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 ARCHIVED TOPIC: Banjo Builder Interviews - My 60th Birthday Present.

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mworden - Posted - 08/26/2011:  07:34:14


Originally posted by frailin

Thank you for your orders, everyone!!  THANK YOU!!  smiley

Can't wait to see the final product (not to mention volume 2).  

And happy Birthday!



pjxndvm - Posted - 08/26/2011:  09:34:19


Thanks, payment made for 2 copies, one for me, one to loan out. Can't wait to watch the videos, and waiting for volume 2.....maybe for an encore, you can talk to some of the resonator guys (heaven forbid!) for a second installment on banjos...


ScottK - Posted - 08/26/2011:  09:46:17

I've got the green light from the builder folks up in WA and OR for the last 10 days (or so) in October (they're gonna be around).   

Great news!  If you need  place to stay in Portland or want to have a picking party with some of the locals while you're here, let me know. 

Thanks again for all your effort!


JD APPLEPICKER - Posted - 08/26/2011:  12:31:11

Just ordered my copy!
Watched all the previews last night with the wife! (again)
This whole project is huge for giving these builders the proper awareness that they deserve! (I'm currently working on getting a custom banjo from Will Fielding)
Hope this helps their business grow as it also gives us great entertainment!

Thank you again Craig!

Good times,

frailin - Posted - 08/26/2011:  14:37:27



Every order than came in before 3P today got shipped... including you international folks (Shane in Ireland, Sandra and Graham in the UK, Caspar in Switzerland, Wolfgang in Germany and all you 'nord'ern neighbors' in Canada).

Thank you, everyone!  I'm a ways from breakeven, but I'm closer to funding the NW Banjo Builder Swing.  And right now, that's what matters the most... finishing up the Series.  

And thanks to all you kind folks offering me lodging.  I wish there was enough time to visit you all.  I keep meeting all these great new, yet familiar old friends.  

The fact that all this interest and warmth is centered around the banjo... what an amazing community exists!  


Maybe the banjo is the key to world peace.  approve

bricklifter1 - Posted - 08/26/2011:  14:45:22

Man--I'm glad I read the caption under the picture--at first i thought you were going to hand deliver all those packets. LOL

Can't WAIT!!!!!!!


Edited by - bricklifter1 on 08/26/2011 14:46:59

frailin - Posted - 08/26/2011:  14:58:35

I have to admit.  


From this in March...

To this the last week in May...

To this the day before my 59th birthday in August...

Is a VERY good feeling!  

And now, on to this!  


Then Cali-FORN-EYE-A next spring.  Mebbe I CAN finish this up by the time I'm 60.  big

My best present so far has been your reception to this work.  I'm intensely grateful so many of you folks love these guys (and this instrument) as much as I do.  I guess if you're gonna be a geek about something, it's truly a blessing to be able to surround yourself with like-minded friends.  Please know how much you're all appreciated.   smiley

Note:  I didn't call you geeky.  LIke-minded seems much more PC.  big

Edited by - frailin on 08/26/2011 15:07:12

GSCarson - Posted - 08/26/2011:  15:06:58

Great stuff Craig, looking forward to getting my copy and also following the next leg.  Happy 59th!  Glenn

ramjo - Posted - 08/26/2011:  15:33:09

Hey Craig. Here's an excerpt from an email exchange I recently had with Jason Romero.

me: I'm really looking forward to Craig (Frailin) Evans' visit to film your shop and interview you and Pharis. I saw the one he did via skype a few years ago--in fact, that sealed it for me, and it was shortly after that I contacted you to get on your list.

Jason: We're really looking forward to the interview with craig, it's a great project that he's started up........

He got that right.


pjxndvm - Posted - 08/29/2011:  11:57:38


The DVD sets came together perfectly. Thanks so much for your efforts. They will be enjoyed for some time to come.

frailin - Posted - 08/29/2011:  12:19:03

What did you hear?


