A.E. Smith Northampton love affair

I had never heard of A.E. Smith banjos, having only gotten into playing in 2013. I bought a Goodtime and once I was good enough to play a few tunes I started looking for another open back (not that the Goodtime is not a good banjo, it is!). I came to a realization that for the banjo of my dreams I was looking at at around $2k…which recently divorced and with three little girls…I did not have. Then one day on the BHO classifieds I noticed this ad from a man at a well known Banjo manufacturer selling an A.E. Smith banjo…thats not a their brand! Anyway the price was very, very reasonable and was sold as-is. I jumped on it within an hour of the posting. The seller finally got back with me a couple days later, I had thought by this point I had missed out. He said he was surprised by the number of people who responded to that ad so quickly offering full price…but I was first and if I would pay the full price (again…VERY reasonable) it was mine. I jumped on it. Now, since he worked at a well known banjo manufacturer he said he would have one of their guys set it up for me. I almost told him to not bother and just send it but it was very generous of him so I just accepted. Unfortunately the next time I heard from him it was to let me know it had shipped, but also that there was a problem with the neck and that their technician (he did not say luthier) had had to restet the neck..my heart sank…that just did not sound right, in the pictures it looked fine. Oh well, nothing could be done about it now. When the banjo arrived the neck rest was a bit of a hack job and the neck was wiggling, after taking it apart the issue was (and I believe was from the start) a loose dowel. In the mean time the Tech had not fixed this issue but had instead shaved a bit of the heel at pot attachment! The good news is that after removing the dowel (though loose it did not want to come out of the neck) and a little TLC and Titebond the dowel was aligned and solid with the neck. Remounting it to the pot showed it was a tiny bit off at a side angle….very, very minor and not worth shimming (pretty sure this is due to the small amount the “tech” shaved off the neck is the cause). I was a little concerned, but I needn’t have been the banjo plays like a dream. I was (and am) so exited and privileged to be able to play such a premium instrument. My Northampton by the way is serial #496 and I cannot imagine parting with it. I forgot to mention it also came with the original case and still had the warranty card (unfilled out) and neck tag. By the way, I was offered $1200.00 by one of the people who were a little slower in responding to the BHO ad…I said “Thanks, but no thanks”! Thanks for making such a wonderful banjo!

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