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9 November 2012

Dixie Banjo Ukulele

In this post I show you a quick glimpse of another instrument in my possession. I know that this will be of interest to Thiago Medeiros. It's a Dixie! I bet you've not seen one of these before!


This Dixie banjo uke was given to me as a present and I was absolutely chuffed to bits to receive it. I certainly hadn't seen anything like it before. For a start it is cast metal. There seems to be some debate as to which sort of metal it is... Is it aluminium, or is it zinc? Either way, it has been chrome plated. And it's tiny!

I cleaned it up and had a lot of fun putting it through its paces. It's been dropped (a couple of times) and is losing the chrome in spots, but generally it's in a pretty good state of repair. You know me... I was keen to learn more about its history so I googled and discovered that it was probably made in the late 40s/early 50s, probably by Werco Musical Instruments of Chicago, Illinois. That wasn't good enough for me, so I started contacting ukulele enthusiasts in the US to see if I could find out more. What I encountered was a lot of ukulele snobbery. The responses were along the lines of "they're rubbish, I wouldn't even lower myself to talk about them." What a load of toss! As you can gather, I didn't learn anything new and exciting from these people. I left it at that.

Anyway, here's a picture of this shiny little beauty. What's not to like? ;-)

Anyone want to start a Dixie fanclub? Send in your pictures now! This could be as big as the Skylark Appreciation Society.

Dixie Banjo Ukulele

Manufactured by Werco Musical Instruments circa late 40s?

Update 04-Oct-2013: I just had a fantastic comment on this post from a gentleman by the name of Gary Nelson who manages to shed light on a little of the history of the Dixie. Here's what Gary had to say:
http://www.oldwoodtoys.com/trophy_products.htm
Above link bottom of page has a thumbnail pic from Grossman Music 1950. It was designed and filed for patent Oct. 1950 by Mr. Grossman and Mr. Thompson. Patent# 2,687,057. See patent text for design intent. I've seen them in the advertised red trim, black trim and all chrome. There are some you tune clips of people playing them. Grover Music would have the proper tuning pegs and bridges for replacement parts. Grossman bought Grover and Rogers in the early 1950s. Hope this helps. Enjoy your Dixie uke! ~ Gary Nelson
I did a little bit of digging and I think that Gary has got this spot on!


This is the snippet of advert that Gary refers to above. See the original on Gary's page. I'm also intrigued by some of the other instruments Gary mentions on his page. They're all plastic! Gary is specifically calling out Trophy Products, but if I remember back to the posts I did on Maccaferri, I'm sure we're talking about the same boom era in plastic instrument making. There is no hint on Gary's page that Trophy were making plastic ukuleles.


And here's a picture filed with the patent that Gary refers to above. It's unmistakably a Dixie! Well done Gary!

Update 27-Jun-2015: There's been a upsurge in the interest in the Dixie banjolele. If you send me your photos, I'll stick them up here for everyone to enjoy. Here are some photos shared with me by Laney of her "new" Dixie (see the comments below). Oh dear... what a state! ;-)


Check out the pencil bridge. Ha ha. 


Here's an interesting addition to the neck. See the wood that has been inlayed in the neck cavity. 


Laney's suspicious that this is a service number that's been drawn inside the body. I am too. I happen to know that Laney if from Ohio and look what I just found... Carl Graham (1917-2007) of Miami County, Ohio. Service number 281-01-6019! If this is what it seems then Laney's got a great story in the making. I bet this old banjolele could tell some tales!


Here's a better look at the body 


(Thumbnail courtesy of The Piqua Daily Call from Piqua, Ohio · Page 10)

Update 04-Jul-2015: Laney's uke certainly seems to have an interesting history. She's still researching it as I write, but so far it looks like it might have done a tour of the Pacific in WW2 and could even have been played by one of the original boy bands: the Graham Crackers! Ha ha. I may do a post dedicated to this some time in the future. Also interesting to note is that her uke appears to predate the Dixie and might even have been some sort of abandoned prototype. What a story!

One bit of information that deserves a mention now is a nugget that came by way of Gary: "The proper (Dixie) bridge can be found on ebay sold out of Dayton-Hauer Music. They saved a barrel of them at the estate sale from being burned for warmth of the crowd." I've not been able to track down any of these original bridges, but I'm posting this here in the hope that someone else might have more luck. Please report back if you do.

Update 12-Sep-2015: I've recently been talking to Jim McVicar about his "new" Dixie. Jim had some questions on how to clean it up and I figured it might be useful to share a few thoughts with you. Thank you Jim for being kind enough to let me share a few of your lovely photos...


