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The banjo reviews database is here to help educate people before they purchase an instrument. Of course, this is not meant to be a substitute for playing the instrument yourself!

6856 reviews in the archive.

John Boulding

Submitted by jchipps_1 (see all reviews from this person) on 6/13/2019

Overall Comments

I recently sent my RK36 neck to John to do a full re-fret with EVO frets, and also a speed neck finish.

He did a great job, at a reasonable cost.

He contacted me when he received the neck, and also when the work was complete, providing me the return shipping info and tracking #.

The package arrived with the neck well packed and good condition.

He also contacted me a couple days later to ask if I'd gotten the neck re-installed,  and how i liked the feel of it etc.

It was a very smooth transaction from start to finish, and he completed the work in a timely manner.

I would highly recommend John for any Luthier work you might need. 

J. Chipps

Overall Rating: 9

Chris Cioffi

Submitted by palc (see all reviews from this person) on 4/29/2019

Overall Comments

“REBIRTH OF A SPECIAL BANJO”.    Brought back to life by Chris Cioffi.

My dad and  I made a banjo from scratch many years ago when I was a senior in high school by following instructions in the back of Earl Scruggs’ banjo book.   Purchased most parts from First Quality and relied on my dad’s significant woodworking skills.   We shaped the neck, fit the heel, installed binding and frets, cut and inlayed hearts and flowers mother of pearl and finally stained and finished.

It actually turned out pretty nice, and I ended up playing this banjo in country and bluegrass bands for about 12 years ( even played it on the Grand Ole Opry stage in in the late 80’s at the Wrangler Country Showdown contest).  Eventually, I got the Stelling bug and Gibson reissue bug and was able to get a high quality professional banjo and stuck my “Dad banjo” in a a closet for many years

Fast forward a number of years when my dad passed away (2014) , I dusted off the old banjo that was wore out and rough looking, and played it at the funeral service and realized how much it meant to me.

i decided to get this banjo refurbished to really pop and get the best possible sound with as many of original parts as possible.  Only one guy came to mind to do this.. Chris Cioffi.   He did my Baldwin Ode D rework (reviewed on the Hangout) and I also bought one of the few original complete Cioffi banjos ( review of this one coming soon)   Both have turned out great;   Quality, attention to detail second to none.

i discussed my idea with Chris and took the banjo to Nashville to show him.   He was very enthusiastic about doing the project, loved the story, and jumped in to start the professional rework I wanted.

He tore it down, corrected some mistakes my dad and I made during original construction.  Some of the highlights included.. neck to pot fit, stainless steel frets, new binding, new flange and resonator refit 5th string peg, add spikes, thin down peg head to proper thickness, polish and buff all metal parts, and finally an outstanding finish on the neck.

My banjo looks amazing now, like showroom new shine, with a lot of pop!   Plays and sounds great.  So proud of this banjo and know it will be a special piece in my family for years to come.

Thanks Chris Cioffi!  Yet another outstanding job.  Banjo players everywhere need to get to know Chris and what his capabilities are      ( also a really nice guy).  You will be very impressed.

 

Overall Rating: 10

Bart Veerman

Submitted by mygrassisblue5 (see all reviews from this person) on 4/15/2019

Overall Comments

Hello Everyone who was kind enough to put it out there to help me and to everyone else at the Banjo Hangout. Without you I would not have found Bart.
I would like to tell you that my afternoon with Bart Veerman was an awesome experience, not only was he gracious host to me and my 1978 RB-100 he taught me so much about setting up a banjo. He got my banjo singing with perfect harmonics and a banjo that resonates for miles. The sustain lasts for ever and it is such a joy to play. I know there are a lot of people who dislike this instrument but after Bart got done with it you would probably change your mind. I bought this banjo for $900 Canadian and once I took a closer look at it I was a bit worried but Bart got everything worked out and it looks 1000 times better. I bought this banjo because my other banjo was just to heavy for my degrading health, my arthritic hands and back to pick up. It also is easier on my back and neck when playing. It was in almost never played condition, the nickel plating is in amazing shape but has some age marks associated with something that wasn't really cared for properly but as Bart says they are only aesthetics what counts is the sound that comes from the banjo.
So needless to say my experience with Bart was one I will remember for a life time and you should really check out his work, he is a beautiful craftsman and he really knows his stuff.

Just came back from my post setup appointment with Bart and as he said the banjo needed the head tightened as it had stretched quit a bit. Once again my RB-100 is singing to its full potential.

I would recommend anyone in Southern Ontario to contact Bart if they are having a problem with their banjo as well as anyone that belongs to the Banjo Hangout. I have included a link to his website as it is a wealth of knowledge when it comes to the Banjo Bridge and it also shows his hand crafted bridges that are available or if you need something custom made. You will not be disappointed.

