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Archive for the ‘old time music’ Category

Stu Mason has a serious case of banjo acquisition syndrome! He is exploring new sounds and techniques and became very interested in a gourd banjo. Stu bought a gourd online that was hollowed out and dried  and modified it including epoxying the inside and staining it. He then brought it to me and we put together a gourd banjo using some information he downloaded from David Menzies. It was an “organic” process and he ended up with an “organic” banjo! I was going to put Peg Hed tuners on it but opted to turn my own. We strung it up,  and the tuners were very hard to use and not at all acceptable for

playing on a stage, so back to the original idea and I installed peg heds. That made a world of difference and still kept with the  look he wanted. Here are some pics of the banjo build (with the shop turned pegs) and a video of Stu trying it out minutes after it was strung up and brought to a tuning of G-D-G-D

ready for strings with shop made friction pegs and a sound hole that directs sound to the player

ready for strings with shop made friction pegs and a sound hole that directs sound to the player

they looked nice but were a bear to use!  back to the peg heds!

they looked nice but were a bear to use! back to the peg heds!

IMG_1549inside  the gourd, looking throughout the sound hole

that sharp peg head looks sort of dangerous

that sharp peg head looks sort of dangerous

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amber elite head with a dobson tone ring.

amber elite head with a dobson tone ring.

Recently finished a flush fret banjo for Connie Moxness. She gave me a photograph of a flush fret Stewart from the 1890’s that had a sweet peg head and beautiful lines and I did my best to recreate that lovely banjo. We added some modern touches, but she wanted a clean and simple design. I especially liked the peghead shape and plan to incorporate that much more.

original photo from which design was taken

original photo from which design was taken

Connie's banjo

Connie’s banjo

The Flush Fret banjo has a cocbolo fingerboard and the flush frets are ebony. I added a Dobson tone ring (from Bill Rickard) and made my own adjusting tailpiece to be able to create a 15 degree angle over the bridge. All the hardware was aged by Connie.

The banjo is made from local walnut and the veneers and fingerboard are cocobolo. This banjo is made with a laminated walnut rim, which made if very light. It is a G-scale banjo 25.5″ scale, and the neck is two frets shorter to make it easier to play. I also backstrapped the rear peg head veneer.

front peg head with cocobolo veneer

front peg head with cocobolo veneer

rear peg head with backstrap

rear peg head with backstrap

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adjustable tailpiece

adjustable tailpiece

_DSC7626I will put up a picture of the owner and sound files soon.

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Stu Mason and I recently collaborated on building a fretless, slot head, tack head banjo. I am happy to say, Stu recently recorded a solo album “Tradition” featuring this banjo, and I am really happy with the sound. IMG_0767 IMG_0769 IMG_0818 IMG_0820 IMG_0823 IMG_0830

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Stu wanted a slot head so he could use guitar tuners which are much finer than normal banjo tuners, and important factor for him, especially when he is on stage. Costs were lowered by purchasing a bodhran on line, which Stu distressed. The Bodhran tension can be adjusted from the inside. I made a simple wedge and block for attaching the neck and custom made the tailpiece as well. We aged all the brass and I added a brass plate on the heel and frailing scoop. I had to close my eyes when Stu “distressed” the neck.

http://stuartmasontradition.com

You can listen to this fine album here and also hear the results of our collaboration.

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