The Windsor English Banjo, Model No. 45A, circa 1935
The Windsor English Banjo, model No 45A
This is a classic 5 string English banjo with 5th string tunnel in fully playable condition, built around 1935.
English walnut neck, Walnut, rosewood and English sycamore marquetry on back of resonator
Recently, the neck has been reset and the instrument serviced by Master Luthier Doug Harrison at The Twelfth Fret
Typical of English banjos from the late 19th century until post WW 11, these banjos used a wooden “pot” with the tone ring and tension hoop system dropped down into this pot. Virtually all of the English banjo makers used this system.
The other instantly recognizable “English banjo” feature was the 5th string tunnel with tuner up on the headstock like a guitar.
The better made banjos, like The Windsor, installed an adjustable capstan at the end of the fretboard to allow for the inevitable settling and compressing of the wooden pot. As the neck settled forward, the idea was to expand the capstan to improve neck angle.
This worked reasonably well but even with the help of the capstan, Doug needed to install a neck wedge to allow for modern playing neck to body angle and now the banjo plays properly.
The banjo plays as it should over the entire useful range for an English banjo – up to the 12th fret. Above the 12th fret it becomes choked and could only be made to play perfectly if the last 14 frets were removed and the fretboard dressed down and refretted: a pointless exercise as these tiny head banjos really don’t offer anything in terms of tone much above the 7th fret.
That said, they make lovely and intimate home banjos: beautiful for clawhammer playing and bare-finger style. I have several of them myself and love to play them quietly late into the evening….
Price: $599 CAD without case.
The Twelfth Fret