Let's start with a shot of Jim's Dixie. At first sight she looks to be in pretty good nick. Jim asked about the likelihood of him successfully removing and refitting the head along with how to deal with blackness on the body and flaking chrome.


Here's a close-up of the head. Jim felt that it might be easier to clean up the neck and body if he removed this, but then he wondered whether he'd get it back on again.

My advice to Jim was to avoid taking the head off the banjo if his intention was to try putting the existing skin back on. I figure that the odds are that it won't go back on again. It's surprising how much tension that properly fitted skins have and if they're not tense then they don't work that well. By all means give it a go - you've got nothing to lose - but you may find yourself having to replace the head.

I've never actually replaced a Dixie head but the process will be the same for pretty much all heads of this type. I thought I had documented this somewhere on this blog, but I can't find it. No matter, there are lots of great resources on the internet that will show you how to replace a vellum head. Put very simply, it involves soaking the vellum in water and once pliable you fit it all together and wait until dry. Once dry, you trim the top and you should be good to go.

Another thing I'll point out is that I've never seen a Dixie fitted with anything other than a vellum head. If I was replacing mine, I'd be tempted to replace it with a plastic one. Check out this post I did where James Morris shows us how to make plastic heads from soda bottles.


Here is an example of the black bits that Jim talked about. It doesn't look too bad to me. This is simply years and years of ingrained grime and I am certain that once Jim starts cleaning the banjo that it will simply lift off. I recommend using a chrome or metal polish and everything should be fine. I've seen people using metal wool to do this. If you do go down the wool route (I wouldn't myself), try to be as gentle as possible to retain the chrome. In all instances I would try to take off any rough bits so that the over-all finish is smooth to the touch.


I finish with the question of flaked chrome. I live with flaked chrome on my Dixie and for me it adds to the whole experience, but I have wondered occasionally whether it would be possible to fix these. The short answer is that I don't know. Is it possible to spot-fix chrome? Drop me a comment if you know how to do it. Drop me a comment if you've gone as far as completely re-chroming your Dixie. Wow... wouldn't that would be something! Thanks to Jim for dropping me the comment that prompted this latest update.

Update 21-Nov-2015: Laney's been kind enough to share a couple more photos of her Dixie prototype, offer some restoration tips, and provide a quick update on her research. It doesn't get much better than this! ;-)


Laney shares a little of her restoration knowledge with us:

"Hey guys! Along the lines of cleaning - extra fine steel wool works miracles. It did remove any loose flaking chrome on ours. But really for rid of grime and did a pretty good job of polishing it by itself. We also picked up a metal polish (at WalMart here but I'm sure any hardware store would carry it). It's called Mothers Mag & Aluminum Polish. A little goes a long way. Once you put it on you have to keep buffing until the black / grime stops working its way out.

As far as touch ups, it's my understanding that chrome plating is a process where things have a specific charge and are dipped. I agree - I think it adds character. I would think it would be a complete redo - an automotive restoring place may be your best shot if you're set on it. I mean, their Dixies and they're all metal so it would make sense.

Also agreed - leave any decent standing head on there. I was amazed at how tight ours actually was once we got it restrung and a bridge on it.
Sami insist that it would be fine tuned better if it had an adjusted bridge.
We are still holding off on replacing the tuning knobs in hopes we will find out more about ours banjo uke . I have read that the Dixie inventor, Joe Thompson, did usually go through 2-3 prototypes - even in his plastic instruments - before settling on his final draft. Sadly, not much of his history was kept when he passed. I read they burned what did not sell at auction following his death.

I've also noticed that ours has machines marks inside the neck and is solid where others are smooth and have openings that seem to vary from the silver, to the red, to the black.

Uke King - I'll send a before and after photo comparison and you can post it of you'd like. (Pictured)"

Update 26-May-2016: Wow! This page is turning into a Dixie self-help forum! Ha ha. If you scroll down the comments you are going to find all sorts of discussion on fitting new pegs on the Dixie. JibberJabber has been kind enough to share some photos of his Dixie which I'm posting here. Of special interest to me was the peg box...


JJ explains that he fitted some Grover Champion Junior 2B pegs to his 1930 May-Belle Perfactone Banjo Uke, They won't fit a Dixie without some work but I love the retro box that his ones came in.

The main question over the past couple of days has been whether to redrill the Dixie peg holes to fit a larger modern peg, or to seek out smaller pegs. I'm sitting on the fence, but I'd probably steer clear of re-drilling. 

