Gibson TB-11 conversion to five-string flathead
in as-found condition:
with five-string neck by Frank Neat and flathead tone ring by Bill Blaylock:
"This model is alive with flash and color and yet is not gaudy", proclaimed Gibson's Catalog X of 1936 in describing the TB-11. Introduced in 1931, style 11 used pearloid, blue paint, and silkscreened designs to dress up what was one of the company's less-expensive banjo offerings. Selling for $50, half the price of the least expensive Mastertone model, the style 11 proved to be quite popular and remained in production through the early 1940s. Besides lending "color" and "flash", the pearloid and paint provided Gibson with a way to use cosmetically flawed wood which might not have been suitable for more expensive models.
This TB-11 can roughly be dated to circa 1936 or 1937. It featured the smaller-diameter brass tone hoop which was introduced in Catalog X (see above) and purported to provide "more brilliancy"; it also lacks a factory order number or serial number which is seen stamped on the pegheads of most Gibson banjos beginning in 1938.
This banjo has been converted to five-string with a neck by Frank Neat; this straight-grain maple neck features the original style 11 fingerboard stencil designs replicated in mother-of-pearl inlays in a rosewood fingerboard, and the original pearloid peghead overlay from the tenor neck has been transferred to the new neck. The maple rim has been cut for the installation of a "New Era" flathead tone ring by Bill Blaylock. Take a listen to this banjo in its new incarnation on Fireball Mail!
Photos courtesy of Mandy Dixon.