Please school me on Banjos?

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Matthew Lau
Posts: 607
Joined: Sat Feb 18, 2012 2:03 am

Please school me on Banjos?

Post by Matthew Lau »

I'm a total banjo neophyte, but my buddy made me swear to build one about 4 years ago.
1 year ago, he got tired of waiting--he made me a tone rim, neck, fretboard, and wood rim.

What should I keep in mind?

Also, what are the criteria for the nut? Is it the same as with a guitar (setting nut/string height at fret height like a zero fret?)
The banjo that he lent me (his son's banjo) is 3/16" at the nut, 1/8" at 5th string nut, 7/16 at 12th fret.
The neck is pretty meaty.

Also, any tips on tuners?

This may be my only banjo ever.
I'm a classical guitar guy.
Daryl Kosinski
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Joined: Sat Oct 12, 2013 11:14 am
Location: Fultonville, NY

Re: Please school me on Banjos?

Post by Daryl Kosinski »

It's a banjo build it any way you like. Mine has a 7/8 thick rim, no tone ring, slotted peg head, scale length 1 1/2 inch longer than a "normal" 5 string. 5th string runs under the fret board through a 1/16 inch brass tube, guitar tuners, dual rods threaded onto a steel rod in the neck, truss rod through the same steel rod, hooks and shoes from a civil war era banjo that had way too many.

Most builders want to copy some other design. Make it different and it will get noticed. A copy is a copy. My banjo is MY banjo.

I would post pictures but I would encourage you to do it your way not mine. Ask what your friend wants in a banjo and build it.
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Bob Gramann
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Re: Please school me on Banjos?

Post by Bob Gramann »

I have built a few 5-strings. Each time, I have to draw it out and carefully consider the relationships between the various centers: the centerline on the pot and the centerlines of the neck (in both the 4 and 5 string sections). I made a jig for cutting the curve in the end of the neck to fit the pot. It needs the appropriate back angle to get the strings to the bridge (I prefer a 5/8" high bridge). I usually center the truss rod along the centerline of the 4 string section so that the 5th string peg doesn't hit it. Some purists may tilt it a bit so that it averages center all the way down. I did that once and decided that it wasn't worth the trouble.

I set it up just like a steel string guitar with .003" string clearance at the first fret when the third fret is held down and 5/64" clearance at the 12th fret. Like the nylon strings ona classical stretch for a couole of months after installation, so does the plastic head. It's hard to get it tight enough until it's too tight.

Once you get everything just right, a banjo can be a real joy to play. Good luck.
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Pat Foster
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Location: Spokane, WA
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Re: Please school me on Banjos?

Post by Pat Foster »

Sounds like he made you a kit! Good start. Stew Mac has a lot of banjo stuff, where I got most of the stuff I used when I built those contraptions years ago. I liked the Five Star planetary tuners a lot.

Pat
I like to start slow, then taper off.
Matthew Lau
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Joined: Sat Feb 18, 2012 2:03 am

Re: Please school me on Banjos?

Post by Matthew Lau »

Thanks, guys!

He pretty much did make me a kit...except it's got a story to it:
-tone rim- the core is made of some (at the time 35+ yo, air dried maple. It was part of an outdoor love seat that some guy's dad made for his mom. The guy was selling the loveseat before a foreclosure, and wanted me to put it to good use. The rest of the maple will be my workbench in the future.
the laminates are from some Manzanita or black locust that he got. Gary mentioned that he'd be interested in the wood, and one of his buddied dropped off a log in his front lawn the next week.
-fretboard- more manzinita from the log
-walnut neck-- I think he got this at the lumberyard, but it could be from some random tree he cut down.
-nut-- he made me a few, but I may make some later
- hooks-- he made them
- rim/top-- he bought them for me from Stewmac. White brass, and a synthetic top.

--shoes-- I'll buy some-- any recommendations?
--tuners-- he likes 5 stars.
--inlay-- to be determined.
--fretwire- stainless? Gold Evo? not sure what you recommend
--nut-- I may use bone or some fossil ivory he gave me.

Ironically, I'm a dentist, but I hate inlay.
I have all the stuff needed to do it, and I can probably do it well.
I just think that ornamental flashy inlay is pointless...but that's my opinion.
I'll probably just due a few side dots.
Allyson Brown
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Joined: Fri Jul 28, 2023 2:08 am

Re: Please school me on Banjos?

Post by Allyson Brown »

Daryl Kosinski wrote: Wed Aug 10, 2016 3:01 pm It's a banjo build it any way you like. Mine has a 7/8 thick rim, no tone ring, slotted peg head, scale length 1 1/2 inch longer than a "normal" 5 string. 5th string runs under the fret board through a 1/16 inch brass tube, guitar tuners, dual rods threaded onto a steel rod in the neck, truss rod through the same steel rod, hooks and shoes from a civil war era banjo that had way too many.

Most builders want to copy some other design. Make it different and it will get noticed. A copy is a copy. My banjo is MY banjo.

I would post pictures but I would encourage you to do it your way not mine. Ask what your friend wants in a banjo and build it.
Your approach to banjo building is truly unique and inspiring. It's evident that you've put a lot of thought and creativity into crafting an instrument that reflects your own vision and preferences. Your emphasis on individuality and customization is refreshing, as it encourages others to embrace their own ideas and preferences rather than simply replicating existing designs.
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