1926 Gibson TB-5 Conversion by Robin Smith


This is a fine Pre-War Gibson Mastertone Style 5 conversion by Robin Smith.

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Exc+ condition  /  SN: 8227-14
1-3/16″ width at nut  /  Ball bearing
Wreath Inlay  /  Very Original Pot
Bound Rim  /  Robin Smith conversion

This 1926 Gibson TB-5 conversion is a very fine example of an early Gibson Mastertone. Robin Smith of Heartland Banjos converted the banjo to 5-string with an extremely nice (and correct), copy neck. The Gibson style-5 banjos have some unique bindings and purflings that are hard to replicate. Robin Smith did as fine a job as possible on the colorful purflings and the antique pearloid binding and heelcap.  He also did a great job on the layering of multiple colorful wood layers between the heelcap and neck, and between Rosewood peghead overlay and peghead.

The Fiddle peghead shows Gibson logo pearl inlay with Gibson’s wreath pattern below and truss rod cover before the nut. The Brazilian Rosewood peghead veneer has three colorful layers of wood before it meets the Walnut peghead itself. In the back of the peghead there are two parquet insets: the upper inset is a fan shape of green flower shapes inlet into maple, and in the center there is a large oval with six green flower patterns inlet into Maple. The beautiful flat Rosewood fingerboard shows no fret wear and has the historic pearl wreath pattern inlayed with a “Mastertone” block at the 21st fret. The binding along the fingerboard is very close to matching the original 1926 binding. It is very difficult to match the binding and marquetry to the old original binding and marquetry on the resonator, but robin Smith did a fantastic job. Railroad spikes have been installed at the A, Bb, and B positions. The tuners are the original gold five-star planetary tuners with solid real pearl buttons and original screws. The 5th string tuner is a newer 5-star fifth string tuner with a solid pearl button to match.

This is a Walnut banjo, and the Robin Smith faithful copy neck is also Walnut with excellent straight grain showing some figure. Original three-ply Maple rim is the full dimension 3/4″ rim stained dark brown to match the walnut of the neck and resonator. This rim is finished out at the bottom, with the same pearloid binding and marquetry seen on the outside and inside at the bottom of the rim. The Walnut veneer on the back of the resonator shows excellent figure that looks like a pastoral landscape scene. This resonator back has two concentric circles of the same colorful wooden marquetry seen as purflings on the side walls of the resonator and along the fingerboard. The top and back edges of the resonator show the same pearloid and wooden bindings as the rim and neck. Inside of the resonator back shows the original chalk mark serial number “8227-14”. Inside the wall of the rim is also stamped with the batch number “8227-14” and also the words “Pat.Appld.For” are stamped. The Gibson Mastertone original label is intact with no wear, and the original ball bearing tone ring is in tact.

We haven’t removed the tone ring to inspect it and the rim, but it appears that the original ball bearings and springs inside the rim are intact. These early Mastertones had smaller coordinator rods, and smaller resonator attaching screws instead of large thumbscrews.
Amazingly, all the hardware is intact and the only thing that seems to have been added is the newer gold five-star fifth string tuner. This Gibson was last set up by Robin Smith with a timeless timber bridge and a five-star head. The original tenor neck is available.

This is a very fine banjo that is a piece of early Gibson Mastertone history, and it sounds great. Comes with a good HC.