Banjo #005 – Sapele / Wenge with brass rod tone ring

Banjo #005 – Sapele / Wenge with brass rod tone ring
Banjo #005 – Sapele / Wenge with brass rod tone ring

This banjo has a block rim of sapele.  Rim cap is hard maple, as is the upper rim layer, which supports a 1/4 brass rod tone ring.  Neck is 3 piece laminate of sapele with center rib of hard maple.  1/8″ x 3/8″ carbon fiber reinforcement assures stiffness and stability.

Fingerboard is oiled wenge.  Headstock laminate and heelcap are also wenge.  Banjo is finished with nitrocellulose laquer.

Banjo is set up with  brass hardware and brass Gotoh planetary tuners. Initially  set up and photographed with an “Elite” fibreskin head.  Since fitted with a Remo Renaissance head, offering more precision and clarity in tone.

Set up is with a slightly deepened frailing scoop level with the head.  This raises the finger board slightly relative to the strings to provide lower action, while maintaining a more traditional frailing setup with nice clearance between strings and head.  Bridge is custom Beartown 3/4″ curved bridge.

Sound is comfortingly plunky with bell tone clarity up the neck and good sustain.  Responsive in lower positions and up the neck.

–This banjo is on its way to a new life in Australia–

Banjo #005 key of D – Johnson Boys

Banjo #005 key of A – Cluck Old Hen

View in online store.

Banjo #004 – Cherry / Purpleheart

Banjo #004 – Cherry / Purpleheart
Banjo #004 – Cherry / Purpleheart

This banjo is a sweet instrument all around.  Block rim is made up of two full layers of cherry with a thickened rim cap and tapered tone ring layer of purpleheart.  The neck is s three layer laminate of cherry with a purpleheart rib. Neck reinforcement is  1/8 x 3/8 graphite fiber epoxied in place.

Cherry is one of the less dense woods that we use, so this banjo is comfortably light and warm sounding.  The purpleheart tone ring provides clarity and definition to the tone.  Set up with moderate frailing scoop to the 15th fret,  fiberskin head, nickle plated brass hardware and nickle plated Gotoh tuners.

Fingerboard is oiled purpleheart with a beautiful whorled figure and headstock and heelcap are pupleheart as well.

This banjo is a joy to play, and sounds beautiful.

This Banjo is SOLD and is living its life in Missouri with its new owner.

Banjo #003 Curly Maple / Bubinga

Banjo #003 Curly Maple / Bubinga
Banjo #003 Curly Maple / Bubinga

For this banjo, I sourced a beautifully figured plank of flat sawn maple from central PA  (there are still two banjos worth left).  After working with Black Locust, the hard maple cut like butter with carving tools and on the lathe!  The integral tone ring is Black Locust.

This banjo will be heading back to the shop in a little while.  I made an oops in finishing the end grain of the head stock, leaving a couple of unsightly chips at the top edge.  And also, as beautiful as the figure is in this plank, there is some graying in the center grain.  It doesn’t show in the side grain of the neck, but the end grain on the back and end of the headstock have an unattractive dirty look.  To date, all of my banjos have been finished without stain… just letting the beauty and color of the wood show through.  This re-work will be my first foray into staining!  Should be fun!

This banjo is living its life with a new owner in Catharine, NY!

Banjo #002 – Black Locust / Bubinga

Banjo #002 – Black Locust / Bubinga
Banjo #002 – Black Locust / Bubinga

Black Locust is considered to be a “weed” by many.  It grows quickly and tenaciously in difficult environments.   It is stiff, and hard.  Very hard.  It is also very beautiful, with a finely textured grain and beautiful yellow/gold color.  It was my choice for the primary wood in banjo #2.

The entire pot and neck are made of Black Locust.  It’s fairly heavy and very stiff.  With its initial set-up, the tone was a bit on the bright/tiny side.  It’s since been back to the shop for some very fun modifications that I’ll write about soon!

Banjo #001 “Chester” – Wormy Chestnut / Black Locust

“Banjo #001 “Chester” – Wormy Chestnut / Black Locust” is locked Banjo #001 “Chester” – Wormy Chestnut / Black Locust
“Banjo #001 “Chester” – Wormy Chestnut / Black Locust”

This banjo was my first banjo project.  It is made from a single plank of wormy chestnut salvaged from a renovation project of my old farm house 25 years ago, and the fingerboard and laminates are black locust from the trimmings pile at a black locust sawmill just up the road.  It was a lesson for me in many ways; planning,  patience, and precision.  When it came to carving the neck and finishing the headstock, I discovered that the worm boring damage was much more severe at that end of the plank, leaving only enough wood for an exceptionally slender headstock.  I could have worked around the blackened nail holes in the pot that used to be the homes for hand forged square nails.  But I like the visual reminder of history, life, and afterlife of this Chestnut tree.

I still enjoy playing this sweet little banjo, and it is a comforting reminder to me of how far my banjos have come.