Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Modified tuners

Modified (cut down and re-drilled) raw brass mandolin tuners for 6-string slotted headstock.

Thursday, September 24, 2015

Banjo #6?

New neck blank. Black walnut, cherry, and wenge strip.
What will it be?
I'm thinking a short-scale (20"?) neck with 6-strings and a tunnelled drone string. Possibly using cut-down mandolin tuners.

Banjo #5 Mini 5-string

Maple and rosewood neck, 15" Scale length.
Rosewood fingerboard.
Inlayed brass ring side position markers.
Rosewood tailpiece.
8" extra deep (3") maple rim.
Finished with plastic-coat varnish.
Nylon classical guitar strings (for tuning to standard G/C pitch).
Handmade raw brass tension hoop.
Slotted headstock.
Grover tuners.

Tuesday, September 8, 2015

Banjo #4

24 1/2" scale length walnut and cherry neck with rosewood fingerboard and peghead veneer. Finished with pure beeswax, heat impregnated into the wood.
Inlayed brass ring side position markers.
1/4" brass rod tone-ring, raised on brads over scalloped, 10ply thin maple rim.
African goatskin head.
Handmade tension hoop.
18 flat-hook tensioners with raw brass shoes.
Grover tuners.
Fielding tailpiece.

In this sound sample the skin head is slightly dampened with a cloth under the dowel-stick, behind the bridge.
I'm interested to try this rim out with a plastic head and compare tones. 

Monday, September 7, 2015

Building Banjos #4 and #5 part 2

Here are most of the parts for Banjos #4 and #5. The smaller rim is from a cheapo hand-drum, and in the end I decided to order a higher quality drum-shell and use that instead. You can see that I decided to try my hand at making my own tone-rings, tension-hoops, and flesh-hoops from raw brass bar.

I made position markers from brass tubing. While testing it out (from which I learned that you have to be very careful with the edge, or it bleeds when filed down) I made this fish, more or less by accident. Later I turned it into a broach.

Building Banjos #4 and #5 Part 01

As soon as I finished banjo #3 I felt I wanted to push what I'd learned and make at least a neck entirely from scratch. I began work with a plank of American Walnut and a thinner one of British Cherry.

I decided to use just a single carbon fibre rod down the centre, since this neck would be thicker than the last, with a rounded dobson-style heel, and with the central strip of cherry adding to the stability.

Thursday, September 3, 2015

Banjo #3

11" 5-string with Dobson-style tone-ring.
2-ply steamed maple rim.
Raw brass hardware.
Peghed geared, fiddle-peg style tuners.
MOP inlayed moon, stars, and side position markers.
26 1/2" scale length.
12 steel tension hooks.

I've since removed and smoothed the experimental scallops from inside the rim and re-stained. I found that they seemed to cause the overtones of the dobson tone-ring to reverberate with a muddy sound. With a smoothed and thinner bearing edge the sound is clean.

This sound sample uses ground nylon strings (with a steel 5th). Incidentally, the tune is one I wrote on this banjo just after putting it together. The renaissance head is lightly stuffed behind the dowel stick, which is a general preference of mine with nearly all openback banjos.

I will put up a sample of the sound with all steel strings if I get the chance.

Building Banjo #3 Part 2

I did some work on making a co-ordinator rod in the style of Romero banjos. This would have really required a lathe to do a good job, but I shaped it by hand with a file from a maple dowel. In the mean-time I had been reading about “Rudy Rods” or tunnelled dowel sticks on the Banjo Hangout forums, and I ended up building one of those instead.

The neck arrived. I widened the truss rod groove using a rotary tool and a simple router bit (this doesn’t cut very deep so I had to do it in a lot of passes). Then I fitted two carbon fibre strips with a strip of ebony (off-cuts from the fingerboard) down the centre. I glued the whole lot in with epoxy. It looked a little messy, but seemed very strong, and would be totally hidden when the fingerboard was glued in.

Building banjo #3 Part 1

The banjo that I’m calling #3 (because of the two kits I built in the past) started out as a hankering for an instrument with a dobson style tone-ring (as has become fashionable for old-time banjo players in the US over the last few years, not least because of players like Adam Hurt and Richie Stearns.)

I began with a chinese-made blank mahogany neck. I used one of these for kit banjo #2 and it has been going strong for seven years. These also feature a (sort of) S S Stewart style headstock shape, which I thought was kind of appropriate as well as being pretty.

The original broken blank neck

Unfortunately, after I had cut a failing scoop and done some simple inlay work on this neck I discovered that the truss rod was mis-aligned, and then (and I think related to the wonky truss rod) that the neck had cracked. I think this crack would have been fairly easy to fix, especially if I knew then what I’ve since learned about glues and general woodwork, but I was disheartened and decided I wanted to start again with something of a higher quality.

I already had on order a good quality maple rim and hardware from Canada, so I decided to order a blank maple neck, and separate fingerboard and frets etc, from Stewmac in the US. (I’m based in London UK so was already beginning to wince at the carbon footprint of the endeavour, but anyway).

2 ply steamed maple rim and raw brass hardware.