6/14/2017

1960s Kay-made Supro Resonator Tenor Banjo





A local customer of mine was interesting in branching-out to tenor banjo, so I went on the hunt to find him something practical, no-frills, and decent-quality. I found this suspect and snagged it! It's a Kay-made instrument but bears the Supro (Valco) branding at the headstock, which is encouraging. We'll see if the long scale (23") is a put-off for him, though.

Compared to an average Kay-made tenor from the time, it's quite a lot better quality and has the advantages of a true maple neck, tons of hook/nuts on the rim, a much-nicer iced-tea sunburst finish, an actual rosewood fretboard, and nice-feeling (not somewhat-wonky brass) frets. After work, it's not too much of a surprise to find that it sounds better, feels better, and looks better, too.

After doing my usual coordinator rod "upgrade," I gave the banjo a fret level/dress, a tall new bridge, and a healthy setup and light cleaning. Side dots were added, too, and it plays on-the-dot with 1/16" action at the 12th fret, is rugged and ready, and quite stable. It has a "normal" 11" rim, 1 1/8" nut width, and a Gibson-esque, fast, C-shaped neck profile. It's a lot quicker than I'd expected it to be and really reminds me of those slick, 50s/60s Gibson tenor guitar necks. As a bonus, the resonator comes off to operate as an openback with just two nuts. It's currently strung for standard CGDA with 32w, 20w, 13, 9 gauges.



Guitar-style tuners are functional and practical. I shaved and re-slotted the original plastic nut to give better string spacing.




The 5/8" banjo bridge is a cool, maple/rosewood one from my parts-bins. The head is the original Remo-style, synthetic, gloss-top type.






There's a filled hole on the back of the heel from where a strap button was previously installed.


I do like the crazy sunburst.




An orphaned stereo jack is installed in the resonator's knee side. Who knows what madness was installed on this in the past?



The foam is for overtone muting. Note the two, new, drywall screws securing the heel. This Kay has a neck angle adjustment gizmo, but those are unreliable and frustrating, so when I do these over I convert the setup to a single coordinator rod adjustment which allows fast action adjustment near the tailpiece.


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