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30 June 2010

Reliance Banjo Ukulele

Just finished rebuilding my Reliance banjo ukulele. It was in a right state when I got it. The tone ring had obviously been repaired sometime in the past, but really it was never ever going to hold a skin. Here's a photo of it before I took it to bits. I didn't really know what I was going to do with it.

I ended up getting hold of a new tone ring that had been salvaged from another banjo ukulele. Unfortunately the new one fits a slightly smaller body. My neighbour made me a smaller body and voila!

You'll see that the body is still a little too big for the tone ring, but it's not too far off. In the end it actually worked out pretty well with the new body size as I was able to attach the neck without having to do any major surgery. If the body had been too small there was a danger that I'd have had to lengthen the neck. I didn't and I'm happy.

It's hard to find out the history of the Reliance banjo ukuleles, but they were most likely manufactured in Birmingham by George Houghton sometime in the 1930s.

The finishing touch was putting the Reliance logo back on the headstock. I'd taken photos and touched up the results until I had something close to the original but I struggled to find a way of getting it printed. I wasted a lot of time and money on water-slide transfers but I couldn't get it to print without smudging. In the end I used the services of Zazzle to print a one-off car bumper sticker. The results are pretty good, although I would have loved to have been able to achieved the gold-leaf effect of the original on the surround.


  1. Hello,
    I have just bought one off of ebay, have you any idea of how much it is worth and also how to set it up.
    many thanks.
    Steve cooke.
    By the way your one looks great.

  2. Damn you Steve... you've got me looking on eBay again! Ha ha. Thinking back I must have spent maybe £40 on mine including postage, about a year ago... and mine was really a bag of spare parts! Must have seen me coming! I'm more than happy to share what little knowledge I have with you. Find my Google+ link and you should be able to drop me an email with what you want to know about setting it up. I'll help out where I can. Thanks for posting! And thanks for the comment on the uke... I was chuffed to bits with the end result!

    And welcome to the Reliance Banjo Uke club! I don't think that there's many of us about...

  3. Hi:
    I have what looks like a small banjo or banjelele. It has posts for 8 strings and appears to be in good condition. I have had it for at least 50 years
    Is it possible for me to send you a picture of it and have you tell me what I have and if it is worth any money?
    Many thanks

  4. Of course you can Kathy! I can't promise to know what it is, but I'm more than happy to have a look. Banjoleles from the 20s and 30s are notoriously difficult to pin down, but let's have a go! You can contact me on

  5. Thank you so much, I will send it off to you tomorrow.
    The case is in bad shape but has "Reliance" on it. The banjolele has no name on it but it has what looks like, mother of pearl inlays.
    Back to you tomorrow.