I'm already being asked by folks to come and speak (present) about the Banjo Builders.  Clearly I have some impressions.  But I'm more interested in what you folks have to say about them.  

If, after you've watched all 14 of the builders in the East of the Mississippi series you wouldn't mind taking a few moments, I'd love to hear your feedback on: 

1 - Did you have a favorite builder?  If so, who and why?  

2 - Were the builders what you expected?  Why or why not? 

3 - Were you surprised or shocked by anything?  If so, what? 

4 - Did they inspire you?  Why or why not?

5 - Beyond the obvious messages (i.e. a builder's background, inspirations, favorites, techniques, etc.), did you hear/see or feel any other messages from these folks (either as individuals or a collective)?  If so, what were they?  

Brooklynbanjoboy - Posted - 08/29/2011:  16:10:52

1 - Did you have a favorite builder?  If so, who and why? 


I’ve owned banjos built by George Wunderlich, Lo Gordon, Mike Ramsey, and played banjos built by Chuck Lee.  They were all a pleasure to play. 

I’ve owned or worked on/repaired dozens of banjos.  I regard my banjo by Jeff Kramer, and my two banjos by Jason Burns, as my keepers.   They built the banjos with my requirements in mind, and they paid special attention to the overall architecture of the banjo.  The scoop.  The size and weight of the heel.  The diameter of the pot.  The contour of the neck.  All these were fashioned on the basis of what they thought an ideal banjo should look and feel like, and what they understood to be my sense of what I wanted to hear when I hit a banjo.  That made them my favorite builders.


2 - Were the builders what you expected?  Why or why not?


I was pleased to see such bright minds with interests beyond the banjo – art, organic farming, woodworking in general, music history, etc. 


3 - Were you surprised or shocked by anything?  If so, what?


I was surprised at how inventive and resourceful Ricard has been since his accident, and how his first thoughts were toward what his inventions might offer in terms of adaptability to others in similar circumstances.


4 - Did they inspire you?  Why or why not?


That, above, inspired me.


5 - Beyond the obvious messages (i.e. a builder's background, inspirations, favorites, techniques, etc.), did you hear/see or feel any other messages from these folks (either as individuals or a collective)?  If so, what were they? 


For the most part, these artisans have been able to combine wage earning with creativity, a rare coincidence of life requirements.   Their crafts feeds them, and feeds their souls.  That is a perfect thing.



DCM_Dan - Posted - 08/30/2011:  15:57:47

Craig, my wife gave me the go ahead to get the set for my 45th birthday!  Unfortunately, I no longer live across town from you - I'm back in Japan!  I will place me through your website. 

Thanks again for doing this! 


P.S. We'll bring you some more chocolate chip cookies, next time we are in Minnesota (though may be a while).

cmox - Posted - 08/30/2011:  16:37:26

Hi, Craig:
Just ordered. Can't wait for the Western swing. I agree with bricklifter's earlier comment....quit your day job and get back to filming!


BNJOMAKR - Posted - 08/30/2011:  16:53:06

I got my DVD today!!!!! My wedding anniversary is tomorrow. I guess it's a present to myself.

Thanks, Craig!

Edited by - BNJOMAKR on 08/30/2011 16:54:38

banjoholic - Posted - 08/30/2011:  20:46:33

Just finished watching the Bill Rickard one.

Can somebody please clone him so he can save the planet?

bricklifter1 - Posted - 08/30/2011:  21:58:31

Just sat down and watched the entire dvd set IN ONE SITTING. I have eye strain, but it's worth it! These guys are amazing--cant wait to see Brooks Masten and Jason Romero in the west coast swing. I wish they were longer interviews! I want to know more! (wait, what am I I want to go blind?) On second thought, they are perfect length.

Excellent series--can't wait for west coast!


pernicketylad - Posted - 08/31/2011:  15:19:18


1 - Did you have a favorite builder?  If so, who and why?  

