Hi Forumites, I know. I know. Why's he posting over here? There seems to be a little more interest in mountain banjos lately, especially the Proffitt style, so I thought I would post this over here in case anyone hangs out here most of the time, but still isn't afraid to cobble together an instrument once in a while. I got a little time to draw lately, so here's a PDF of a Proffitt-style mountain banjo. As usual, you can use it directly or take it to your local print shop for a full size 18" by 36" print for a couple bucks. It's a melding of several Proffitt banjos I've collected photos and information on, so it's a pretty close fasimile of the real deal. Randy http://www.bluestemstrings.com/pageFPMB1.html
Rudy, Excellent idea. When I think of mountain banjos Profitt's I've seen come to mind first. To some people these banjos are just "primitive" but I see them as classic examples of elegently sophisticated pre-industrial design .
It has grown sketchy over the years but I remember a Frank Profitt fretted banjo made for Frank Warner. It was on the cover of Warner's first (I think) lp. The head had been very neatly signed on radius lines by about 20 people he met touring the folk circuit in the 60s. I believe that the "frets" were made from fence staples like those on my mountain dulcimer, but that might be a completely false memory.
I get so much joy out of my fretless MB... its totally out of proportion to its size, weight and cost. I think i might build one myself so i can have a semi fretted with a Ren head, the endless summer humidity and MY lack of accuracy up the neck are the only drag with it... MORE WOODIES MORE JOY (at worst ima get it printed and just put it on the wall to look at)
Thanks Rudy...your plans and notes are a wonderful resource. I learned about the mountain banjos as a teenager, from one of the Foxfire books. I've built a few other banjos, gourds and gourd-like, but I've long wanted to build a Proffitt style banjo. I bought one that was built in his style, from another BHO member, to use as a model for making my own. I had planned to disassemble it and sort of reverse engineer it. Problem is, I really love playing the thing so much, it has become my primary banjo, and I haven't bothered to take it apart.
It was made by J. Waller of West Putnam, FL in Nov of '95. It's pretty true to the Proffitt design, except that it has no tailpiece. There are five holes drilled in the upper rim piece, and the strings are threaded up through them from the back. Scale is 25 3/8 as I have it set up right now, rim is about 9 5/8 inch in diameter, with a 6" diameter skin head. It has some no-name looking friction tuners. When I got it, it had no bridge (weird...but that's another story), and was strung with fishing line for strings. I stuck a typical maple/ebony bridge on it that I had around, but those strings really weren't working. I restrung it with Nylguts, and made a new, chunkier bridge out of walnut, and have been extremely happy with it ever since. The design is simple, rugged, and compact, and as I do quite a lot of traveling, it suits me just fine. The only disadvantage it has is that I seem to have a harder time learning a new tune on a fretless banjo. Once I know the tune, though, fretless seems to be a lot more fun for me.
I still want to make some more...both accurate reproductions, and more modern interpretations, and your ideas will help quite a bit. Thanks again.
"When Banjos are Outlawed, only Outlaws will have Banjos."
I have a mountain banjo that Lowell Jacobs built for me. I've always enjoyed playing it. I've lugged it all over the place. Someday I'll have time to build my own banjos for fun. Hopefully this resource will still be out there when that happens.
Thanks alot for that. I was wanting to build one one time and got the the foxfire book with the banjo plans in it, but they were kind of unclear and harder to follow. The one you have there is very nice and clear. Thanks again Darren
Biz, Rick, and Darren, You're entirely welcome. Hopefully the site will be up for a long time, barring anything happening to me that would prevent its maintenance. I'll eventually add more content as I get time. My banjo building has been hindered by making other instruments, but hopefully I'll get some time freed up for banjo-related projects. I've got a really great stand I want to post plans and pics for sometime soon.