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Banjo Hangout - Banjo Building, Setup, and Repair Forum Feed

Banjo Hangout - Banjo Building, Setup, and Repair Forum Feed

Published: Mon, 22 Jan 2018 15:07:00 CST

Last Build Date: Mon, 22 Jan 2018 15:07:00 CST


Not a Squared Eel but a Squared Meal

Mon, 22 Jan 2018 15:07:46 CST

Made out of a semi-squared Salad Bowl. When I found this squared Salad bowl at the thrift store I thought of Mike Gregory's Squared Eel banjo and I thought why not. So here it is the first Squared Eel clone banjo - the Squared Meal.

Build specs - fretless neck with wood burned fret markers, a little graffiti burned into the head stock, cheap geared guitar tuners, full length 5th string with a spike at the 5th fret position, Nylgut minstel strings tuned like G but way lower down to D, a calf skin head glued and tacked onto the salad bowl.

Here is a little video so you can hear what it sounds like. Please excuse the poor video and the poor playing.


cambered pot

Mon, 22 Jan 2018 12:46:20 CST

Since I don't have my own shop I have to get my ponderings vicariously, so:

Has anyone experimented with a banjo pot that instead of the usual 90 degree angle from the plane of the banjo head the pot either angles/flares outward or inward and how it may affect the sound? Sort of makes the whole pot like a Dobson tone ring. banjered

Banjo Build #2 Completed

Mon, 22 Jan 2018 11:53:02 CST

Just finished my second build, I did a hickory 12 pot with vertical grain and a curly maple neck with a hickory stripe and end cap. The peghead is overlay is an elm veneer I made and the marker dots are also elm. I'll be taking an actual banjo building class with Patrick Heavner in March and excited to learn the better ways to do things and have a chance to ask questions about how to manage certain aspects with the tools I have. Drilling the holes for the dowel stick and getting fretting a bit better are the top two areas I need to work on.


This community has been a great source of information and encouragement - thank you all!


10 1/2 head

Mon, 22 Jan 2018 10:18:27 CST

Where can I find a 10 1/2 head .
What height for a 25 TBO

Tendency to tighten

Mon, 22 Jan 2018 09:10:13 CST

When looking for more tonal power or to fix a buzz I believe we have a natural tendency to start tightening the banjo hardware,be it the head,co-ordinator rods/nuts or truss rod.

Some answers such as "next fret buzz" (truss rod) or lack of "bottom end rumble" or balance of tone from the first 5 frets to the last 5 (head tension) lie in loosening the fit.

Tuners get overtightened,too.
I like to loosen my tuners where they won't hold string tension then tighten them just enough to stay.That's where they'll work the easiest.

Drum Dials

Mon, 22 Jan 2018 06:20:57 CST

when you use a drum dial to tension a head, what tightness represents a G# tuning? I think its around .089-to-.093. thanks Dave

Tenor banjo friction pegs

Sun, 21 Jan 2018 19:47:31 CST

Experienced frailer here with my first kay tenor banjo. I have it posted in the classified because it was more of an impulse buy but I'm starting to enjoy it.
Anyhow, a previous owner swapped out the machine heads for friction pegs. They're surprisingly some of the best friction pegs I've used in that they actually stay in tune. But like any friction pegs, theyre nothing but a pain in the neck to fine tune, restring and change tunings. Geared banjo pegs are expensive so I'm looking at guitar style tuners. Even cheap geared tuners can be junk. I was shocked to see how expensive some friction tuners are or that they are even still on the market. I'm considering just getting a $20 makala ukulele for the tuners. Would those fit and hold the tension of metal strings? Maybe grover guitar tuners? It's a cheap banjo so I don't need anything great but something somewhat performance grade. Any recommendations so i dont buy something useless?

Tuner brand ID?

Sun, 21 Jan 2018 17:37:26 CST

I don't know how to post pics here, so I'm going to have to post links instead. Sorry about that.

I have some old tuners on my parts banjo. I'm not sure of the age, but I'm guessing 70s era. Anyway, the tuners are not very smooth. I can easily buy new ones, but I'm wondering if these are worth trying to service? I can't see a brand written on them, so maybe you guys can ID them. At first, I thought maybe stainless Keith tuners, but they don't look like them to me.