​Kevin Enoch and Will Fielding. I admire their craftsmanship and attention to detail. Two straight-talking perfectionists with a true passion for their trade.

2 - Were the builders what you expected?  Why or why not?

I knew very little about any of them beforehand.

3 - Were you surprised or shocked by anything?  If so, what?

Just Bart Reiter's comment on the shopping cart full of groceries.

4 - Did they inspire you?  Why or why not?

​Their dedication to their trade and the work itself is inspirational.

5 - Beyond the obvious messages (i.e. a builder's background, inspirations, favorites, techniques, etc.), did you hear/see or feel any other messages from these folks (either as individuals or a collective)?  If so, what were they?  

​I have a new-found admiration for entrepreneurs/small much to think about, so many skills to master.

Edited by - pernicketylad on 08/31/2011 15:20:33

GSCarson - Posted - 09/02/2011:  21:01:59

Received Craig's Banjo Builder series dvd's this week and have to say once again, great job Craig! I am looking forward to the second leg of this journey as well. I know some of these guys but after watching all of the interviews only wish I lived closer to more of them....

frailin - Posted - 09/08/2011:  06:00:31

NEW FREE SHOW!! - Bill Rickard


Time for a change-out.  For those of you folks who have not yet purchased the DVD series, here's a look at one of the most amazing of the Banjo Builders... Bill Rickard.  

And here's the link to the free show: (or click on his picture above).  

I'm approaching sales of 100 units of Volume 1 (THANK YOU!).  I've even had donations sent in to help fund the next series of interviews (thanks, Uncle Kurty!).  My trip out to the great NW to capture 6 more builders and one retailer is now planned for late October.  I can't wait.  smiley

Thank you everyone, for your support of the Banjo Builder Project.  


Edited by - frailin on 09/08/2011 06:05:58

sugarinthegourd - Posted - 09/08/2011:  08:22:27

I ordered my copy a couple of days ago...can't wait to receive it!


Ron Ortegel - Posted - 09/08/2011:  11:08:37

Very nice Craig!

I have really enjoyed these. Some multiple times. These builders are all impressive and your presentation of them is to be commended.

I'm sure the West coast interviews will be as good.

Thanks for your efforts to do this work.



bricklifter1 - Posted - 09/08/2011:  12:39:53

How many builders are there going to be in the west coast leg?

Cant wait


bricklifter1 - Posted - 09/08/2011:  12:43:53

The Rickard interview was really inspiring--he has achieved so much despite his physical challenges. I kept thinking how lucky he and we are that his former occupation was in automation--it allowed him to produce components for banjos despite losing an arm and leg. From what he says, he went to a pretty dark place after the injury -- it sounds like the banjo business was therapeutic.

Seems like a really neat guy!


BUY THIS DVD--all the builders are inspirational/instructional in their own ways !


Edited by - bricklifter1 on 09/08/2011 12:46:44

bricklifter1 - Posted - 09/08/2011:  12:45:21

I was just in my shop (I build as an amateur) -- man I would like to have 1/10th the amount of tools he has.


frailin - Posted - 09/08/2011:  12:47:43

From October 14th - 21st I'll be traveling through Oregon, Washington, British Columbia and Colorado.  I'll be interviewing 6 builders and one retailer.  

Hey Chris, another of Bill's "gifts" is his ability to find and cobble together scrap materials, spare parts and USED machinery.  I think he commented that his machine producing hardware was $3,000,000 new... but he got it for waaay cheap off ebay.  

The guy is the original Radar O'Reilly. 

Edited by - frailin on 09/08/2011 12:53:47

J-Walk - Posted - 09/08/2011:  18:37:19


3 - Were you surprised or shocked by anything?  If so, what?



I haven't watched them all, but I was surprised by Bart Reiter. I always assumed he was like most banjo builders -- really into his work, and a lover of banjos. But it seems he's just in it for the money, and really doesn't care much about the art. Of all the builders, he's the only one I wouldn't care to meet.