Thank you again Bart and to the people who turned me on to him.

I will catch you on the back beat!

Robert Stephens

Kitchener, Ontario

Canada

  https://banjobridge.com

Overall Rating: 10

Chris Cioffi

Submitted by sixish (see all reviews from this person) on 4/2/2019

Overall Comments

I had the good fortune to come across one of the 1981 Goldstar JD Crowe models (#12) a few years back.  I purchased it and enjoyed playing it for the past six years but always felt like it needed some in-depth TLC beyond a head change and new strings.  Looking at the luthier reviews on the hangout I found that Chris Cioffi had had several older Goldstars, including a few of the Crowe models, through his shop with great results and satisfied customers.  After leaving mine with him I can say that I too am very pleased with what he was able to do.  In a word, he made an outstanding instrument excellent in all regards!
  
Flawless stainless steel frets, recut heel to bring the neck into correct alignment, small resonator repair, along with fixing, correcting, adjusting, polishing of everything else brought my instrument to a whole new level!  It is an absolute joy to play.  The action is correct up and down the entire neck now.  Correct reseating of the tone ring on the rim made the overall tone and volume range of the instrument so much more evident and musical in all positions.  Dynamic playing without sacrificing tone comes much more easily now.  It is hard to put this thing down!

I completely enjoyed my time with Chris while at his shop.  We of course talked banjos and bluegrass, but Chris and I found our way to discussing music of all sorts, stereos,  literature, movies, plus whatever else we could think of.  When you go plan to spend a couple of hours (at least) during drop off and pick up, not just for the conversation but for the time it takes for Chris to fully understand what your desires are for your instrument, a full breakdown inspection for anything else that might need attention, a quick evaluation of your playing style, plus, upon pickup he wants to ensure that he was able to accomplish those things for you.  Bring your picks so you can play!  It's part of the diagnosis process and is no pressure.  It is another facet of the process that will help him give you his very best.
 

Chris specializes in fully rebuilding banjos, whether pre-war or modern, to ensure that all the parts are working in optimal concert.  He does not perform quick string/head setups. It may take several weeks, possibly months - plan on having another banjo to play in the meantime - for him to fully dial an instrument in to its potential.  This time is necessary to ensure that all  the work is completed accurately and that the banjo has time to sit and adjust to being under tension and played.  Even a small adjustment might take a couple of days to truly evaluate the outcome on the tone.  Quality workmanship like this takes time so be prepared. 

If you  want to ensure that your banjo is performing at its absolute apex, give Chris a call to discuss your needs. The time and cost for this may not be for everyone, but if you are a professional or serious amateur that wants to entrust your instrument to a meticulous expert that will help your banjo be the very best it can be, then Chris Cioffi is your guy.  The woodshed time is then up to you.  Highly recommended!

Overall Rating: 10

John Boulding

Submitted by Kevin B (see all reviews from this person) on 3/21/2019

Overall Comments

John just did a refret with stainless steel frets on my Gibson style 3 and I couldn't be happier.  His attention to detail is amazing.  John went above and beyond correcting other issues he found.  After he was done and the banjo was back together it sounded better than it has in a while.  If you need work done on a fretted instrument I encourage you to see John.  Being located in Mt. Airy NC is a plus if you are dropping your instrument off or picking it up.  The town is a great experience (Mt. Airy is the town Andy Griffith's Mayberry is based on).

Overall Rating: 10

Banjo Warehouse - Andy Hohwald

Submitted by jkroening (see all reviews from this person) on 2/8/2019

Overall Comments

Last week I discovered that there is a banjo paradise in Atlanta!  I immediately made an appointment to have my Gold Tone OB 250 set up after two years of banging away at it.  Andy Hohwald had it ready the next day and I think it plays better than the day I bought it new.  It's called the Banjo Warehouse.  All of the high dollar banjos I read about on the BHO are right there for you to see, touch, and play.  We are lucky to have this resource in Atlanta and should make a point to support them!

Overall Rating: 10

Chris Cioffi

Submitted by jRook22 (see all reviews from this person) on 1/28/2019

Overall Comments


For 20 years I have been searching for my “LIFE” Banjo and I have finally found it. That would of never happened if not for Chris Cioffi. I brought him a pile of parts that I never thought could be much of a banjo and he turned it into the best banjo I have ever played. It’s so good I can’t put it down. I started out with just a beat up 60s bowtie neck and reso and Chris transformed it into a banjo that looks and playes like it just came off Gibson’s factory floor. Better actually. His stainless steel frets are by far the best I’ve ever played. This thing playes like butter. There is no words for the fine work he did on this Banjo. I will never use another luthier as long as Chris is in business. He is no doubt the best banjo luthier there is. I will eventually have Chris to refret and overhaul all of my Banjo’s. Every part on this Banjo is fit perfectly from peg head to tailpiece. He basically built this banjo from scratch. Chris’s attention to detail is unbelievable. If you send your banjo to him I guarantee you will not leave disappointed. He does not accept anything but perfection.

