Notes on playing the banjo uke (and the regular ukulele), as well as some of my favorite songs and videos, but mostly, you'll find information here on my particular obsession - the many models of banjo ukulele offered by Stromberg-Voisinet in the 1920's to 1931.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Stromberg Voisinet Style 1

Where to start? Number 1 seems like a good place. I've dubbed this type of Stromberg Voisinet the Style 1.

It appears to be the most commonly made, certainly the most commonly surviving, of the SV banjo ukes. I've logged more then 10 of these over the last year and more, and the features are as follows:

Wood is maple stained black (ebonized)
Type 1 purfled resonator.
8” purfled pot.
Four MOP fretboard markers
Slotted diamond MOP headstock marker

The particular example pictured above is mine, which I purchased from Elderly Instruments, 9/12/10. It has no tone ring, though some Style 1s DO have them. I've modified the dowel and pot so that the neck could be lowered to allow Formby-style playing.

Here is another Style 1, similar to mine; the only difference is the yellow birdseye maple inlaid circle on the inside of the purfling ring on resonator back.

Clearly, the birdseye maple back was a popular option, as I've cataloged several examples that have the feature:

Here's one with the original canvas case -

Another, though the picture of the back would not reproduce -

Finally - here's an odd one - This Stromberg Voisinet was up for sale on eBay 12/19/10. Badly discolored, it is notable in that it is only one of two Stromberg Voisinet ukes I've seen out of 40 or so that has six MOP fretboard inlays instead of the usual four:

As you can see, the back of the resonator has no birdseye maple inlay.

Next time - I'll have several more Style 1 ukes to share with you, as well as a photo sequence of a restoration in progress.

See you next week.


  1. I've just become the proud new owner of a "style 1" Stromberg Voisinet (with six MOP fretbooard inlays). It's my first banjo ukulele (I tend to play more Hawaiian-style) but I'm in love!

    There's a bit of a story with this instrument so I wrote it up on my site (and included a link to this blog). See it here:

    I also posted a few questions there about my Stromby (Why the seemingly intentional offset tuners? Case suggestion? Tension nuts needed...) if you or anyone else can help answer them...

  2. Tonya -

    Great story! Glad that you inherited one of these lovely ukes!! I think the "black beauty" is the nicest looking of all the SV style 1 ukes (there are three more I haven't even blogged about yet).

    As for your questions, happy to help. The offset, sadly, is not something I've seen before, so I have a feeling its unintentional and may just be a slight mistake. Even production ukes sold today come out with slight imperfections; I have a lovely Ohana, but the neck was fixed slightly off the center line of the instrument body. I wouldn't trade it for anything, despite the mistake.

    As for the tension hook nuts: Stromberg Voisinet did not machine their own hooks or metal hardware, and used pieces from Grover and other industry makers. Your best bet is to pick the type of nut you like best and order matching hardware from Elderly or Ukulele World. Both of these companies provide first rate service, though of the two, Elderly has a slightly larger selection of banjo hardware. The other alternative is to just keep what you've got, likely the result of the original owner losing the hardware during a vellum change or similar.

    Finally - case. That's a question I'm still trying to figure out; cases aren't easy to find. I've used a Levy Concert Ukulele gigbag for one of mine for a couple of years; it's sturdy and works well. I use a Mandolin case lined with a rolled up t-shirt for another. If you can find a vintage banjo uke case that accomodates a 10" resonator, you're in good shape, but they're rare, and usually, they already have a uke in them.

    My friend Ben Mealer has a Stromby and he uses a Gold Tone banjolele gigbag, which is a nearly perfect fit.

    Good luck with yours, and please, post some video and let us know about it here!


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