As a long-time member of the BHO, I have really appreciated the community of fine musicians and friendly people on this forum. I have learned so much by reading other peoples' threads, asking questions, and simply watching (often in awe) the photos people post of their building process.
I was wondering if there is any interest in a builder internship program? I know that there are different classes offered (e.g. the John C. Campbell folk school), but I'm personally interested in spending a week (or several) learning directly from a builder on a one-to-one basis. I don't have any illusions of going into business myself as a banjo builder (heck, I'd even sign a non-compete form), but I do enjoy it as a hobby and would like to get better at it.
Well, if you cannot find anyone close to you, go buy some wood and some books and tools as you need them and start building. I can reccommend, Scruggs book, Banjocraft and the Roger Siminoff book on 5 string (bluegrass style) construction.
Since it is a one on one you are looking for you shouldn't have a problem... But normally folks aren't willing to taking on apprentices or attempt teaching while doing their own building... for good reason.... But I would think that a builder might be willing to contract for a two week course, one on one. It would be expensive, but intense, and you should learn quite a bit about approaching banjo builds or repair, tools, safety, etc. so that you could intelligently assemble your own shop at home. I think the mistake that many beginners make is buying more fancy expensive power tools than necessary and perhaps guidance on that might be worth the cost of the experience.
Check out this discussion: banjohangout.org/topic/233209 . While it is not an internship and not a one-on-one experience, it was well worth my time and money to spend almost a week building a banjo with Don Kawalek. There were two banjo and four mandolin builders in the course. Even with six of us, I found plenty of time to ask questions which were answered with thoughtfulness and a vast storehouse of knowledge. Actually I am still asking Don questions by email and expect to visit his shop next month for a little one-on-one time.
@Fathand--that's the technique I'm currently using (plus Rudy's banjo building guide). It works well, but it's hard to ask a book a question.
@Bart--I've made that mistake in the past too. I'm in the process of selling off some of those fancy tools now! You're right about the cost too--I imagine it would be an expensive process.
@Ken---I did see your thread and enjoyed reading about your experience. You walked away with an awfully good looking banjo! Ideally, I'd like to do something where I started with raw lumber and went forward from there. I know that's not a possibility in a class setting however. An intensive private class or internship situation, however, might provide such an opportunity.
Noah, I can appreciate starting from raw lumber. I learned enough at the workshop to try my hand at that. I have some walnut, maple and cherry that would make good necks. Right now I am thinking about building a bending jig for the rim. So once I make a few tools to work with, I plan to start building from scratch. I will probably still purchase the metal parts as I am not experienced at metal working.
Builders (Helix, Rudy, Uncle Fogey, Ken, etc.)--what do you think about this idea? Would you be willing to offer a private class or have someone intern with you? Why or why not? What would be deciding factors for you?
The funny thing is, I was criticized for not having an 'Engineering team.' It turned out my customers were highly experienced test engineers, automotive engineers and other thinkers who came forward with the real experience of the difference with a Helix.
Now when somebody was making a film about banjo builders, some of us with keen and great humor told him to stay away.
Bordertown Brown visited me, was not judgemental, was curious, interested in some of my own unique solutions. That's why no film, we're not going to broadcast proprietary ideas. Richard has a new shop in Sedona, AZ.
Bring CDs, I've been playing Ross Nickerson.
And to be included in the same sentence with Uncle Fogey and Uncle Rudy is a compliment, but I'm just the nephew Helix, humble, silent, respectful, courteous, clean, thrifty, brave, reverent, sheeeeeeeeeee.................( ))='= ::}
I know Roger Siminoff offers Luthierie Camps though out the summer. You get in contact with him. Not sure how far Atascadero, CA is for you. You might be able to do a one on class with him. You also might try luth.org. good luck