At least that's the impression I got.


frailin - Posted - 09/08/2011:  21:57:32

J-Walk.  Your comments are fair.  But there's more to this story.  Unfortunately, that part isn't in the Program.  So I need to add it here. 

Bart was my very first Builder interview.  I knew of him but had never met him before.  The day of our filming we sat down over breakfast to get acquainted (his idea).  Without ever seeing a picture, I spotted him him the moment he entered the restaurant.  He's a character.  And within a few minutes, we were fast friends.  That bond will always be there.  But what happened next wasn't expected. 

I recorded Bart as he is today... at the end of a long, successful career.  Bart has constructed over 3,500 banjos, all of the highest quality and craftsmanship possible.  Anyone who has owned one or retailed them knows of his commitment.  All of the builders hold themselves to high standards.  But Bart's are the most complex.  I immediately sensed his values just in the way he handles himself and lives. During the taping he showed me the very first banjo he'd ever made.  It was amazingly similar to the 3,499th one... solid, accurate, esthetically pleasing.  He's clearly a craftsman, but his art is equally as formidable.  When he showed me banjo #1,000 - one of very few he has kept, it almost took my breath away (it's the one he's holding in this picture).  And it played as beautiful as it looked.  I commented on his skills.  True to his character, Bart downplayed my compliments.  He's a humble guy at heart.  But I know he felt pride.  

In addition to being skilled in the art form (of building), Bart has successfully turned his love of wood and making instruments into a profitable enterprise.  He's proud of that fact... and he should be.  It's tough to do.  The amount of thought that has gone into his shop, his production process, the procurement of his parts and his distribution channels is formidable.  He can literally turn out a quality, beautiful, bullet-proof banjo in 10 hours.  To say Bart's business is a well oiled machine is an understatement. For over 30 years that business has provided all he and his family could hope for.  But now, approaching 4,000 banjos, he's at the end of that cycle. He's done his service.  And he has performed it admirably.  For Bart, it's time to hang it up.  And in Bart's own crusty way, this Program was his swan song.   

Yeah, there were a few comments in there that would make you think he's really a capitalist at heart.  But looks can be deceiving.  I now know Bart much better than before.  He showed you (me) what he wanted you to see.  But I can tell you there's much more to the story... and the man.  His work speaks for itself.  His productivity and business acumen are beyond admirable.  He set a pretty high bar for those that want to follow his lead in this trade.  But please, don't for a minute feel the man is just in it for the money.  Yeah, I laughed at his jokes about getting the checks and buying groceries thanks to the banjo, but now I recognize the ruse was on me.  Bart has put his heart and soul into his work since the 70s.  And if you listen to Chuck Lee, Mike Ramsey and Kevin Enoch, they ALL commented Bart was the first to call them up and share his vendor lists, resources and experiences to help get them started.  His own competition!  Bart went out of his way to help them succeed!  He's pretty selfless that way.  He even makes wooden toys for kids, just because he can.  So don't buy the crusty routine.  He's got a huge heart in there.  He's also tired now and ready to move on to other adventures... like riding his motorcycle.  He deserves it.  I hope he rides for a long, long time.  

I'm grateful as hell I got to spend time with him and that he told some of his story to me, even though he put his twist on it.  But I know who he really is and the contribution he's made to our banjo community.  I want you to know that, too.  

Most of all, I'm grateful I can call him friend.  


Oh, one more thing J-Walk... you'd really like this guy.  Trust me on that.  smiley

Edited by - frailin on 09/08/2011 22:05:50

wormpicker - Posted - 09/08/2011:  22:10:42


Originally posted by frailin

But please, don't for a minute feel the man is just in it for the money.

