hawthorn rb-12

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Bradford & Franzke Hawthorn® RB-12 Walnut five-string resonator banjo

Our Hawthorn RB-12 style walnut top tension banjo is a modern replica of the Gibson RB-12 style banjos built originally from 1937 to 1941. Many prominent five string players, such as Bela Fleck, Noam Pikelny, Bill Keith, Sammy Shelor, Barry Palmer, and Ned Luberecki, have used Gibson or Gibson style top tension banjos. Very big sound.

These walnut, chrome plated flathead banjos featured the innovation of top tension adjustment, which in the era of the sensitive calfskin heads (pre-1958) needing frequent adjusting to account for changes in temperature and humidity, was a great convenience for players of the era. Master luthier Clancy Mullins of East Tennessee built our authentic carved top tension resonator with the flat inside surface. This particular model features a Kulesh new style spun cast Big 10 tone ring standard, paired to a Randall Wyatt birch block rim, a tested and proven combination. (See VIDEO)

We can equip this banjo with a Stern Tanning calfskin head from John Balch, the finest head available in the world. People have searched for the pre-war Gibson sound for decades by way of study and experimentation with tone ring formulas and wood rim mods. Few searches have included the use of the old skin heads that were used when Earl Scruggs, Don Reno, Ralph Stanley and other first generation bluegrass banjo players recorded their classic material. We figured that since we had the top tension adjustability, why not go with a top quality hide head? A standard AMB Mylar head is also available.

This banjo also features our own Copperhead™ Eco Brass®top tension hoop and purpose built reinforced flange that is designed with substantial bosses around the bolt holes for more than double the usual threads in the bolt holes, addressing the age old top tension problem of stripped threads.

Randall Wyatt CNC cuts and inlays the neck and peghead with the classic RB-12 style Pearl inlay on the fingerboard and peghead. A period correct 12 inch radius is featured on the fretboard. Details include a period correct quick removable top tension arm rest from AMB.

  • Kulesh Big 10 tone ring standard but virtually any tone ring is an option, including our own Ozark Thunder "No Hole" prewar formula flathead tone ring
  • Randall Wyatt birch block rim or optional Jimmy Cox hard rock maple three-ply rim
  • Optional Tony Pass Thinskirt® birch block rim ($200 upcharge)
  • Select walnut neckDual action truss rod
  • Rosewood fingerboard with classic slotted bowtie inlays
  • Hefty 12 inch radius on fingerboard as used on the original RB-7 Gibson top tension banjos from 1937 to 1941
  • No finish on back of neck (speed neck) optional
  • Period correct carved solid back maple resonator, flat on the inside made for us by master luthier Clancy Mullins in East Tennessee
  • Natural walnut coloring
  • Copperhead™ top tension hoop and flange cast from Eco Brass®, CNC machined, and nickel plated
  • Aluminum Copperhead™ top tension hoop and flange
  • Chrome plated hardware
  • Waverly tuners with period-correct "Gumdrop" amber buttons
  • Stern Tanning hide head from John Balch or AMB Mylar head
  • Dual coordinator rods
  • Period correct AMB top armrest or standard armrest
  • Premium Hardshell Case or optional Custom Tweed Embroidered Ameritage Hardshell case
  • Full warranty to original purchaser
  • Prices start at $4750