Stainer Banjo made by Thomas Hewett
ca. 1900

"The Stainer Manufacturing Co. consisted of Thomas Hewett, his wife and his daughter
Christine.  The premises in St. Martin's Lane consisted of a large shop at the back
of which had been built a "platform" workshop in which Hewett did his work of making
and repairing.  His wife and daughter attended to the serving in the shop."
(From Terry Holland's most informative article on British Banjos)

Thomas Hewett was a remarkable inventor (both the neck and the tuning pegs are stamped "Hewett's
Patent"), and this particular example has features that I have never before seen on a banjo.  Most prominent
of them is this form of solid metal 10 1/2" pot with its 28 thin ornamental bolts secured by tiny square nuts.
The inner extended lip forms a sort of integral tone ring.


The metal dowel stick, round on the upper side, floats within the pot and is attached at
both ends in a way that permits adjustment at each end to correct the action of the neck.

The tailpiece is constructed such that there is a very short length of string between its
attachment at the tailpiece and the bridge.  Changing strings is extremely simple (see below).


The advertisement above shows a 5th peg mounted on the side of the neck, but this example,
true to British custom, has the 5th peg in the center of the peghead and a tunnel bringing the
5th string to it's pip at the 5th fret.

The peghead overlay is ornately engraved and is possibly German silver.
The locking tuning pegs, Hewett's invention, are the easiest pegs I have ever used when
changing strings.  A new string is inserted down into the closed hole at the end of the peg and
pulled through until there is about an extra inch or two of string on the playing side which is then
bent over the top of the peg, passed through the notched hole, and wound around the shaft of the
peg until it is at almost the correct length.  The looped end of the string is simply looped over  the
appropriate metal peg on the tailpiece, and the string is tightened to pitch.

The neck has 26 frets, predating John Hartford's addition of frets at the end of the fingerboard.
This neck has a 26 1/4" scale length.

The rosewood neck is detachable but I've not yet tried to find out how.


Here is another high grade Stainer.

This one has a 14 1/4" diameter pot, 3" deep, with 36 fasteners holding the head tight.
The neck is shorter than the one above, having only 18 frets.  It is made of tiger maple
with a rosewood center strip.  The 5th peg, also with the patented locking means, is
located at the usual position on the side of the neck.
The peghead overlay on this banjo is engraved with the same design as the upper one,
but it is also decorated with rose gold!
- Profuse thanks to K R Wiley for use of these photographs. -

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