If he does quality work and runs an honorable business, would it be such a bad thing if he was in it just for the money?


clawhammermike - Posted - 09/08/2011:  22:28:47

I loved my Bart Reiter standard.  For the money it couldn't be beat.  For some reason the interview with Bart had me wanting to jump on a train and run out there to learn from him while I still can.  He just seemed like my kind of dude and I dug the dry humor.  I love how his banjos are no nonsense and give you a great product at a good price point-  which seems a lot like the man in the interview.  He is capable of doing great detailed inlay work, but unless your right close, that is about the last thing a listener cares about and it adds $1000 dollars to the cost of your banjo.  I just wanted to share a different take on the interview with Bart.

Brooklynbanjoboy - Posted - 09/09/2011:  02:41:27


The key point that I got from the Reiter video was that one can build a business around an art form such as producing banjos, stick with elevated standards as an artisan, but still make a respectable and comfortable living out of this work, evolve and live by very civil practices as an entrepreneur or employer, and turn out a product that sells across decades because of its sturdiness and beauty.  I've never owned one.  I've played one or two. 

plunknplinkntwang - Posted - 09/09/2011:  04:45:41


don't spoil the endings - I've just ordered my set



Brooklynbanjoboy - Posted - 09/09/2011:  06:52:31

OK.  I won't tell you that the builders all live happily ever after...  (insert smiley face here).

pjxndvm - Posted - 09/09/2011:  10:16:23

I read an old post regarding this very topic. Gist of the post was that Bart was saying that there was nothing wrong with making a good living at what he was doing. I think other posters had said things to the contrary. It struck me as weird. Hey, everyone has the right to make the living that they can. Kudos to Bart. He charges what he needs to charge to make the living he needs or wants to. What's to begrudge? His banjos are solid and well built. They certainly are not like Doug Unger's banjos for sure, artistically. I think it depends on what you want in a banjo. I think Kevin Enoch has the same thing going with his tradesman banjos, good solid players, basic and functional. And then it seems like he takes the time to do a certain amount of time per year to do custom stuff. He should charge an appropriate amount (ie....$$$$$) for this artistic work, as this is worth it. Bart has found the sweet spot of price and profit. I had the same conversation with Craig as J Walk did after watching the video. I frequent Elderly a lot, and I know Bart used to work there, so I was expecting somewhat of a different personality based on the general feeling at Elderly, but after thought and reflection, I have adjusted my perspective.

On to Craig questions:

My favorite builder: If pressed to only one, it would be Doug Unger. This is because of the passion and love and artistry he puts into the instrument. Very close seconds would be Will Fielding for the passion he has for wood and his artistics and Chuck Lee for the same reason.

Were the builders what I expected? I honestly didn't know what to expect, so I can't answer.

Was I surprised or shocked at anything? Bart at first, but I thought through it with some help from Craig.

Did they inspire you? YES>>>YES>>>YES....I want to own banjos by Doug, Will and Chuck and in time I will. I want to start dabbling in banjo making and once I get a place set up in the basement, I want to order a kit from Bill Rickard. I am inspired by Bill Rickard. Great story and great triumph. Lessons I took away:

Beyond the obvious messages:
•Have passion for what you do, and if you don't, find something you have passion for.
•Have good business sense, I am in that grove anyway, as I employ myself.
•Overcome setbacks, you can do it. If Bill can, you can.
•Money isn't everything
•Money does count. If you can't make a profit, you can't keep your doors open.
•Go with the flow. Things will work out. Wood will match, and Will finds the perfect match for neck and pot.

J-Walk - Posted - 09/09/2011:  17:02:11

Well, I trust you Craig, so I've changed my opinion and I would like to meet Bart Reiter. But you asked for surprises, and I gave you one.

banjobart - Posted - 09/09/2011:  18:16:22

Not to be defensive, but just to set the record straight...

