Thursday, September 3, 2015

Building Banjo #3 Part 2

I did some work on making a co-ordinator rod in the style of Romero banjos. This would have really required a lathe to do a good job, but I shaped it by hand with a file from a maple dowel. In the mean-time I had been reading about “Rudy Rods” or tunnelled dowel sticks on the Banjo Hangout forums, and I ended up building one of those instead.

The neck arrived. I widened the truss rod groove using a rotary tool and a simple router bit (this doesn’t cut very deep so I had to do it in a lot of passes). Then I fitted two carbon fibre strips with a strip of ebony (off-cuts from the fingerboard) down the centre. I glued the whole lot in with epoxy. It looked a little messy, but seemed very strong, and would be totally hidden when the fingerboard was glued in.

Then I measured and drilled the holes for the cross dowel and the threaded bar that fits into it. I have since learned to over-size these holes because they were too tight when I put in the cross dowel and I had to do a lot of fiddly work with a rotary tool to widen them and get the threaded bar to line up with the cross dowel.

I glued the ebony fingerboard, heelcap, and headstock veneer in place with Titebond glue and a very ad-hoc clamping setup. Then before fitting the frets I used a cabinet scraper to put a slight bit of relief into the fingerboard (I was concerned that without an adjustable truss rod, the carbon fibre stiffeners would mean that there would not be enough relief for a low action on the strings otherwise).

I had been worried about fitting frets. It turned out to be one of the simpler jobs!

At this point the only saws I had were handsaws and a cheap jigsaw. So I rough-cut the headstock shape with these, and then did the rest of the shaping with files, chisels, and a rotary sander bit. You can see that I’d inlayed a Mother of Pearl moon into the headstock veneer too (this was my first time cutting MOP shapes with a jeweller’s saw -formerly I’d only used pre-shaped pieces). Later on I added more stars.

I made a Tunnelled dowel-stick from laminated pieces then I added an extra veneer on top because I hadn’t made the stick thick enough initially, but this veneer also makes it look nice and solid to go with the one-piece neck.

I cut the scoop with a rotary tool and round-edged router bit (in this pic I’d missed a bit which I cleaned up afterwards). Then came a lot of grueling sanding.

I stained the neck and dowel stick with two colours of spirit stain. I tried water-based first but the result wasn't what I wanted. Then I finished with about five coats of Tru-oil. I had been wanting to try pure beeswax, melted into the wood, but in the tests I did it didn't seem the right thing for stained maple.

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