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Gibson TB-3 Mastertone Conversion with Steve Huber Tone Ring 5 String Resonator Banjo (1926)
Gibson TB-3 Mastertone Conversion with Steve Huber Tone Ring Model 5 String Resonator Banjo (1926), made in Kalamazoo, Michigan, serial # 8226-45, dark mahogany lacquer finish, laminated maple resonator, laminated maple rim; maple neck with rosewood fingerboard, black hard shell case.
This is a very fine and interesting 1920s Gibson Mastertone conversion to 5-string banjo, with an original 1926 TB-3 rim fitted with a very finely made older replica 5-string neck and a special flathead conversion tone ring by the maestro of these, Steve Huber. As all-original Gibson Mastertone 5-string banjos from this period are almost unobtainable, nearly all examples in use today are similarly converted from Tenor or Plectrum.
The Mastertone TB-3 was Gibson's baseline professional tenor banjo, but still a medium/fancy instrument and considered a Gibson working musician's classic. The model was the lowest grade banjo with the full Mastertone flange, resonator, and tone ring hardware package; the original resonator is bound on the bottom edge but otherwise plain. The 1926 tone ring was originally the arch-top ball bearing style, coupled with the 2-piece tube-and-plate flange in use at the time.
This banjo has been fitted with the special Huber flathead conversion tone ring that does not require cutting the rim, which brings the sound into the classic Bluegrass realm. While the combination of this flathead ring with the two-piece flange is not absolutely the Bluegrass standard, it still makes for a very fine-sounding instrument at a price only a small fraction of what an original flat-head, one-piece flange Mastertone rim alone would command.
The maple neck is similar in style to what a period RB-3 would have carried, but with a slightly longer 27" scale. The original TB-3 used a mahogany neck, and the combination of the long scale and harder maple construction definitely add to the power of this instrument's sound. The fingerboard and headstock face have a notched diamond pearl inlay similar to the original, with a larger "Mastertone" block with slightly oversized lettering at the bottom end. The two lower tuners are 5-Star Planets with composite buttons, while the upper two are cammed modern Scruggs pegs. The tailpiece is a 5-string replica of the original Presto style.
The workmanship on the neck is very fine if not exactly to original Gibson spec. We don't know who made it, but it is to a higher standard than some we have seen! The original tenor neck is included, as is the tailpiece and original arch-top tone ring, still housed in the labeled box Mr. Huber shipped the rim in. This package makes for a wonderful collection documenting some of this banjo's history, from birth as a jazz 4-string to its current incarnation as a bluegrass powerhouse.
Overall length is 37 3/4 in. (95.9 cm.), 11 in. (27.9 cm.) diameter head, and 3 3/4 in. (9.5 cm.) in depth, measured at side of rim. Scale length is 27 in. (686 mm.). Width of nut is 1 1/4 in. (32 mm.).
This banjo is in excellent playing condition overall, with some typical finish wear to the resonator and back of the neck. The lacquer in both areas shows numerous small scuffs and dings, but no major loss. The chrome plating on the rim hardware is largely intact, with some small areas of dirt and wear but no major loss. The bolts to mount the resonator have been replaced by small screws.
The neck finish shows an area of small dings and chips to the finish on the back around the 7th-10th fret area, and the heavily yellowed lacquer on the binding is worn off in a number of spots. The lacquer on the headstock face is similarly yellowed and chipped off in spots.
There are railroad spikes in the fingerboard at positions 7 and 9, and a filled hole from a previous spike at fret 10. There is a small piece of rosewood chipped off the treble side of the fingerboard at the rim joint, and an equally small piece of binding missing on the bass side.
Overall a really great-sounding and playing banjo; one of the nicest tube-and-plate conversions we have handled. The tone is rich and full but still with the bluegrass "ring" Mastertones are so sought after for. Includes a more recent HSC and the original Tenor neck and tailpiece, along with the dismounted original archtop tone ring. A unique conversion and a very fine player's instrument. Excellent Condition.
Item # 8013
Prices subject to change without notice.
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