I gave away two banjos today. I could have sold them on Ebay for three grand instead. I have cut, hauled and given away 100 pickup loads of firewood from the farm the last 10 years. (Split and stacked for the female recipients.) I have given away several hundred toy cars made of banjo scrap wood through the MI Woodworkers Guild toys for the needy program. I donate annually to our local food bank and homeless shelter. I gave away during last year most of a 50 year accumulation of tools, furniture and household goods from the farm. I volunteer several hundred hours a year at a local non-profit club; doing the newsletter, taxes, books and ledgers, teaching, maintenance and repair. I host a meeting once a year for our Great Lakes motorcycle club and give away several hundred dollars worth of door prizes.

This is why I had to get it down pat to make 144 banjos a year in 25-40 hours a week, to free up my time for these other activities. I am a lousy capitalist. The only way I make money is a dollar at a time with my own two hands. Thanks for reading, Bart.

Edited by - banjobart on 09/09/2011 18:22:26

frailin - Posted - 09/10/2011:  08:50:14

Wow.  That's my boy!  I love this guy!!  big


Shawn Hoover - Posted - 09/10/2011:  13:10:42

I remember thinking, "That's so cool, he can get his work done in half a day and spend the rest of the day not breathing dust and finish."

sugarinthegourd - Posted - 09/10/2011:  14:37:21

Got Volume 1 yesterday and am really enjoying it so far!

Craig, are you planning to visit Colin Vance on your West Coast tour?


P.S. Since when it Texas East of the Mississippi? ;-)

frailin - Posted - 09/10/2011:  15:17:01

John. You're right. Don't watch Chuck Lee till next spring when volume 2 comes out. :)

Edited by - frailin on 09/10/2011 15:19:11

sugarinthegourd - Posted - 09/10/2011:  16:08:01

Sorry, being a smartass seems to be part of my nature -- but it's always in good humor!

banjobart - Posted - 09/10/2011:  19:26:16

I took my tools, bench and gear to give free workshops at several local acoustic music festivals and national Luthier Conventions to demo fret slotting, heel carving and pearl inlay. Plus I cooked up a pile of free hot dogs. I hosted two MI Woodworkers Guild meetings with hands on demos. I volunteered an inlay and engraving seminar at the Galloup Guitar Hospital in Big Rapids. I hosted our local Cub Scout troop and had all of the boys trying their hand at engraving pearl inlay. They were naturals! The moms gave me a hug and a few tins of popcorn. I use the empty tins to store banjo parts and recall this every day everytime I grab some banjo parts.

Edited by - banjobart on 09/10/2011 19:28:30

neillconnor - Posted - 09/10/2011:  22:27:30

I just bought my copy of the video, looking foreword to it.

. The uk has real fine banjo builders, not as many as the USA obviously, but a few....griffin, Davies, Dave stacy and probably several others I've not come across yet. I picked a repro neck up recenly from Dave stacy and when he arrived he was in his garage attending to what I thought was a home made still. Turns out it was his home made steamer for bending rims. Fascinating contraption. James Bowan of griffin recently had an open day to Mark his 100 th build and part of the days event included a tour of his workshop to see how he actually made the banjos. He had an old machine , a sort of pentograph that You traced a photo or whatever and it reproduced the image in mother of pearl inlays. It also scaled them either smaller or larger

Edited by - neillconnor on 09/10/2011 22:43:06

neighbour - Posted - 09/11/2011:  03:54:03

have nt ordered my dvd yet , but watched the freebie last month on Bart Reiter - twice .  first time raised an eyebrow at couple of comments second time i laughed and thought i like this man, he s  straight up ,funny and real .looking forward to ordering when the kids look fed enough for awhile.

MarkRough - Posted - 09/11/2011:  04:10:59

I am loving the first DVD. Probably not as much as Craig loved making it, but still. . .