And because I can... Here's the video that oahu kane calls out of Cynthia Lin singing Bei Mir Bist Du Schön. The Dixie in action! Lovely


104 comments:

  1. God, it's marvelous... I have seen one of those on eBay, but it was in terrible shape, and I couldn't see how beautiful an instrument it was.

    The restoration job is awesome, congratulations! Now, ahem, SOUND CLIPS PLEASE! You've got all sorts of unique banjo ukes and a Zoom Recording unit... connect those dots, will ya?

    Cheers King!

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    1. I inherited a 1956 Dixie Banjo Uke that my father bought the year I was born. As a young kid I was told I called it a you-bung-lady! Anyway I still have it and play it on occassion.
      Cheers
      Mark
      Ontario Canada

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  2. Ha ha - I'm not sure cleaning it counts as restoration. Let me see what I can do on the music front. My next musical venture was going to be to attempt some Progress Metal a la Hologram Earth... on electric ukulele. And then there's that Sharkfin uke project that I'm neglecting! We shall see... :-)

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    1. Hi there. I work for a guitar & entertainment store in central Alberta, Canada and have a customer who brought in one of these for a new string. Unfortunately I've got a little more of a problem than just a string replacement. It seems over time the uke has lost a couple parts, and I was wondering if you might have any leads as to where I could find replacement parts - specifically the tuning pegs (or buttons for). Our suppliers for the store don't have anything small enough dimension-wise to refit it correctly(the bridge is missing too, but that's not a tough one to rebuild or order something that will sound good).
      Any thoughts would be appreciated

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    2. This is going to be a tough one Jason. The best I could come up with on google just now was http://ontario.kijiji.ca/c-buy-and-sell-musical-instruments-string-Dixie-banjolele-tuner-W0QQAdIdZ448958586. You're not the only one looking. One idea worth a try might be to look for some small buttons (maybe for a mandolin) and to dremel the hole to fit the existing peg. I used this technique for my sharfin ukulele recently with some success... http://theukuleleblog.blogspot.co.uk/2012/12/sharkfin-ukulele-beach-closed.html
      I'm afraid that's all I've got! Let me know how you get on...

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  3. Count me in on the fan club, I just can't get one. My nearest is a Jollie Joe

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    1. Hi Jeff

      My stepdad passed a few years back and guess what?
      I was left a Dixie banjo uke. It's in very good shape and I've played around with it a bit as I'm a guitar player but will never really get into it seriously. If your ever interested in buying it let me know at "pixlox2007@yahoo.ca"
      Mike

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  4. You're in Jeff! I hadn't heard of a Jolli-Joe until you mentioned it. It looks like this is a British metal uke! I love the shape of the head. It looks like it should weigh a ton! I WANT TO SEE PICTURES! Can you get some up or send me some? Thanks for commenting.

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    1. Count me in. I just received mine one the mail yesterday. She is in rough condition, but I can already see how beautiful she will be.

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    2. Great news DLJ! Welcome to the club

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  5. Count me in...I've only seen a few of these around, and most were in bad condition. But I just found one at an antiques fair in North Carolina. Brought it home, cleaned it up, put some strings on it and started playing.

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  6. Welcome aboard Dan! I WANT PICTURES! Let's start the Dixie shrine... catch.the.kiwi@gmail.com

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  7. I just got my Dad's Dixie uke banjo It needs everything so I am having it fixed. I had to order a skin since no one has a 6" head. I remember my Dad playing it. I can't wait to learn how to play it.

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  8. Brilliant Anonymous. You are now a paid up member of the Dixie club!

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  9. I just picked up a Dixie Uke off of Craig's list in Lexington,KY for $110. The body and head are in good shape but the tuning machines are cracked and I'm not sure if I have the right bridge. I'd like to send you a photo, but I'm not sure how to do that.

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  10. Check out the email address in the comments above....

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  11. I got a Dixie ukulele on Ebay last week...it's in great shape...head is good...all the parts and nuts and bolts are there...chrome's in good shape...polished up nicely wit some mag wheel cleaner...I've heard better sounding ukeleles, but this is the shiniest!

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  12. Let's get some photos up on the shrine! Who's going to be first?