  I could not be happier with the work Chris did for me. He is a outstanding guy that does outstanding work. He kept me informed throughout the whole process with pictures and updates on the progress. It was a joy doing business with him and I can’t wait to do business with him again. Not only did I get a killer banjo out of this but a great friend to. 

  If your looking for a great trustworthy banjo luthier look no further and contact Chris you will not regret it I promise!!

Overall Rating: 10

Chris Cioffi

Submitted by TubeandPlate-3 (see all reviews from this person) on 1/20/2019

Overall Comments

I had recently picked up my 1928 style 3 from Chris Cioffi's. The list of work he did is quiet lengthy. But there are three things he did that I want to talk about in detail. They go as follows... stainless steel frets, fe-fitting the heel, and repositioning the lag bolts. I had already wanted to go to stainless steel frets before I found Chris, and a big part of why I found Chris is because he is pro stainless. Many Luthier's won't do stainless frets because "they're to much work" or because i won't be able to " charge you for a fret dress later down the road". I personally feel that stainless steel frets are great, they feel great, look great, and they will virtually never wear out. The way that Chris levels, dresses, and polishes the stainless frets is superb. I have personally held other necks next to one of his and the fret work is night and day. This is just one of the many places were his perfectionism shines through. If your on the fence about stainless frets just remember, you have about four re-frets to a fret board if your lucky. After that your banjo will need a new fret board.... that's major surgery. Talk to Chris about stainless you won't regret it.

Next I want to talk about Mr.Cioffi's heel work, The way your heel fits to your banjo is paramount. Chris settles for nothing less than perfect, I have never seen a better neck fit than what he can do, and he makes them look super clean also. From the neck gap by the tension hoop, to how the heel fits are the flange... everything is tight a clean. Well except for the neck gap of course lol... Even his neck gaps are super clean looking. they're not to big or to small, and are nice and even from one side of the fret board to the other.

The third thing I will touch on is repositioning the lag bolts. Chris is big on this by repositioning the lag bolts Chris is putting your fret board level with the pot. Chris can do a much better job with explaining this than I ever could. But I can tell you that it is very visually pleasing, and I know it plays a role in how the pot and neck fit together. Banjo's are a synergy of parts, if everything doesn't fit together just perfect your banjo will not perform to its fullest potential. I'm telling you Chris will get every ounce of potential your banjo has to offer out.....Period!

When I got down to Chris' to pick up my banjo I couldn't believe how it sounded. Growly lows, sizzling highs, and nice even true tone all over the fingerboard. It's hard to describe to people what needs to be heard, in order to understand the caliper of work Chris puts out. But let me put it to you this way... I have multiple banjos and two out of the heard are Mr.Cioffi's work. They're the only two I play on a daily basis anymore. My other banjos just simply do not perform like those two do. The two banjos that are his work are the banjos this review is about. Which is a 28 tube and plate raised head, and the other is an oriole bracket shoe banjo that Chris built a neck for. The oriole still has its uncut rim and brass hoop in it. I have two flathead banjos that I never play... they sound like half the banjo that my tube and plate and the oriole are. "Gasps, screams, children crying and say it isn't so" he plays a raised head and a hoop banjo before a flathead!! lol. All joking aside my flatheads are good banjos, But they need a visit to Chris's shop for sure.

 There is one other thing that Chris does that sets him apart from others and that is pictures.. lots of detailed pictures. From the beginning of your project to the very end Chris sends you photo's. These are detailed pictures of how the progress of your banjo is coming along, and with the pictures usually follows a detailed email or a phone all explaining the pictures. You're never left in the dark or have to be nervous about your banjo being with Chris. He has no wool folks... and if he did he would never pull it over your eyes. Chris is a compassionate and honest person, that will never tell you something just because it's what you want to hear or because its monetarily lucrative for him. Chris is an amazing luthier with talent like no other, he is a great friend to many. And the only guy that I will have work on my banjos. Call Chris Cioffi today and your banjo will thank you!!

     - Marcel.

