Archive for the ‘Maple’ Category

Tenor update

backstrapping on the neck

Got some more done on the tenor banjo, neck shaped, fit to the pot, fingerboard fretted, made a brass tailpiece.  etc. I made a brass bee inlay for the heel cap which I will inlay tomorrow. Put the first two coats of tung oil on the dowel stick and pot.

neck fitted to the pot

here is the tailpiece. I based it on the Fielding tailpieces I have been using, but made it four string and then ran it down the pot to the dowel stick stud.

Tailpiece hooked onto the dowel stick.

The knob on the dowel stick is an antique hinge ping that I tapped out and inserted a stainless steel stud into.

close up of the tailpiece and pointy knob....i just thought it would look cool.

and here is the last inlay for the heel cap.

bee inlay. I think I will just leave it a silhouette.

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I am starting get closer on the wheat tenor, profiling, slotting and shaping the peghead. He wanted a version of the Bacon Professional, which I had to shorten a bit to fit the size of this banjo. 

a view of how the neck is going to look

a view of how the neck is going to look

I got a new fret slotting tool from LMI and I am really happy with it, I ran a test piece to make sure I got it just right, and then slotted the fingerboard…. whew! I set some index pins in the neck to hold the fingerboard in place for gluing (a trick I picked up from Roger Siminoff) and they lock the board into place nicely. So the next step for me is to make the dowel stick and match the neck to the pot, then shape the neck profile. This should go pretty quickly. (famous last words……)I am not the speediest banjo maker…plus there are some good waves and I have a new board!

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One of the processes I enjoy the most is turning the pot, especially when my chisels are nice and sharp and clean shavings are flying off! One thing that can be nerve-wracking however, is chucking up a banjo pot securely. Anyone who has ever had a piece come off the lathe at speed can tell you how dangerous and often painful it can be. I still have pieces of wood stuck in the ceiling of my shop from a few years ago when a pot came off and shattered. It cost me a drive to the emergency room to get sutures in my nose and upper lip….ouch. It happened so fast, one second I was turning, and then bam! I reeled back and my face was numb! I had to feel to see if my front teeth were still there as I couldn’t feel a thing. I was wearing safety glasses, but if I had been wearing my full face guard I might have just gotten away with just a bloody nose. Now I wear it a full face shield no matter what I am turning. Kind of a long introduction to some photos of a set of false jaws I made yesterday to chuck the banjo pots. I used 3/4″ MDF. It came out quite nice and really grips the pot.


Here is how it grips the pot.


And here is the finished product. 


A big part of this process is making stuff to help you make stuff, which is quite enjoyable in itself.

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Tenor progress

adding veneer to the pot

things have been hectic around here, but I have been getting some work done on the tenor banjo. Veneering the neck, and pot, and working on the peghead inlay. I decided to put the peghead aside and get back to work on the neck and pot for a while.

back peghead overlay.... cocobolo


this inlay has been pretty complex

here is the peghead design.




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Here are some pictures with the board all smoothed out and placed on a some maple to get a good idea of the contrast. It is going to look nice.

this gives you the idea of the design orientation and scale

contrasting cocobolo with quilted maple

I am going to hate cutting the fret slots in this!

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Tenor time

I am building a custom tenor for an Irish player. He came to me with a wheat inlay design that he really liked and asked me to try and recreate something like it. I took elements of the design and decided to use marquetry , the inlaying of colored wood, instead of mother of pearl. By using lighter wood as the inlay, I am able to use sand shading to give it depth. The pieces are placed in hot sand and darkened on the edges, giving it a shaded look.

Placement of the paper pattern on the fingerboard

I am using cocobolo for the fingerboard and maple for the contrasting inlay.

Lots of little pieces, I lightly glue them to the pattern so they don't get lost or mixed up.

Then the pieces are sand shaded and glued in….looking like this…

This is how it will look when the banjo is played...

The pores in the cocobolo are full of dust from leveling the inlay, so they will be cleaned and filled and the wood will be a bit darker.But this is the basic look.

no frailing scoop so the design comes right out of the pot.

The customer wants a sheave on the peghead and a honey bee on the heel….so I still have a bit of fine work to do. Stay tuned.

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The vine banjo is finished all but a few small details, while I am waiting for the case to be shipped, I tried to take a few pictures to post here. I am in no way a photographer, and I did my best to clean up the photos in photoshop. But for now these pictures will have to suffice. Regardless, I am quite happy with the look and feel of the banjo. It has a very good sound, crisper than walnut, but still enough bass. The finish feels very smooth when you play and looks deep and lustrous. This banjo strung right up with a minimum of adjustment and plays like a dream.

here is a neck close-up

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I am in my second day of applying finish to the rose vine banjo.  I am using KTM-9 (a water based finish) that I think will really enhance the grain and show it off and so I am spraying it on. I just applied my 6th coat and I have four more to do today to finish the application. I am using a touch-up automotive spray gun at 20 psi. I found that if I step into the sunlight behind my shop I can really see how well the application is going on. When it all sprayed then it has to cure for a week before it can be buffed out.

the neck and dowel stick are looking pretty good too…

so about a week from today, I get to buff the whole thing out, then put it together and string it up!  yeah…

In the meantime we’re going to go see the Dodgers vs. the Giants….go Dodgers!

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I finished fretting the maple banjo, and I am glad….whew!  There was a lot of inlay and setting the frets into that inlay made me really nervous. I could just see the inlay cracking or pieces flying off, but what I did was, I took a file and very slightly relieved the edges of the inlay with a small chamfer, I figured the tang of the fret would slide in easier and it worked! All the frets set nicely and nothing was damaged. I smoothed the edges with a file and then sanded them with a sanding block and 400 grit paper. all fretted up!

I finished sanded the neck and added the first coat of oil, man the grain really pops! I have a couple of pictures, but they can’t really capture the iridescence of the wood. The pot and the dowel stick are already oiled so I will stick a few pictures of them up here soon.

here are some  close-ups

of course what makes it so pretty also makes it hard to carve, that grain seemed to change direction every half inch!

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I finished the vine inlay on the fingerboard, whew! it was the most complicated I have undertaken so far. I am glad it is over. Re-cutting the fret slots through the inlay was scary.

fingerboard ready for profiling and gluing.

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