Great job, Craig!

bricklifter1 - Posted - 09/11/2011:  13:35:56

At first I thought Reiter was kind of a downer. Then I realized that he is simply experienced. I see allot of myself in him: he has been doing his job for long enough that there might not be allot of **WOW** in his demeanor when it comes to his business. I work an interesting and challenging job that most people would not find boring. However, after 16 yrs of doing it, I no longer have the **WOW** level of youthful enthusiasm. I still like it, I approach it with a certain level of passion and enthusiasm, but it is a business that has settled into a daily routine: not allot really blows my skirt up anymore. I suspect Bart is the same--he may be ready for new chapters in life--even if they are IN ADDITION to the banjo business for now, and IN STEAD OF the banjo business in the future.

His dry sense of humor kind of flies in the face of modern business communication: he is sort of gruff about his avocation instead of parroting the "happy, keep it light, tell everybody that is all about the craft" stuff. He's using banjos to buy groceries--more power to him. I'd of laughed my butt off if he had said that some customers are jerks, or something to that effect because it would have been REAL !

These interviews are documentary in nature--I am glad to see the incredible diversity of production methods and philosophies--some are higher volume production-oriented (Reiter), some are very artistic in nature (Unger), some are a hybrid (Lee). You have a spectrum of approaches from very practical (Reiter, Enoch) to very academic and history-minded (Ross, Wunderlich).



Edited by - bricklifter1 on 09/11/2011 13:45:57

bricklifter1 - Posted - 09/11/2011:  13:37:57

I had a thought after posting the last message: how about more views of the shop layout: I'm a woodworker, and that kind of thing really gets me interested. Maybe if its just a few panning shots of the tools, workbenches, etc. The Golbreath interview was closest to what I was thinking.


frailin - Posted - 09/11/2011:  15:50:13

I was out of town for the weekend at my cousin's on the Mississippi in Iowa.  Beautiful country!!  To answer some questions:

 - Colin Vance IS on the second half of my Western Swing (when I cover California... probably May).  In October I'm traveling to the NW (Washington, Oregon, British Columbia and Colorado on the way back). 

 - Thank you for the comments about the DVDs!  And yes, Mark... as I was filming these guys I WAS pinching myself in disbelief.  Being able to hear their stories and visit their shops was one of the highlights of my life.  smiley

 - Chris.  As much as time allows, I'm trying to take still shots of the builder's set up.  I too am fascinated with tools, especially those with "character." George Wunderlich's shop was AMAZING!  He had a drill from the 1840s and files and spoke shaves from the same period.  Doug Unger has this incredible old jeweler's saw.  And Greg Galbreath actually had a rim/pot mold from Kyle Creed!  As much as I can, I'm trying to work those into the shows.  Thanks for noticing and your suggestion does encourage me to try and get more.  approve

Ok.  Got some more DVD orders to fill.  Thank you, folks!


Will1717 - Posted - 09/11/2011:  16:33:42


I understand completely in regards to your comments about passion for your work. When I was in my early 30's I had thought seriously about building guitars for a living, but made a decision to get into what I considered a real job at the time. I also was scared that if I took my passion into a business it just may become a job. For the remaining 35 to 40 years I first worked in heavy construction, paid off the mortgage and then took over a family manufacturing business. There was a point in my life that I became so passionate about running my own business that I hardly slept!  It was 7 days a week and 14 hour work days. I guess I got to travel the world and made lots of money,but I now wonder at what price. I use to say that when I drop dead it will be in the company parking lot! I just lived for work! Then as you all know, I got smashed up real bad and everything changed. Shortly after, manufacturing hit one of the biggest recessions in our working lifetimes. After looking in the mirror you realize what's real important in life. It's not lots of money for sure. As I say you'll never see a U-Haul truck following a Hurst!  Interesting but after my accident probably less than 50% of my business friends came to see or help me. Not the same for my musical friends! I've come to the conclusion that business today is totally different than say 25 to 30 years ago. It seems that today that it's all about who can do who, and how much you can get for yourself, regardless of the ethics. Ethics seems to be a thing of the past in the corporate world. Who needs it when you can hide behind a computer screen! I've recently wound down my manufacturing company from over 85 staff to approx. 20 people. Being that I'm a real people person it was probably the hardest thing that I've ever had to do in my life. Lots of sleepless nights to say the least. The I ended up with 4 or 5 legal suites for wrong dismissal claims + one huge legal suite from Mississippi for a death of a young man that got caught up in a machine, that I'd designed and built. Fortunately after 3 years of discoveries they settled and agreed that the accident wasn't from my negligence, but was the result of the user company running the machine with no guards. All a good reason to walk away from it all and build banjos!