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  13. http://www.oldwoodtoys.com/trophy_products.htm

    Above link bottom of page has a thumbnail pic from Grossman Music 1950. It was designed and filed for patent Oct. 1950 by Mr. Grossman and Mr. Thompson. Patent# 2,687,057. See patent text for design intent. I've seen them in the advertised red trim, black trim and all chrome. There are some you tune clips of people playing them. Grover Music would have the proper tuning pegs and bridges for replacement parts. Grossman bought Grover and Rogers in the early 1950s. Hope this helps. Enjoy your Dixie uke!

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    1. I notice Josephus Thompson (on the patent) is from Ohio! (Like me!)

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  14. Howdy,

    I have one of these beauties. I just picked it up at a Hock Shop in Ontario for $110 and it all seems to be all there. It has 2 out of 4 potential screws holding the neck on. They are slotted screws, same as the tailpiece holder screw. Dunno if those are original or now. The extra 2 holes inside to hold the neck on with seem to go nowhere in that there appears to be no reciprocal hole in the adjoining neck piece, so that is a mystery for now.

    Anyone interested in pics?

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    1. Oh yes! And please tell me that your real name is Wyatt Earp!

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  15. Howdy King Uke,

    Yes, I'm saddled with that name. It's actually English in origin.
    Here is an on-line album of pics of the latest acquisition:
    http://imgur.com/a/hcDtc

    I have since discovered that the mystery screws would be for aligning the neck. The bridge is a 5 slot so not original. The strings are to laugh at.

    So, I'll have to source some screws and restring this gal. It's more the mucking about with it than playability for me, but if I'll be able to pluck out a tune, then it won't be resigned to be a wallhanger.

    Thanks for letting me share.

    Cheers,
    Wyatt.

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  16. Brilliant Wyatt. I'll check these out later today and compare the screws with mine. Will report back!

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  17. I have screws in those two slots Wyatt. I've never adjusted them, but I think you're right... they're there to allow you to adjust the neck. If you've got the bridge right and it's playing okay, then there's probably no need to stick screws in the holes.

    Just noticed that you have different tuners to me. My buttons are more angular, whereas yours are round. Although mine look older than the uke, I bet yours are originals and mine have been replaced at some time or other.

    Your looks to be in a lot better nick than mine Wyatt. I reckon you got yourself a bargain!

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  18. ...and I love the look of the guitar hiding in the background. Beautiful!

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  19. The neck looks straight enough and the action is about the same as my other 2 Ukes so methinks I'll waste a set of stings just to jump start this baby.

    Thank you for your feedback regarding the screws et. al.

    I remember reading some where that there are parts "out there" where I'd like to eventually find the right bridge and set screws.

    The tuners appear to be original. They are yellowed plastic. I have a 1944 telephone in white Bakelite, so methinks they maybe bakelite.

    The guitar in the background is a 1942 Barslev Swing.

    Here is a family group shot and tuner peg details:

    http://imgur.com/LtzrCcc

    http://imgur.com/QQKJ0YL

    Cheers,
    Wyatt.

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  20. The Dixie was available at least until the early '80's because I ordered one from a catalog in a local music store then. The early Dixie came with a skin head but the later ones had a frosted plastic head. I made a mahogany 5 string neck and resonator for that first Dixie. I have built around 15 mini 5 string banjos since, some using a Dixie pot assembly, and all using a Dixie banjo head. I have a limited supply of Dixie uke parts available if someone needs something. Drop me an email for your needs and I'll check my parts. Also check out some of my mini banjos at www.banjomaker.net and at www.walkerbanjos.com .

    Marvin Walker
    banjomaker@embarqmail.com

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    1. I just had a little explore on one of the sites Marvin. Your instruments look brilliant! I've never heard of mini-banjos before! I have about a million questions.... expect an email ;-)

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  21. I have a Dixie Bango Uke, but I need to replace the head. Any ideas as to where I can find/buy a 7.5 inch head for it?

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    1. If you want to replace it with a Dixie pot then short of buying a Dixie from eBay or some other music shop, I don't know where you could get parts. Here's a left-field idea... what about a hand-drum or tambourine? I'm using a hand-drum as the basis of my banjo build.

      Delete
    2. HI Randy;
      You can buy new skins for your Dixie at Ukulele World on line. They have all sizes in goat or calf. If you search the inter net under banjo ukulele repair it will tell you how to put it on. I did it so can you
      BUD FEURT

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  22. Hi guys ,
    I have a Dixie for sale and is currently on eBay
    If anyone is interested thanks
    Paul s.....

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  23. Just purchased my first Dixie, (its been along time coming. It has yet to arrive from the States to UK.
    It is missing one tuner and the tailpiece, can anybody help?

