Archive for the ‘Maple’ Category

Well, it took longer than I anticipated to finish our new house, but we are done and in and so it’s back to banjos. I had one on order and fortunately the customer was patient (2yrs!) But I am happy to say I finished it up and it is now in the hands of the new owner. Here are some of the details:

The owner wanted a very clean instrument with simple curves. He also wanted dramatic grain, and I had some cocobolo that fit the bill. It is a good tone wood and really adds a lot of power. I trimmed it with ebony for a nice red/black contrast. I made him a very simple “japanese style” peg head and added some simple abalone inlay accents, and deco-style of his initials in the peg head. I like the clean look of inlaid brass. While I was at it, I added a brass overlay to the frailing scoop. The curve of the scoop reflects the simple curve of the pot. Instead of abalone inlays for position markers, I inlaid and dyed maple in a green color. Keeping the clean lines, I opted for a wooden flange instead of brass shoes. Also, I made a very simple curve for the dowel stick. For the tailpiece, I took one of my Fielding’s (which I love) and used it as a pattern and fabricated a longer one to get more of a downward angle on the strings over the bridge (15 degrees). All in all, I am really happy with how this instrument turned out, it has a lot of power, but sounds good when played softly.

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all set up and ready to play

I was able to deliver the banjo to the new owner on Wednesday night! My thanks to James Moore for helping me get the set up right, and my thanks to Roz for trusting me to make an instrument for her. I have included pictures of the finished banjo sent to me from the new owner and included some sound files of James playing it in the workshop. Again, take into consideration that it is recorded right into the built-in mic on the ibook so you get the ambient sound.

Roz’z Banjo (by James Moore) Off to California

_Roz’z Banjo song 2 (by James Moore)

don’t know the name of this song.

_Roz’z Banjo 3 (by James Moore) _Morning Dew_

the quilted maple is some nice wood.

I really like Will Fielding's elegant tailpiece and have used several of them on my banjos, but I made this one based on his design but longer to apply more downward pressure on the bridge.

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The Celtic knot banjo is all assembled and ready for a bridge and strings and final adjustments. I thought I would show my neck attachment system to anyone who might be interested. I wanted a little more security and found a good site on neck attachments from Taylor guitars that was quite in depth and I applied some similar hardware. I still want my necks and attachments to be primarily wood, but I think adding a brass set screw was worth it, I am extremely happy with how  the neck is locks in place!

This is the basic set up, threaded wooden dowel and brass set screw with insert in the base of the heel.

In the past I used the threaded dowel and then an indexing pin in the heel. The set screw performs the same function as an index pin and adds additional force to the mating of the neck to the pot. I imagine if necessary it could be used in making slight adjustments to the neck angle.

This is how the dowel stick looks threaded onto the wooden stud.

I am going to use this  combination for any future banjos.

So here are a couple of picture of the banjo assembled

Ready for strings!


I will get some sound files up as soon as I can. thanks for dropping by.

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I finished inlaying and fretting the fingerboard and glued it to the neck blank. I felt I executed the design pretty capably. I ordered a book on inlaying and there was some great information in it that made the job much easier. Due to the delicacy of the design, I was tempted to have the inlays made for me by DePaule Supply, but I decided to try and cut them out myself. I want to try and do as much of the work as I can on each piece and thought it was at least worth a try, and I think they came out quite nice.

Triskele and personalized with initials on the peghead


I hogged out a bunch of wood to rough shape the neck but you can now get an idea of how it will look. Here are a couple of shots of the roughed out neck and the pot together….starting to look very banjo-like……

triskeles on the fingerboard side

celtic knots on the rear peghead and heel cap.

I should be able to complete the finish shaping of the neck tomorrow. The dowel stick is finished and it’s second coat of oil is drying. I will go over the pot one more time and then start oiling it tomorrow as well. This banjo is getting real close.
I also laminated the neck of a banjo for another customer today, this project is a solid cocobolo banjo, very spare and clean design.

