rebuild them fore max retention come fretting time.
All of that chipping will vanish on the last operation

Building the 15 fret from 3 pieces
This piece is not from the banjo.

The other two pieces are and I was able to salvage them. I will shape the tip to fit the end piece.

Now to bind it

straight grain ivoroid, nitrocellulose

Taking down the tops

Adding blackening to the lines.
Frets and side markers in, ....pic sequences lost
Side markers in

Sides of binding profiled, ready for fret leveling-crowning-polish
Then finish
2 more clear coats to go on resonator and then wet sanding/buffing.

Dye for the overlays/back strap and graving lines

2 tints, Vintage Maple and Reddish Brown
Now for clear coats

Using the Kovax Tolecut for the blocking
800 to 1500, then it will be the buffer

I have found that a felt pick is very good for cleaning the paper once it begins to load up.

Silas took over for a minute, he saw flaws in my technique

Drones and Planes and Fidget Spinners need to be factored in, for diversions :)


New Gotohs turning like Butter
Love the amber buttons with this paint scheme

One open ender, it will swap it with correct closed ender

Strung to itch, neck very flat, still in a bit of a back bow, thats perfect.
After a day or two they always move up a little, so this is right where I want it to be.

Do not like the sound, slappy up past 17.
Neck set (Not angle) is too low, lower than plane of tone ring, will pull and elevate 1/16"

Even with angle it has 6/32 with 1/2" bridge, 1/16 too high, I will come up underneath that.

Ready to take the top out 1/16

When the neck has to rise, the extended heel cap must be cut off
As the neck rises it would catch the shoe band and pull the cap .
Also the lip where the head comes down has to be lowered so head can still adjust after neck elevation.

Pearl saw for the finite cut, will touch up that lip.

And now for the head relief cut

Chisel out the overburden,,,,

Now neck goes up over plane of tone ring, room for head to adjust, heel cap safe from damage and up on the shoe band.

This shim has meaning
 I use a piece every now and then , I always know when i need something this thick.
It is gray for a reason.
 It comes from a Bacon Silver Bell resonator backplate lip  that was decimated by Hurricane Katrina, and I revived it, and another one for a local New Orleans player.
Here is that history
Click for Katrina Pics

Resonator wet sanded, ready for buff/wax



Elevation clearly seen here

After buff and wax -resonator


Hardware for resonator was defective, bad threads, I replaced with a good unit of that era used on other Vegas

One last wax coat


Banjo is playing well up and down, with a nice low action, straight neck.
3/32 at the 19, you can see its nice and low.
Just a few more tweaks and its off to the "Kingfish" for trial run.
The neck press and compression fret was very  successful on this neck, it is nice to win in that realm.
Thanks for watching