    Jeff JRT100@gmail.com

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  24. At last Jeff! See the update I did about Grover tuners, else I'm none the wiser for where to get replacements. The tail piece is pretty minimal. You might need to make one!

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    1. Hi, where are the notes on Grover tuners?

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    2. Jeff,

      See Gary Nelson's comment above: "Grover Music would have the proper tuning pegs and bridges for replacement parts."

      I haven't looked into this myself. However, if you wanted a cheap alternative I am pretty certain that the following will fit. They're obviously not the right shape to give the authentic look, but they might do as a temporary solution while you hunt down something more in keeping:

      http://www.ebay.co.uk/itm/Quality-Black-4Pcs-Friction-Ukulele-Strings-Tuning-Pegs-Pin-Machine-Head-Tuners-/251329087148?pt=LH_DefaultDomain_3&hash=item3a846186ac

      Please let me know how you get on

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  25. Dixie not arrived yet. Grover retooled to metric in the 80's so no joy there. Standard tuners do not take account of what seems to be a conical friction seat but will know more when it gets here. Marvin Walker has promised to supply tuner and tail piece at a good price and the bridge can come from anywhere. Not sure about strings yet, anybody got any ideas about that?
    I have just read the whole patent, very interesting especially the neck/action adjustment.

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    Replies
    1. Hi Jeff;
      I have got banjo ukulele strings from Ukulele World. You can get all Nygut or a set with the C string steel wound. But they don't have tuners the Dixie, they say that they are hard to get.
      BUD FEURT

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  26. Dixie just arrived, not perfect but I think I can sort it.
    I need to know the thread sizes so I can replace the steel parts with stainless. (UNC is a bit strange in the UK)
    How do I post pictures?

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    1. I've messaged you on Google+ Jeff. Go check there!

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  27. Just found this site by accident, I acquired a Dixi a while ago and could never get much info.I played around with it some but just not my thing now it's just collectijg dust. Anyway some great info on here. Thanks

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    1. HI George;
      I have some friends that are looking for a Dixie banjo ukulele like mine. If you want to sell yours send me a e-mail at
      bufeurt@yahoo.com. What shape is it in and how much do you want for it.
      BUD

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  28. MY name is Bud Feurt . I bought a Dixie banjo uku when I was in high school from a pawn shop for $15.00 and played a little in a Dixieland band. Didn't do much after that. It became a wall hanger and closet hider. It has been 58 years ago I am now 76. I took ukulele lessons at a adult ed class and now I play so much that I wore out the skin. I got a new skin from Ukulele World and learned how to replace it on the internet. Now my ukulele friends are trying to buy one. Anyone wanting to sell one contact me at bufeurt@yahoo.com

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  29. @George and @Bud. I think you guys need to talk! Ha ha. Great stories. Long live the Dixie!

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  30. Two Dixies sold on eBay yesterday a complete one at $420 and an incomplete at $153

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  31. Another just come up on eBay Buy Now $245.

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  32. The latest advert for a Dixie on eBay directs buyer to this blog for information!

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  33. I picked one up in rough shape at a yard sale today - a pencil for a bridge. Researching suggestions for cleaning, parts, etc.

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    1. You need to talk to Jeff - he's doing the same!

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    2. I cleaned the chrome on mine with Solvol Autosol. I have replaced all the steel plated screws, nuts and studs with stainless. The back between the ribs is painted red now.

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  34. Received one the other day as part of inheritance from my grandfather. Want to fix it and have some fun playing it. It has a closed wooden back, a little different.

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    1. That's an interesting touch David - can you share some photos?

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  35. Jeff Taylor - ours is peeling, a few edges showing like it has been on something corrosive? Someone suggested maybe a bit of bleach caused it?

    Is it bad to re chrome? When do you make that call?

    Interesting fact that we hate to loose by a process like that. There seems to be a SSN hand scratched inside the 'body' of it.

    We didn't see it until we cleaned the 1/4" of dust from the thing using a soft bristle brush.

    3 of the 4 tuning knobs are original. Any suggestions on replacing the odd ball? I know the weird size poses a problem.

    I'm more fortunate than most. My brother owns a machine shop. Not sure if that falls into the correct 'finesse' solution category.

    All 3 of my girls play multiple instruments. My hubby plays around on guitar. We want to bring some life back into this thing!



    Suggestions on a company for strings, bridge, head?

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  36. Strike that. If the white tuning knobs are original, 3 out of 4 have been replaced.