Best pore filler for Mahogany Neck

Sun, 21 Jan 2018 17:36:00 CST

In your opinion what is the absolute best pore/grain filler to use on a Mahogany neck that will be finished with Nitro Lacquer. Also is it possible to do a graduated dark stain on the heel and back of the peghead after filling the grain.

TBO tailpiece

Sun, 21 Jan 2018 11:31:39 CST

What does the original tailpiece look like for a 1925 TBO . What would one cost .

Best ways to humidify an OB

Sat, 20 Jan 2018 18:36:47 CST

Now that winter is here, I am looking to care for my OB. I have a gig bag, no hard case. Already popped my 7th fret spike. Suggestions?

Huber- bridge options

Sat, 20 Jan 2018 11:12:37 CST

I recently scooped up a Mahogany Workhorse. I've started tinkering a little, curious about other bridges. My other (maple) banjo was swapped to a Purcell ambrosia red maple bridge, and it really seemed to open up the sound.

It has me curious if something would have the same effect on the Huber. I'm not unhappy, just starting down that road already with the new-jo.

Would love to hear anyone's experience. Thanks!

can I make the spikes go away

Sat, 20 Jan 2018 05:45:03 CST

I bought a beautiful used bart reiter regent banjo yesterday; but it has 2 spikes on the ebony fretboard. I almost didn't get the banjo because of these but I couldn't pass it up. So, can spikes be removed or cut off even at the fretboard by a professional , without any damage to the fretboard?...thanks

Bone tone ring?

Fri, 19 Jan 2018 18:31:43 CST

Has anybody ever tried one? I guess you'd need big pieces of bone and then build it kind of like a block rim? Just a thought. As they say, "If you want tone ya gotta go for bone."

I wonder what it would sound like anyway? Anybody know? I'm guessing bright and crisp.

Resonator questions...

Fri, 19 Jan 2018 18:30:26 CST

I am looking to replace the resonator on my masterclone. Any recommendations on a good place to buy one? Also, on the ID measurement of the top, at the lip, I'm seeing measurements of 13" or 13 1/8". Some say they are for a 2 piece flange. Is there a difference in measurement from a 1 piece flange vs a 2 piece flange? This is a standard 1 piece flange for a 11 inch pot assembly.

Aside from getting the color correct, is there anything to look out for? There's an EBay seller that sells nice looking resonators for around $70, but I don't want to buy junk that will delaminate in a year. I don't mind paying $150-200 for a good resonator.

Banjo head broken while changing strings

Fri, 19 Jan 2018 17:16:20 CST

Has anybody experienced having broken the banjo head while changing strings? More specifically while uninstalling the old strings. I was uninstalling all the strings from a Recording King RK-R20 to install a new set. Just when I was pulling out the third string underneath the tailpiece the head broke. The banjo had been in its hard case for a week and we had 32 degrees F these last two days and I turned the heat in the studio to do the job. The head was well tighten and the banjo was playing fine. I am from Monterrey, Mexico and getting
ready to order my spare. But I wonder what went wrong? If I had to play a gig tomorrow I would be in big trouble. Thank you very much.

Banjo spikes failure

Fri, 19 Jan 2018 15:15:20 CST

I fitted some banjo spikes today following instructions and also guidance on YouTube but it's been a bit of a failure. I used some feeler gauges to leave enough room for the string to hook under. Problem is they had to be hammered pretty low as they kept fretting on the next spike. Also if I want to thumb over the fith string past the spikes it's now out of tune. It looks like the spikes sit higher than the fret on the last spike. If I drive it in further then I won't get the string under.
There''s no fret wear to speak off so the frets have always been this high. Just wondering where I've gone wrong.

Beefing up a fiddle peg head RB 250

Fri, 19 Jan 2018 13:48:35 CST

Hey guys, so I acquired my first Gibson banjo a few months ago. I have SO much enjoyed playing on it, but have become used to it enough to start noticing it's issues. It's a '69 RB 250 bowtie with a fiddle peg head. It does have the thin rim. Has a straight line tailpiece a compensated bridge. The neck is not a comfortable neck, and I've got a decent amount of buzzes so it's off for a refret here soon, also has a pretty puny 4th string. I'm wondering where I should be investing my limited amount of money. A new rim seems like a decent idea, a common conversion done to these bowties. Is this something that will really make a difference? What rims should I look into? I see some rims online for under $60, are these good rims? Old would probably be my best case scenario, but my wallet tells me I wouldn't mind a newer rim as long as it was full thickness. Or maybe smaller improvements like a presto and a new bridge, maybe scorpion?

