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White Mountain Banjo A Scale - After the Honeymoon

Sunday, October 19, 2014

I wanted to report a little on my White Mountain Short Scale Banjo. I want state that this banjo was NOT finished by Ron Grimsley at WMB. I bought the short scale neck from him off a classified ad here on the Banjo Hangout. It was unfinished and the scale was about 24.5 ~ 24.75 inches. I had Mark Hickler turn the half resonator rim for me. Both the neck and rim are walnut. The rim had a rosewood tone ring. The neck has peg head veneer of rosewood as well. I sealed and finished the banjo myself with laquer.

When I finished the banjo it was originally set up with a med crown Renaissance head and no knot tailpiece and what I guess was a generic grover type bridge. for me the action was not correct for my playing preference. The crown on the head was not deep enough making the tension hoop sit too high. I think this definitely needed a high crown head. I had some trouble dialing in the set up too at first. There were a lot of over tones that I needed to deal with. So I began doing some tweaks.

I purchased a high crown Elite Fiberskyn head and replaced the no knot tailpiece with a Fielding tailpiece. This helped with the over tones some but the head was a little dull sounding. I began adjusting the head tension some and came up with a good tension for this rim. I put a 6" ruler and the 2" mark at the bridge. I tightened it to where I could just barley slip, or snap a dime under the ruler was about the right tension for the Fiberskyn head on this rim. It is fairly tight by open back standards but sounds good like this on this banjo.

I had it like this for a while and was never really satisfied with the tone. I played off an on but played other banjos I had more. After playing it off and on for a while I noticed about a month ago the banjo was really sounding pretty sweet. I know a lot of guitars open up after being played for a while. I am not sure if this is the case with banjos but man I swear this thing has gotten a real sweet tone compared to a when I first finished it. I have been playing this banjo more and more as the day go by, I swear the tone keeps getting sweet and louder than it was initially.

Today I made one more tweak. I initially wanted this scale so that I could go from G/CC to A/DD tuning without a capo. The issue I had was a heavier string gauge sounded better tuned to G but lighter strings sounded better when tuned up to A. When I tuned down to G/CC there were over tones and the string felt a little lax. I started trying to figure out where my string tension and gauge to get the best for both tunings. I chose these gauges from 1st to 5th ( .011; .013; .015; .024b; .010). I also put on a Kershner tailpiece. I thought this helped with over tones especially when tuned down to standard pitch.

The result is at this point, this is about my sweetest sounding banjo right now. I think I have the right head, right string gauge and tailpiece for this type of rim. At leas to my ears anyway. I am amazed at how much a banjo settles in after making changes and after it has been made. I guess it is just like a fine guitar as they get better with age.

Anyway the WMB/Hickler rim banjo design is a little different from the standard open back design but it sure sounds great. It has clear note separation (I think this has to do with the Kershner tailpiece and the downward pressure) but every note sounds real sweet.

I know this is not a traditional White Mountain Banjo but I suspect their Sholo model with wood tone ring may not sound much different.

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Genre: Old Time
Playing Style: Clawhammer and Old-Time

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Playing Since: 2012
Experience Level: Novice

[Jamming] [Socializing]

Gender: Male
Age: 56

My Instruments:
Cedar Creek 12" Maple woody

White Mountain Banjo Neck & Hickler 11" Walnut and Rosewood tone ring internal resonator rim ~ 24.5' Scale

Bell & Sons Boucher Minstrel Replica Kit

Prust 13" Basic Tackhead

Guild six string jumbo

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Created 7/17/2013
Last Visit 10/28/2016

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