    My daughter just said "that makes sense because the white one spins and of its the oldest, it probably doesn't work!"

    Kids :/

    No Dixie logo on the head or evidence of one though?

    Some kind of wood filler with very little of the veneer left on the back of the neck?

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    1. Hold on a second Laney - you have a wooden neck? Can you show some pictures? This could well be one someone's customised or (and I'm hoping this) a later one that was manufactured just using the pot. I've never seen one of those before, but I (think) I know that the equipment for manufacturing the bodies was sold on.

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  37. The neck is metal but the back has a wood filler / substrate of some sort with a little veneer left on it.

    I can send you pics. The email above is still active?

    I bought this, a set of swimming pool steps, a bushel of antique Ball mason jars, an antique milk glass lamp, a foot activated clay skeet launcher, half a box of Remington clay pigeons, and a hand carved Poplar walking stick for $62.

    The jars cleaned up great. The pool steps are sturdy. The lamp works. We shot trough 3 boxes of ammo using the launcher. So now, the hard of the project ;)

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  38. Sent the pics. Please let me know if they don't go through. Thanks so much for your time.

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    1. Ah okay! Can I stick these photos on this page for others to see? That's definitely a Dixie body, though I don't recognise the neck. It's the same shape as the Dixie, but the fret markers are different and you say it doesn't have the Dixie logo. And I see what you're saying about the neck. That looks to me to be a DIY job to fill the gap with wood. A nice idea. The Dixie's I've seen are simply hollow.

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  39. That's fine! The patent doesn't show a Dixie logo at the top. Could be just because?

    Any ideas where else would the neck could have come from?

    It has the same set up, one main screw with the two 'adjusted screws' like what is shown in the patent also.

    I did notice it has just one dot instead of two on the 12th (?) fret like a lot of other brands etc I have seen.

    It does not appear to be different in quality, materials, or aging. It's as abused as the rest and the chrome is having issues just like the body.

    Here is another interesting link I found when I came upon your blog site.

    http://ukuleleguide.com/repairgallery.html

    Initial investigation shows the poss Soc Sec Number was assigned around / right after 1956. (Help date it at all?)
    If it was a veteran, the type of person who was prone to put their SSN on everything, not their last name. I'm a veteran - but in the era of identity theft, we were taught to do last name initial and last four. H####

    Thanks again very much for your time.

    Laney

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  40. http://www.banjo-brands.com/banjo-69878-VINTAGE-1960s-WERCO-BANJO-UKULELE-DIXIE-STYLE-UKE

    Possible Dixie body Werco neck?

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    1. And BTW, the bridge on this banjo is unique. I haven't seen one like this before!

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  41. I was thinking Werco. The thing is, I think the machinery used to make the Dixie was used by different outfits. That picture show a neck that is exactly the same as the Dixie one only without the logo. The difference between this and yours is only the pattern of the fret dots (your's run straight down the middle of the fretboard). I'm convinced that the necks are all Dixie ones of some form or other. Werco were primarily drum manufacturers so they would have put proper drums on their instruments as in this picture. You can see that the neck doesn't fit perfectly - it wasn't designed to fit this drum head. It was designed to fit the body you have on your Dixie. I think yours is older. Check this out: http://www.banjohangout.org/archive/254268#

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  42. Greetings, Recently picked up a Dixie Banjo Uke from Goodwill. It came with a bottom-opening softcase that fits perfectly. The strings were four colors. However, the neck is definitely twisted and bowed. Any tips to straighten it or do I just have to replace the neck? The tuning pegs were replaced resulting in the "cones" on the back of the headstock being chipped and kinda rough. The pot and skin and chrome are great condition.

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  43. Just picked up a Dixie from an older uncle who can't play anymore. The metal is in good shape and the calf skin is great (it's the third skin he's had since purchasing it in the 50s). There are several tiny specs where the plating has flaked off. Any suggestions on touching these up?

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  44. ola amigo sou do Brasil e por incrível que pareça acabei adquirindo um dixie comprei de um homem que achou em um ferro velo estou restaurando mas preciso de peças não sei onde encontra

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    1. Desculpe se Google Translate está errado...

      Uau, isso foi uma descoberta de sorte!

      Peças originais são impossíveis de encontrar.

      Qualquer ponte 1/2 polegadas vai caber

      Tente nenhum sintonizadores ukulele compraram na China ebay.