All in all, this is the first banjo I've owned where I can really focus on tone, and am wanting more depth and "hollowness". Connectedness even. Any and all thoughts welcome !


Basic Setup Questions

Fri, 19 Jan 2018 09:51:12 CST

What's the best way to adjust the action on a tenor banjo?
Any other tweaks to enhance playability and tone?

Fret Marker link

Fri, 19 Jan 2018 02:14:49 CST


A while back someone gave me a link to a site that had loads of fret marker designs but that post has since been archived and I can't seem to find it. Anyone know which site it would be?

I was going to go with simple birds for this build but since it's my first attempt at any kind of inlay I thought I'd do something a bit more elaborate, as they say in for a penny in for a pound.

Banjo head sizes - Need 11 3/8 inch OD Medium collar...

Thu, 18 Jan 2018 19:31:14 CST

I bought a new "11 inch" banjo head. Took one of my banjos apart and discovered that the outside diameter of the metal part of the banjo head is 11 3/8". Surprised me. There are apparently lots of odd-sized banjo heads. They all seem to be sold as "11 inch" and you have to look at the fine print to figure out the real size. :-) Finding an 11 3/8" medium collar head seems to be a problem. Any suggestions? Google doesn't respond specifically to a request for 11 3/8" banjo heads.

I see 11.2" heads out there. I see 11.5" heads. 11" inch heads. One 11 3/8" with high collar which would not be right.
Elderly Instruments seemed to have widest selection I could find.

(Did not discover this problem until I took banjo completely apart then started to reassemble it and noticed the difference! I reassembled it with the original head. Disassembly take about an hour. Reassembly takes two hours to get head to the correct head tightness. More if you get the flange on the wrong side on the first reassembly attempt! :-) Darn...

Fixing up a 1964 Framus Long-neck

Thu, 18 Jan 2018 17:43:36 CST

Hi folks,

I finally got my hands on a long-neck and boy is it a bizarre machine. I'm suspicious that before Framus, the Germans had never seen a banjo, but had had someone describe one over the phone. It is a very strange banjo to play, but I find myself loving the sound of it.

When it arrived the previous owner had left it in a strange state. It had very light gauge strings which barely rang out in the E tuning. The strings were strung over top of the tail-piece and were pushing the tailpiece into the head. These were easy problems to fix.

Next were the tuners. These were absolutely knackered. I replaced them with some guitar style tuners I'd taken off another banjo. The fifth-string friction tuner is still pretty shaky and can slip occasionally but I've got a replacement on the way.

Then onto the unplayably narrow neck. The neck on this thing is incredibly narrow, but for some reason still had a typical string-spacing. This meant the D-strings would constantly slide off the neck when fretted. I solved this by cutting down an acoustic guitar nut and using this instead. The spacing was perfect for the neck and I have no issue with a narrow spacing.

Current issue is the head. It has a big slump in the middle and just isn't tight enough for my liking. I tried to tighten it but found most of the bolts stripped or seized. For some reason they were chromed and so I found that the chrome had scraped off and gunked up the nuts. So I've got a bunch of new stainless bolts, and a new head on the way to replace these.

All issues aside, I bloody love this thing and am just so happy to finally have a long-neck. Plus a project is always fun. I really do admire the Framus top-tensioning hoop design, as well as how easy it is to adjust the neck angle.

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Replace friction Tuners

Thu, 18 Jan 2018 16:30:43 CST

What are the best replacement geared tuners for the friction tuners on a Vega Tubaphone X9 Tenor Banjo? Will I have to drill out the current peg-holes? Also the bridge is a tad high at 5/8".