My biggest concern today is that building banjos remains fun, which I'm pretty positive that at my age it should. Give me 15 years and I'll hopefully make it to 80 and then maybe get back to guitar building for the next 10 or 15 years! Wishful thinking.

Apologize to all for the long winded story above but because of my background and past experiences I feel I pretty qualified to understand where Bart is coming from. Bart has taken on building banjos as his main occupation, and to me he's extremely wise to make the decision that he shared with us all. After all those banjos it's probably time to move on to another interest in life. I've only spoken to Bart a couple of times on the phone but I [picked up his honesty and dry sense of humour immediately. I think its great that he's been able to support his family + buy the groceries for all these years by building banjos! Time to seriously think about touring on that motorcycle while you still can Bart. If not you may blink, and time will pass you by, and you won't have the strength to swing your leg over the saddle! Do it while you still can (but be real careful at the same time!) You've done more for the banjo world in our times than any of us! Enjoy life and don't take anyones opinions too seriously!

Bill Rickardblackeyesmileybigbig



Edited by - Will1717 on 09/11/2011 16:35:34

bricklifter1 - Posted - 09/11/2011:  20:43:41

Thanks for the reply Mr. Rickard. I agree with EVERYTHING you said about the business world.

You can't take it with you. I find that the more crap I have, the more claustrophobic I feel from all the crap I have.  As I age, my most prized possessions are becoming health, family, knowledge and integrity: not size of house, value of car, and wealth of bank account. 

I spent last Wednesday afternoon in the little (20'x30') machine shop of a 85 yr old machinist in my little town.  I went in at 11 am to inquire about buying some octagonal brass rod for some banjo nuts I'm making.  When I told him what I was doing, he gave me the tour of his shop (unbelievable what he collected over 60 yrs!) and insisted on showing me how to turn the pieces so that the ends were rounded and a hemi-circular relief taken out of the sides.  He kept asking if he was taking too much of MY time.  I returned:  "Are you kidding, I was afraid of taking you away from your work".  "Not in the least" was his reply.  I was there for 4 HOURS.  We struck a deal--in return for me providing him with some of my services, he's going to give me another couple hours of metal lathe instruction--that will be a memory I will always have--and it was free!  10 years from now I won't remember the business deal I made later that day (with a real schmuck) that made our business some money.

The way I look at it, every time one has such an experience, we help counter the materialistic, unethical, ends-justifies-the-means society we seem to be building.  The machinist didn't need to give me his time--most would have blown me off.  I didn't need to act so interested in his craft (I wasn't acting)--I could have coldly and impatiently rejected his offer of a tour and stuck to procuring from him the rod I wanted.  Instead, I learned a ton, an older (I suspect somewhat lonely ) gentleman got to show off his shop and his knowledge, accumulated over a lifetime, and there was some civility created.   No rushing, no conflict, no strategizing to get the best deal: just calm discourse and transfer of wisdom.

In life, create civility...most people crave it and they don't even know it.  With civility comes substance, charity, empathy and honesty.  With empathy and honesty comes ethics.

Anyway Mr. R:   Your response was dead-on......


Sorry, I may have ranted a bit. Don't mean to become too existential or preachy   ;-)


Edited by - bricklifter1 on 09/11/2011 21:33:32

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