Even though this subject has been covered in many magazine articles which are reprinted on my website, and live interviews, the question keeps popping up on the Hangout about woods. So, just to set the record straight, here are the facts.
In the middle of 2000 I started building rims using new maple, and then sunken maple shortly thereafter. In October of 2001 Geoff Stelling played and liked my maple rim in his banjo. By February 2002 I was making maple rims for the Stelling banjo. It was written in chat lists that my maple rim was “best suited for a Stelling, and was too bright for Gibson styles.” Pickers were getting a better bass response from some ply rims. I found birch to be warmer and sent Geoff a sample. He changed his order the day he received the sample. Geoff received 12 maple rims. Kyle Smith, Bill Palmer, and Scott Zimmerman tested birch in Gibson style banjos, and maple became obsolete in my rim in March 2002.
In the middle of 2002 Paul Hopkins ordered maple and birch rims for the LouZee project. He and Mike Longworth made recordings of the different neck woods and platings in Paul’s recording studio. After IBMA 2002 Paul Hopkins, Mike Longworth, Bill Palmer, and myself had a meeting at Paul’s studio, where we listened to those recordings and played banjos. We all concluded that birch was the better choice, but also observed that the maple sounded better with chrome plating. We switched rims and platings to prove this, and maple became a "specialty" wood. Paul’s and Mike's LouZee chrome banjos have maple rims.
Since this meeting in 2002 I have protested the use of my maple rim to pickers and builders. Most listened but some just had to have it.
Kyle Smith will use maple to reach a particular sound that a customer might want, but not many maple rims have gone to Kyle.
Beech, on the other hand, sounds as good as birch, or even better, and it will work with all platings.
Other then that I still have 200 feet of the original 300 feet of maple I ordered in the beginning of 2002 and have gone through almost 5000 feet of birch.
If you should ever get to play a banjo with my rim, always ask what wood the rim is made of. You also have to consider set up.
The wood coding on my rims are as follows:
Maple has no red dot between the words- “Lost Forest” or “Lost Timbre”
Birch has a red dot between the words – "Lost.Forest" or “Lost.Timbre”
Beech has two red dots, one above the other – “Lost:Timbre”
For more insite on this subject go to www.tonypassbanjorims.com and read the article "Why Block"
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