Fairbanks Banjos
Construction & Tone Rings


1901 - The Fairbanks Whyte Laydie

Whyte Laydie Dowel Stick Stamp & Metal Fairbanks Plate

The Whyte Laydie was probably David Day's greatest innovation.  It differed from the previous
Electric models in several notable ways.  It was one of the first commercially available
banjos to use the natural color of the maple.  The unstained light colored maple neck and
pot gave the banjo a unique appearance at a time when most banjos were made
of fairly dark stained mahogany or other darker woods.

The necks of the Whyte Laydie and the Fairbanks banjos that followed were considerably stouter
than the Electric necks.  This was probably done to accomodate the steel strings which
were becoming popular at that time.  The earlier ivory pegs and tailpiece used on the higher grade banjos
also gave way to the steel pegs and tailpiece better suited to the steel strings.

Day added "ears" to the classic Fairbanks peghead shape creating the familiar
shape in use to this day.  The earlier shape was still used on the highest grade instruments.

Famous Fairbanks "Gryphon" Peghead

Familiar Fairbanks "Gryphon" peghead inlay. 
Note typical cracking of the dyed pearwood overlay.

Early Gryphon and Peghead Shape

The earlier "Gryphon" inlay first used on the back 
of the  Electric pegheads.  This peghead shape 
lacks the ears of the later Whyte Laydie model.


Day's greatest change was his means of attaching the brackets or shoes to the banjo pot.
He invented a heavy brass bracket band to which the shoes were attached directly
(patent issued July 27, 1909).  This eliminated the many holes drilled through the pot for attaching the shoes
and added substantial mass to the pot.  The tone ring was still essentially the standard Electric tone ring.

Whyte Laydie Bracket Band

The Whyte Laydie bracket band with typical hooks and nuts and a NoKnot tailpiece.

Whyte Laydie Tone Ring

The inside of a No.2 Whyte Laydie pot showing the tone ring, horseshoe neck brace
and the lack of holes and bolts previously used to attach the brackets.

The Whyte Laydie was a tremendous success.  It was available as the simple No.2 model
shown above and as the #7 model with a carved heel,  colorful wooden marquetry on the
bottom rim of the pot and extraordinary pearl inlays on the peghead, fingerboard, backstrap
and heel cap.  Today it is one of the most treasured of the vintage banjos.  The brilliant tone
of the Whyte Laydie is excellent for classic banjo playing as well as contemporary melodic
and old-time playing styles.


Whyte Laydie No.2
This 1907 Fairbanks No.2 Whyte Laydie was my first banjo. 

It was found in the window of a Baltimore shoe store, for sale by the estate of the former owner. 

It is hard to find a better combination of superb bright tone and excellent playability.


To be continued....


On to Variations on the Electric Theme

- Return to main Fairbanks Banjos page -

Please contact me with any additions, corrections or comments in general.