The Twelfth Fret • Guitarists' Pro Shop
The Twelfth Fret ~ Since 1977 ~

1895 Williams and Son Echo Style 16 Banjo SOLD

Price: CDN $950
US Price: US $756.55
*US dollar exchange varies daily
Class: Vintage
SOLD
R.S. Williams & Son Co. was a Canadian manufacturer of Pianos, guitars, mandolins and banjos in the late 19th and through much of the 20th century. The Echo Banjo models were built in the Oshawa factory from roughly 1895 to 1910.

Made around 1895, this Williams and Son Echo Style 16 banjo still plays beautifully. It is thrilling to play a 100 year old instrument that still plays as it did when new.

I have restrung and setup as a "gut string" banjo to recapture that old-time plunky sound one associates with that era. All hardware appears original. The calfskin head is quite possibly original. Later period calfskin heads were more “processed” and smoother surfaced where this one has the rougher surface I associate with 19th century heads. Either way the head is remarkably intact and has a fabulous “patina”. I can only imagine the stories this funky old head could tell…

If you are new to gut-string banjos, friction pegs are quirky but with a little finesse they are a snap to use. Friction pegs hold pitch well but require a great deal of "friction" to do so. Similar to a lute or violin, you need to press hard while tuning to force the tapered tuner into hole. Without pressure, it will spin loose. I normally tune with the banjo in my lap; plucking the string with my index finger while gripping the edges of the fretboard with my thumb and 3rd, 4th 5th fingers. While clamping the body of the banjo with my right arm I can tune AND press firmly on the tuning pegs as I tune with my left hand; ensuring that they don't spin loose. Takes a little practice to get the knack of holding the banjo firmly with your right arm and hand… while leaving your index finger free to pluck the strings.

Once you finally have everything at pitch the tuning is surprisingly stable. Wooden and bone pegs have been used for thousands of years on stringed instruments proving that these tuners do work…and work well.

This banjo could easily be converted to modern geared “peg tuners”, which would not compromise the historical look of this rare instrument. Geared friction pegs appear to be standard friction pegs but have complex 4:1 ratio planetary gears concealed inside them. We often install them in older friction peg flamenco guitars with great success.

Grant MacNeill, The Twelfth Fret

You can read the Canadian Encyclopedia page about the history of the R. S. Williams company here

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