Original tuning machines for an Earl Scruggs Special banjo

Thu, 18 Jan 2018 08:57:08 CST

Does anyone know of a set of original correct tuners for a Gibson Earl Scruggs Special for sale. They had pearlbuttons

Smoothing tuner post holes for nylon strings

Thu, 18 Jan 2018 06:16:18 CST

The other day, I put a set of Aquila "Super Nylguts" on my latest banjo acquisition which came with steel strings.

I didn't do my normal "due diligence" in checking the tuner post holes for burrs and, sure enough, the second string broke at the post. 

I took the tuners off and dressed up the holes on the edge of a 6" Scotchbrite wheel and then used a fine, tapered Dremel bit (by hand) to bevel the holes a bit.

While doing this, I remembered seeing something here about abrasive cord and got to thinking this would be the ideal tool for the job. I think you could use the cord to easily remove the sharp edges of the holes.  I'm holding my breath that I did a good job on the tuner holes and won't have another string break but, in case not,  I thought I might order some of the abrasive cord to have on hand so I can polish up the tuners the next time I change strings or have another break at the tuner.

The tuner holes are around .050" in diameter so I was thinking that .030", 200 grit might be the proper choice, being flexible enough to make a sharp bend where exiting the hole and putting in a smooth ramp where the strings will wind.

I'm interested in any thoughts on the above.

Staining/Dying Natural Goatskin Banjo heads

Wed, 17 Jan 2018 15:49:01 CST

I have a few mottled goatskin heads that I wish to stain to bring out the striations and patterns of the natural skin. I'd like to know what you 'natural skin head' guys suggest as a good type of stain 'solution', per se. Oil based, water based, alcohol based, tea, coffee, under-arm sweat, toe-jam, etc...???

I've stained one skin, with an oil based stain, which looks really good and 'supposedly' works fine, however. I cant help but to wonder if the oil based solution won't have adverse effects on the water absorption and shrinkage, of the skin, once the skin is applied and needing to dry/tighten up. This is for a 'tack-head' gourd banjo. There will be no mechanical tightening of the head after all is said and done. 


How thick were rims on Electric/Whyte Laydie back in the day?

Wed, 17 Jan 2018 14:25:04 CST

Ive owned a WL for a number of years and used it on a couple of rims. Both were 3/4” rims. Was just reading another thread here and it got me wondering how thick the originals were. I assume they were thin, as in 3/8” or 1/2” so it makes me wonder why ive used two 3/4” rims. :)

Which factors contribute to banjo volume?

Wed, 17 Jan 2018 09:57:56 CST

Hello folks, about to embark on building a group of 3 banjos. My previous building experience is guitars and so I could use some advice regarding how to achieve my goals with this project.

I am looking to build banjos that would be on the quiet side, so that when played with fingers (no picks) they would roughly match the volume of a flat picked acoustic guitar. I would like the tone to be sweet and mostly focused in the upper mids without superbright high-end. I would like a banjo tone that is focused to occupy the sonic space that is above the deeper acoustic guitar tone (not a lot of low end in the banjo tone). I would like the banjos to have fairly short decay, not a lot of sustain.

Currently we are using a Deering Americana banjo which is in approximately the right sonic range but loud. We have foam stuffed in the back and it’s still pretty loud.

So my question is what features of the banjo contribute to volume? I have just finished a rather experimental banjo project which was short scale at 24 inches. While I gather the shorter scale helps reduce volume I do not want to do a short scale instrument again due to the heavier strings required. It seemed very hard to get a true banjo tone with heavy strings.

Wood I have available for this project is Maple, Honduran mahogany, and walnut. I have one rolled brass tone ring, and am planning to do wood tone rings on the others. I also like sound clips I’ve heard from Dobson tone rings but wondering if that would make the banjo louder?

I am planning to have a wood tension hoop similar to the banjos produced by Carolina banjo company.

Which other elements will contribute to a quieter tone? Thank you very much for any input :-)

Black powder coated planetary tuners

Wed, 17 Jan 2018 08:28:51 CST

Anybody out there ever tried to powder coat or paint planetary tuners black? I'm thinking about a set of Gotoh's that are already coated but I also like doing things myself. A small, electric powder coating paint gun that uses the paint for about $50.

I'm probably better off just getting the Gotohs but checking in with the BHO first. If it's practical I have painted tone hoops, etc. and that worked just fine.


