Monday, September 7, 2015

Building Banjos #4 and #5 part 2

Here are most of the parts for Banjos #4 and #5. The smaller rim is from a cheapo hand-drum, and in the end I decided to order a higher quality drum-shell and use that instead. You can see that I decided to try my hand at making my own tone-rings, tension-hoops, and flesh-hoops from raw brass bar.

I made position markers from brass tubing. While testing it out (from which I learned that you have to be very careful with the edge, or it bleeds when filed down) I made this fish, more or less by accident. Later I turned it into a broach.

My first brazed or silver-solder joint! It's not as perfect as I'd like, but is very strong, and sits under the tailpiece anyway so I decided to keep it. I bent the tension-hoop and tone-ring around a 7" circle of ply, with a support screwed down next to it for leverage. I found that so long as I went slowly, bending inch by inch I could get a good, round result although the ends were challenging (to get those perfect using this method I'd have to have extra long brass bar, which is not easy to come by). 

Here you can see the 1/4" brass tone-ring is raised on metal brads, with scallops cut in the rim between each point of contact. With this I'm hoping to achieve a tone a bit like the classic Whyte Laydie tone-ring, which I love, but without the excessive weight.

Roughly put together with temporary hardware (while waiting for some raw brass hardware to come from America).

When the Brass hardware and flat steel hooks arrived I filed slots into the tension band.

I finished Banjo #4 with pure beeswax impregnated into the wood with a heatgun. The rim I stained with leather dye. I then tried to use Tru-oil for a finish, but for some reason it refused to harden with the leather dye so I ended up sanding it back and using beeswax like on the neck. I think this means the dye and wax haven't soaked in as much as would be best. Next time I want to try just going straight in with dye then wax.

I added a cherry wood brace to keep the rim well supported, and to make fitting the tunnelled dowel-stick easier. I like that it looks a little bit like the more traditional metal brace too.

Assembled! Later I would slim down the headstock and 5th string block and add some better quality Grover tuners. I also did more work shaping the brass tension hoop.

Here is my second brazed brass tension hoop. After clean-up this is a tidier job than the first.

I made the 8" rim extra deep for Banjo #5, in the hopes that this might give enough bass response for such a tiny instrument to be tuned down low.

Banjo #5 put together roughly. The tension hoop is yet to be slotted here, and a few other finishing touches not yet done.

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