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Put the first Celtic knot on the heel cap today.

one more to do for the peghead.

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I finished carving the dowel stick and put on a brass ferrule, it is ready for the first coat of oil.

carved and smoothed to the final dimensions.

One tip I learned is to use a razor blade like a card scraper for delicate smoothing. (Thanks to Frank Ford of Gryphon Music for that tip).

dowel with razor blade "card scraper", simple and cheap.

The neck is starting to take it’s final shaping. I use this simple jig to check alignment and to keep everything straight when putting the neck and dowel stick together.

aligning the neck to the pot

The first inlay work is done and the fret slots are cut in the fingerboard. The triskeles at the 3rd, 5th and 10th.

fretted and inlaid fingerboard

I finished the peghead shaping and I really like the shape the customer wanted and I am going to offer it as an option. I will get some pics up soon as I start the final shaping of the neck.

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Laminated and turned the pot, added a brass tone ring. Neck is laminated and veneered. Need to rough shape the neck and add the dowels for attaching.  Here is a couple of pictures.

Pot and tone ring. Quilted maple, ebony and veneers

close-up of quilted maple.

Here is the neck ready for basic shaping.

Neck with peghead veneers, nice black and green veneers.

Peghead shape transferred to the neck

Peghead ready for drilling and shaping.


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I started the Celtic tenor this week. The process started with an in-depth consultation with the client to confirm just what she is looking for in regards to wood, sound, and design. She really wants a celtic theme with the use of the Triskele prominently displayed. She also requested a celtic knot, and threw in a twist when she requested a carved dowel stick in the form of a spiral to reflect the spiraling design of the Triskele. Of course she wants the primary wood to be quilted maple so I get to carve wood that has grain traveling in every direction!

So first things first. I really like taking the time to draw a full-scale drawing of the banjo for two reasons, it is helpful in laying out the dimensions and visualizing how the banjo will look. And secondly, it is a handy reference for me as I can use calipers to check dimensions against the drawing. Here are a few details.

twisted dowel stick. celtic knot on the heel. it is so much easier to get the dimensions correct when you can refer to a full sized drawing.

Here are a couple of peghead drawings. She chose a modified Bacon, but with three lobes.

Front peghead design with Celtic Triskele

Rear peghead, with Celtic knot.

I want the design to be simple and elegant.

Here is the dowel stick in progress

The making of the spiral twists is actually pretty easy once you have it laid out properly.

I left plenty of wood so that when I approach the final dimensions, the twists will be rounded and not flat, so I am taking my time taking it down. Making this is really fun!

Here is the neck laminated up as well as the pot. The pot is staved, like a barrel. There are green and black veneers accenting the neck and pot.

16 segments!

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On a bit of vacation, so no posts. I have a couple of orders to fill when I get back and I stocked up on some great maple and I am looking forward to building the new banjos. Until then….. it is time to surf!

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The new owner of the "Wheat banjo".

I really had fun building this banjo. It was a good collaboration between James and me, and it was nice to add certain personal touches to the instrument that made it truly a custom banjo. I made some recordings of James playing his new instrument and added some detail pictures below. If you listen to the mp3’s take into consideration they were recorded into garageband on my laptop using the internal mic, in other words…not exactly studio quality. Same goes for all my pictures, I really have to take some time to get good pictures in the future, but these will have to do for right now.




James Moore_ Galway Reel (Wheat Banjo)



James Moore_A Minor Hornpipe (Wheat Banjo)


I was waiting for some gold tuners which I was hoping would enhance the overall look and blend well with the brass hardware. Once I got those it was time to put them in, finish up the banjo and make a bridge.

gold tuners and ebony knobs.

I don’t normally play Irish tenor banjo so I invited the new owner over to dial it in.

Oiled maple and brass....

All strung up and ready to play

So James came over and we set the action to where it was good for him.

back of the banjo


I really enjoyed hearing James play, and I am definitely going to build myself a tenor banjo someday soon. As for now, I have another customer waiting for a tenor, so I have work to do……yeah!

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