Shoulder strap position

Tue, 16 Jan 2018 14:05:11 CST

john newsome

How can a right hand player, hold with comfort, a 13 plus pound banjo, with just the strap over his right shoulder?

Has anyone ever sprayed Tru-Oil

Tue, 16 Jan 2018 11:36:39 CST

I'm doing research for a non-banjo project I'm working on that I'm considering Tru-Oil for. While Googling, I came upon a post where a guy showed a piece he'd sprayed using Tru-Oil thinned with mineral spirits. This seems a little counter to the instructions, but his results were rather spectacular.

Have any of you ever tried this?

Here's a link to the post

What EXACTLY did Earl use to cover his cams back in the 50s

Tue, 16 Jan 2018 09:56:21 CST

I’m building a parts banjo that I’m trying to get as close to Earls banjo in the 50s. And one of the defining things on that banjo is that cover. I know he took a light fixture of sorts of his wife’s floor waxer but I haven’t been able to find anything of that sort. Any ideas?

Banjo sounds flat

Mon, 15 Jan 2018 16:42:19 CST

I have noticed that for the past couple of weeks my banjo sounds flat. I changed the strings but it still sounds flat. I've had the banjo about 5 or 6 years and it has been ok up to now. Any idea's?

Tailpiece covers, what purpose do they have?

Mon, 15 Jan 2018 15:00:54 CST

Hi all, just wondering if covers on tailpieces have a purpose or are they purely cosmetic?
I have three banjos with clamshells two with, I believe, a waverly style flat cover? and one without a cover at all. Does the tailpiece cover affect tone in any way?

Nylgut Strings

Mon, 15 Jan 2018 07:42:45 CST

Well, now I’ve sent to Elderly for the Aquila Nylgut strings for my Deering Goodtime banjo. I know I hafta smooth/adjust the bridge and the nut, but my banjo has a Deering Tailpiece. Do I use that or must I get a new one?

Fret Marker, Tenor Uke 9th or 10 fret

Mon, 15 Jan 2018 06:29:48 CST

So I am building a Tenor Uke Banjo and trying to decide whether to put the fret marker at the 9th or 10th fret.  On my Baritone which I tune DGBD I put it at 10th fret like a 5 string but this one may go to someone who plays regular Uke tuning. When I look online, I see them done both ways.



Viking Block Rim Sound Files Wanted

Sun, 14 Jan 2018 20:34:54 CST

Greetings! Does anyone have sound files of their banjo with a Viking Block Rim? Thanks!!

Banjo design trends

Sun, 14 Jan 2018 18:53:06 CST

I've been noticing the same trends recently in banjo design. Of course the Dobson rings are very popular now, but beyond that I see minimal to no inlay work on the neck and simple cut pegheads.
I am curious if this trend is due to market demand or is it simply targeting a price point? Are buyers actually disinterested in much inlay in the fretboard? I know Reiter use to do more inlay work but in the more recent years he settled in to a few star inlays and the simple dot position markers. The guys at Pisgah took this further by reducing inlays even further and generally simplifying the peghead shape. And I've noticed these same trends with several other builders as well. Is it just the taste of the current buyers or just the builders aiming for that particular price point in the market?

felt in the resonator

Sun, 14 Jan 2018 18:06:05 CST

Recently, someone here mentioned that John Hartford had lined his resonator with felt. I'd like to give that a try, and I'm wondering what sort of glue or mastic would work without also creating a permanent installation. I'd want to be able to remove both the felt and the mastic if I don't like it, or if one day I want to sell the banjo. It is a 70s Fender Concertone, and the resonator has a high sheen on the inside. I'd like to take the bounce off of that surface. Thanks in advance.


Neck angle for extended fingerboard

Sun, 14 Jan 2018 07:16:36 CST

Looking for advice. Have made a new dowel to join neck and rimstick on a Vegavox with extended fingerboard. Any idea as to angle this should be set at ? I did wonder if they are set almost parallel as in guitars due to raised fingerboard. Shall be aiming for a nine sixteenth bridge . Any ideas welcome......