      Cordas ukulele padrão

      Boa sorte

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  45. Hey guys! Along the lines of cleaning - extra fine steel wool works miracles. It did remove any loose flaking chrome on ours. But really for rid of grime and did a pretty good job of polishing it by itself. We also picked up a metal polish (at WalMart here but I'm sure any hardware store would carry it). It's called Mothers Mag & Aluminum Polish. A little goes a long way. Once you put it on you have to keep buffing until the black / grime stops working its way out.

    As far as touch ups, it's my understanding that chrome plating is a process where things have a specific charge and are dipped. I agree - I think it adds character. I would think it would be a complete redo - an automotive restoring place may be your best shot if you're set on it. I mean, their Dixies and they're all metal so it would make sense.

    Also agreed - leave any decent standing head on there. I was amazed at how tight ours actually was once we got it restrung and a bridge on it.

    Sami insist that it would be fine tuned better if it had an adjusted bridge.

    We are still holding off on replacing the tuning knobs in hopes we will find out more about ours banjo uke . I have read that the Dixie inventor, Joe Thompson, did usually go through 2-3 prototypes - even in his plastic instruments - before settling on his final draft. Sadly, not much of his history was kept when he passed. I read they burned what did not sell at auction following his death.

    I've also noticed that ours has machines marks inside the neck and is solid where others are smooth and have openings that seem to vary from the silver, to the red, to the black.

    Uke King - I'll send a before and after photo comparison and you can post it of you'd like.

    I hadn't updated in a while. I did find a connection between our old Dixie owner and the inventor. Crazy!!!

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    1. Thanks for the update Laney - all added above!

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  46. We used Aquila strings and they sound great. Finding the bridges can be a little more challenging - we found a 4 strong banjo bridge as per King's intructions. We ordered a couple just be aside they do tend to take a while to come in but can be cheap. Sami tuned ours and something to the intonation and the curve of the string base affecting the length of the strings makes her think the an adjusted bridge may make it tune better.
    Sami loves this little guy. She even bought an old solid bodied Samsonite suitcase that we are going to put foam forms in for her to use as a case for her Dixie and her regular ukulele. Now we need a drum set and a good harmonica and we'll be set!

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  47. Check out Cynthia Lin on YouTube. Her Day 2 video. She is playing a DIXIE Banjo Ukulele. Awesome!!!

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    1. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=G4nWDe0OvXs

      Brilliant oahu!

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  48. Check out Cynthia Lin on YouTube. Her Day 2 video. She is playing a DIXIE Banjo Ukulele. Awesome!!!

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  49. So happy to find this site... I have my dad's Dixie ukulele. He passed last summer and I was thrilled to rescue this from his memorabilia. I remember thinking it was the coolest little "banjo", now I know it's a uke! I'd love to learn to play it now... suggestions for beginners?

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    Replies
    1. Any uke beginners book will do. Here's one that covers the bases: http://theukuleleblog.blogspot.co.uk/2015/02/a-ukulele-handbook-for-beginners-2015.html

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  50. I have this instrument and one of the tuning pegs is cracked down the middle. Do you know of any replacement parts online or are there any websites you can direct me to for purchasing the pegs?

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    1. Options: 1) patiently search for vintage 1/8" pegs like Grover Champion Junior Ukulele Key #2B; or 2) someone with a drill press enlarges the peg holes to fit modern pegs.

      I got lucky some time ago and found vintage pegs. Not easy to find but this was a common size for banjo ukes in the 1920s and 1930s. The hole size on the Dixie head is about 5/16". It's arguable that modern pegs would stay in tune longer and better.

      Mo Info from this blog: http://dixiebanjolele.blogspot.com/2010/09/peg-o-my-heart.html

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    2. That's a good link JJ. Depending upon how bad the crack is, option 3 might be to epoxy the crack in the existing peg.

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    3. Thank you so much for the options, I'm excited to get it working! I'll give it a try!

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    4. http://www.ukuleleworld.com/friction-tuning-pegs-grover-3w-set-of-4-white-buttons.html

      Would these pegs work? I would have to make the peg holes a little bigger...

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    5. I'm curious to know if they work out.
      That's the type we have looked into. We felt their vintage style would go the best with our old Dixie.

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    6. I found Grover champion junior ukulele keys online, would those fit perfectly?

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    7. M&M- Roy at Ukuleleworld told me for these pegs the head needs to be drilled to 3/16" AND you need to add a washer on the back of the head where the button is to cover the concave back of hole. Roy suggested a brass faucet washer.

      I used modern Grover Champion Jr 2B pegs on a 1930 May-Belle Perfactone Banjo Uke and they are great pegs. But they fit 3/16" holes.

