Jon Whitney's backpacking banjo

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Jon Whitney
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Jon Whitney's backpacking banjo

Post by Jon Whitney »

This is a type of banjo I've been developing I call a "Panhead". There are two meanings to that - first, the pot or rim is made from a frying pan or other cooking pan. Second, the head is secured with pan head sheet metal screws - much like a tackhead banjo. This banjo is my second prototype. The first one used a hide head which, of course, tensioned itself as it dried after installation. This banjo has a synthetic head of DuPont Nomex paper, also known as a "Yellowstone" head, supplied by banjo builder and jeweler Mark Ralston.
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The panhead pot
The panhead pot
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Back
Front View
Front View

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Jon Whitney
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Re: Jon Whitney's backpacking banjo

Post by Jon Whitney »

I made the neck from poplar for lightness, with a 1/8" center lamination of hard maple for strength. I figured with nylon strings, it would be strong enough. I also chose to use ukulele friction tuners for cost reasons as well as weight reasons - they allowed me a thinner peg head. This is also made from maple, joined to the neck with a V-joint. The peghead overlay and the fretboard are Rosewood - but I kept the fretboard very thin (about 1/16") to reduce the weight. The inlays are cut from an old CD. The neck is held to the pot not only by the dowel but also by two screws through from the inside into a dowel that runs across near the bottom of the heel.
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Heel
Heel
V-joint maple peg head to poplar neck
V-joint maple peg head to poplar neck
Peg Head
Peg Head

Bill Snyder
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Re: Jon Whitney's backpacking banjo

Post by Bill Snyder »

Jon, looks good. Are we going to be graced with a sound sample? Also a question about the Yellowstone" head. You mentioned that real hide heads self tension as they dry, what about the "Yellowstone"? How is it tensioned on this mandolin? Also are the panhead screws straight through the head with now washers or rim or...?

Jim Bonnell
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Re: Jon Whitney's backpacking banjo

Post by Jim Bonnell »

Great job Jon. I always enjoy seeing your innovative ideas.

Darrel Friesen
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Re: Jon Whitney's backpacking banjo

Post by Darrel Friesen »

Definitely a few steps up from a cookie tin. Nice job!

Steve Senseney
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Re: Jon Whitney's backpacking banjo

Post by Steve Senseney »

Nice work!

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Jon Whitney
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Re: Jon Whitney's backpacking banjo

Post by Jon Whitney »

Thanks for the compliments, everyone.

I will record a sound sample when the strings settle in a little more - maybe it will be today.

The head material is not at all elastic. It is much like Mylar in this respect. I had to pre-tension it by mounting temporary blocks of wood around the head, with bolts through them down through a plate at the back of the banjo, and tightening the bolts to the desired tension. Then I wrapped an aluminum band around the edge, and put in the sheet metal screws through the band, the head material, and the aluminum frying pan rim (pre-drilled holes in the metal) to hold the head tight. Then I trimmed the excess material.
after pulling it tight
after pulling it tight
I will be probably building a few of these for sale but I intend to take this one backpacking this summer. I forgot to mention, the total weight of this banjo is a hair over 2 pounds (less than 1kg for our rational, non-American friends). As for changes, I think I will try using more tensioning bolts to try and eliminate any puckers (there are a few minor ones on this banjo), and also epoxy between the head and the rim to make darn sure it doesn't slip out. I also have a strange cooking pan that has a cone coming up in the center which I think I'll leave as an internal resonator and see how that sounds on the next one.
A strange pan
A strange pan

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Jon Whitney
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Re: Jon Whitney's backpacking banjo

Post by Jon Whitney »

I posted some tunes played on this banjo to my BanjoHangout music page: http://www.banjohangout.org/myhangout/m ... p?id=29314

They are "Dixie's Land", "Jordan is a Hard Road", and "Marching Through Georgia."

Michael Lewis
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Re: Jon Whitney's backpacking banjo

Post by Michael Lewis »

I like your style Jon. I'm looking forward to what else you come up with.

Bob Menzel
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Re: Jon Whitney's backpacking banjo

Post by Bob Menzel »

Another very creative project Jon. Have you considered using pop rivets to fasten the band and reduce weight? (Note to self: Must_resist_temptation_to_build_another_banjo)
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Jon Whitney
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Re: Jon Whitney's backpacking banjo

Post by Jon Whitney »

Thought about it, haven't tried it yet. Pop rivets would make it much harder to replace the head, though.

Note_to_Bob: Why?

Bob Menzel
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Re: Jon Whitney's backpacking banjo

Post by Bob Menzel »

Yep, that did cross my mind but I'm not that experienced with banjers to know how often one would need to replace the head. PETE might hold up better for a backpacker? Pop rivets drill out easily...but you'd need to be careful with the swarf scratching your finish.

(Way too many unfinished symphonies to complete, but the seed has been planted)
Not Your Uncle

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