Corrosion in case

Sat, 13 Jan 2018 15:40:13 CST

I've got a Calton case (Calgary) and everything in the tool compartment corroded or turned color. It's always done this to some extent but never really bothered a banjo.
I got focused on mandolin and hadn't had the banjo out for several months.
Yikes! Now the banjo has been affected. The patina on the old hardware is more gray and a bit gritty feeling. Strings were rough. Same with the frets - one fret even has an area that is rust colored.
I live in a pretty dry climate and my only concern with humidity is with it being too low.
Any suggestions on what's best to use to clean things up?

brass tone rings

Sat, 13 Jan 2018 15:16:16 CST

Does brass tone rings mellow, in sound, with age?

rounding and chamfer on pots advice please

Sat, 13 Jan 2018 14:14:02 CST

Hoping to put rounding edge and chamfer on banjo pot.Tried it with other pot I made and it got ripped to shreds. I have a router and table and two bits that are supposed to be used for these purposes.Any advice on set up to accomplish this, from suggested router speeds to any tips whatsoever to avoid another disaster.Any advice gratefully received.

Tone ring and rim question

Sat, 13 Jan 2018 12:05:24 CST

I just upgraded my parts banjo to. Huber tone ring and older Yates rim. This banjo is what I'm guessing would be a parts banjo or Frankenbanjo. I would like to sell the rim and tone ring but I can't really tell much about it. The rim appears to be three ply but has no markings. The ring is a 20 hole design and is heavy, but I nothing more about it. The only mark on it is a single stamp of "SR". My guess is that this banjo was put together in the late 60s or early 70s, but that's all I know.

Any idea on the SR stamp or how much I should sell this for?


Wooden Flange and Tension Hoop?

Sat, 13 Jan 2018 08:34:14 CST

I know it's possible to make an integrated flange in a rim to hold the hooks, but how stable would a wooden tension hoop be? If it were made in the design of a top tension hoop and regular hex head bolts (or perhaps long phillips or flat head bolts) used to hold the hoop down, and it would be used with a regular head.

Excuse another random questions. I just get ideas and would like to know how good they are...

Zinging overtone sound

Sat, 13 Jan 2018 08:25:02 CST

First string on my banjo has developed a very annoying harsh sounding zinging sound. I've tried things, changing string, rechecking all parts etc. It's a Deering Sierra by the way. Help appreciated. Ger.

Popped 7th fret spike

Fri, 12 Jan 2018 17:04:36 CST

Ok, this just happened; playing capo 2, A/G for first time on new banjo, when spike for 7th fret pops. Luckily I found it in the rug. My question is: is it better to put back in in original spot w/ superglue or pound a new spot further down the fret?

Thanks in advance for any guidance,


Setup time for "instant" glue?/Solved!

Fri, 12 Jan 2018 08:57:13 CST

Chipped the first string notch off a home-made bone top nut.
Tried the instant glue and baking soda patch.
Started cutting the notch after a few minutes, and it popped right off.

By the time I get this posted, it will have been a while since the SECOND attempt, but, ball park figure, how long is long enough to let it harden, before cutting into it??
Minutes? Hours?

To a rush-and-sloppy repair/cobbler like me, "Instant" means rather sudden.

Water Damaged Tool Help?

Fri, 12 Jan 2018 08:13:55 CST

Heavy rains and water-logged soil here in the NE caused my basement to flood last night. I have a sump pump but something tripped the GFI, and when I woke up, I had ~ 16" of water in my basement. Most of my tools were up off the floor, but a few were down too low or sitting on top of a few pails that tipped over when they floated. So these tools were literally submerged.

So the main ones of concern were my skill saw, and a nice, powerful 1/2 collet Bosch Router. If I act fast, is there any 'save' to these power tools? Perhaps if I were to flood the motors with WD 40 to disperse the water? What about the bearings? Or do I consider it a loss and buy new?

I have the pump up and running now, and will assess what was damaged when the water is gone in a few hours. If the tool loss exceeds my home-owners insurance deductible I may see if it's worth making a claim, or otherwise just suck up the loss.

Leather for tack-head banjo.

Fri, 12 Jan 2018 07:32:06 CST

Does anyone know if you can use tanned leather (like from an old leather coat) as a banjo head?

Will it shrink enough to stay tight?

Thanks in advance for your input.