      As our Dixies are not as "historical" as Laney's, this could be a solution.

      For vintage pegs, you could try repair shops that work on vintage banjos. Try Elderly Instruments: http://www.elderly.com/antique-acoustics-vintage-tuner-button.htm
      Here is a repairshop in Palo Alto: http://www.gryphonstrings.com

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    8. Okay, thank you for the help!

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  51. Replies
    1. Wow! These are almost as much as the Dixie itself!

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    2. The previous set, with metal collars, that I found were £125!!!!

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  52. Retaining the tuning longer is def a preference. I've been terrified to touch the thing because I can't get confirmation on just how old it is. King Uke and a couple others feel it may be an early model - possibly a prototype. I have read that Joe Thompson went through 2-3 versions of another instrument before reaching his final version. I've also created a family tree connecting the owner of our Dixie (his ssn is scratched inside) and the inventor. And... Joe's ancestors were from Scioto county. The county I work in and live next too. So... You can see I'm a bit skittish to take it to my brother's machine shop and have him adjust the old girl for us O.O

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  53. I can't even tell you how many hours I have put in researching and looking at pics and looking through old newspapers. I've even found old ads from the original owner's band he was in with his brother. Sadly, Joe Thompson's genius was not recognized for what it was. I read that what didn't sell at auction after his death was burned :( The pics that survived, did so because they were forgotten in a book that a family friend ended up with. This man's legacy is way unrecognized.

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  54. Please let me know what you think of the pegs once you get them in. My brother is a private contractor for GE so he knows what he is doing --- I am just an over protective mom.

    Essentially, my middle daughter has laid claim to the Dixie Uke. She would never part with it. She is a musician and singer. She plays it. Carl Graham, the previous owner, was in a band with his brothers - The Graham Crackers - and we suspect he took it on the naval ship with him during WWII. It's meant to be played. I think that's what Carl and Joe both would want.

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  55. Replies
    1. Watch it! If the pot is pretty good, A nicer neck could be procured from Marvin Walker for $20-30. If the pot is pretty good, Marvin hisself may have an eye on it. He uses them to make super nice custom banjoleles.

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  56. My family's had one since before I was a kid. I remember messing with it in the house in which I grew up. It was in a box in the cedar closet. Dad recently gave it to me to take it to Lidgett Music in Council Bluffs to have it restrung. They told me that they had to special order strings from D'Adario. He also said that if they made an offer that I should take it and keep the $$. I have no idea how much it's worth, but they seemed pretty impressed with it at Lidgett. :-)

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  57. Great story Jack. Don't sell! ;-)

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  58. I've got one of these ukulele banjos! I got it for my 13th birthday back in 1964. I'm just about to change the strings on it.

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  59. Have you guys seen this:
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?annotation_id=annotation_2813959437&feature=iv&list=PLODvOB1QB53Vss99jpmotJET5v1b3FmxZ&src_vid=suifcq5nmLQ&v=bpQ48IOUMwI

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    1. Great find Jeff. Thanks for posting.

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  60. Our Dixie has gone to live with Sami at her new house following her marriage. She says she will never sell it. I believe her. She loves it.
    It still needs the tuner knobs replaced. Right now she is living with using thread wound on the back of the knobs to act as bushings to keep the string tension from unwinding them.

    Who has replaced tuning knobs? What did you use? Did you like the results?

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  61. Found at auction ending 4/5/2017:
    https://www.shopgoodwill.com/auctions/Unique-Vintage-Dixie-Chrome-Banjolele-38277586.html

    Has 4 tuning pegs but missing strings and bridge.

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  62. Hi all,

    A post from Australia. I bought a refurbished Dixie recently after search long and hard for one. It is intact and in good condition. It was sold to be with crappy nylon strings. I have a couple of questions to ask.
    1) What are the best strings to buy? My banjo teacher suggested I try steel strings similar to what is on my Tanglewood banjo. Any comments?
    2) The bridge is made completely of soft pine. My banjo has a hardwood piece on the top where the strings sit. Should I look to do the same with the bridge on the Dixie? Again any comments.

    Brgds

    Eric

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    Replies
    1. Welcome to the club Eric. I wouldn't advise anything other than nylon strings else you'll risk wearing the metal. I'll perhaps be controversial and recommend fishing line. I cant link at the moment, but search this blog for a post on this. Hope this helps. Oh yes, get yourself a proper hardwood bridge... ;-)

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