Overall Rating: 10

Chris Cioffi

Submitted by Lil Otter (see all reviews from this person) on 1/12/2019

Overall Comments

I sent Chris an underperforming Ome Grand Artist Megatone.  He did a yeoman’s job on it and it is outstanding now!  Throughout the period he worked on the banjo he kept close contact with me, reviewing his work and findings, including his detection and correction of a fault that the rim did not properly fit the tone ring.  The banjo has extensive engraved inlay and Chris exercised extra expertise to avoid damage as he installed new stainless steel frets.  He also provided me with an precise explanation and photographs of each step of his work.   I highly recommend Chris and his work.

Overall Rating: 10

Chris Cioffi

Submitted by jakeworkman11 (see all reviews from this person) on 1/11/2019

Overall Comments

I just got my Huber VRB-3 back from Chris and I'm sincerely blown away.  Wow!  It's never sounded even close to this good, and it was still a great banjo before.  From first meeting Chris and then having a chance to communicate back and forth about my banjo I realized just how much of a perfectionist he is.  He cares so much about customer service and takes great pride in doing excellent work.  He gives thorough updates along the way as he's working on things and you never feel nervous in any way trusting him with your instrument.  I had new stainless frets put in ( so beautifully done), refitting/fixing of most parts within the pot assembly, a neck reset and a few other things.  Basically an overhaul of the entire banjo.  I'm so impressed and now so excited to play it more than I ever was.  What a nice guy and what an amazing gift he's got.  I've had plenty of experience with luthiers for various fixes along the way with all my instruments and none gave me the confidence that Chris does.  

 

Overall Rating: 10

Chris Cioffi

Submitted by kentmcl (see all reviews from this person) on 12/17/2018

Overall Comments

Chris Cioffi took the banjo I had and gave me back the banjo I always wanted.  Crisp and punchy, deep and gutty.  Fat and full.  Every note literally pops – from open strings to the 22nd fret.  Clean, distinct separation between notes.  When you bear down it just gets louder – MUCH louder – without the tone degrading or hardening.  It has THE sound – that indescribable flathead tone we all want but very, very few banjos deliver.  Equally amazing is how it feels – the banjo vibrates so profoundly it feels alive when you play it – from the neck to the resonator this banjo lives and breathes.  The stainless-steel frets are silky-smooth and a joy to play.  The ONLY problem I’ve been able to find is that I can’t put it down.

To be sure, Chris had good materials to work with.  My banjo is a 1981 Gold Star JD Crowe model #810080 – the last one built.  I ordered it new after playing the demo banjo at the Gold Star booth at the ’81 NAMM Convention – that banjo really impressed me (and may very well be the same banjo Russ Carson plays today).  In those days I made my living with the banjo – taught around 70 students per week, played with pickup bands in bars at night, with my regular band at festivals on weekends, and anywhere else I could make a few bucks playing. 

But when the banjo I ordered arrived, I was disappointed.  It sounded ok but not very lively – somewhat muddy - and certainly didn’t compare to the banjo I’d played at the NAMM show.  I tinkered with it for years but was never really satisfied.  Eventually I moved onto a different career and pretty much lost interest – until I came across Russ Carson’s youtube channel and by extension, Chris Cioffi.

From what I can tell, Chris’ service is unique.  He doesn’t just “setup” your banjo, he effectively remanufactures it – the way it should have been manufactured in the first place.  He fits every component together with a fanatical precision that yields incredible results.  If you think about it, music is sound, sound is vibration, and if every single component of your instrument is not vibrating in unison, if the tone ring and flange are not perfectly fit to the rim, if the neck isn’t seated precisely against the pot assembly over exactly the required surfaces with exactly the right tension, if you’ve warped your rim with coordinator rod tension in order to get the action right, if the heel of your neck is too tight to the resonator notch, if there’s any delamination going on in your rim (common in many old banjos), if your frets aren’t seated optimally, and on and on and on and on, your banjo cannot perform to it’s potential.  Instead of a fine instrument you have a collection of fine parts bolted together and trying to work independently of one another.

We banjo players tend to obsess over those parts – this tone ring or that flange material or maple vs. mahogany, and so forth.  We endlessly swap parts in search of that elusive sound.  But that approach is doomed to failure without the precision build Chris brings to the equation.

When I dropped my banjo off at Chris’ shop, I got to play a different model and year Gold Star he had just finished up for another client.  That banjo was also superlative.  When I asked Chris what makes a great instrument he told me, “the number one ingredient is not prewar bell bronze or Brazilian rosewood or hide glue.  It's the mindset of the builder.”  Deep.  If true, that explains why Chris gets such astonishing results:  he not only has the skills, knowledge, and patience to get it right, he truly cares.

If you are a serious banjo player with a decent instrument and are not overjoyed with the sound you’re getting, do yourself a favor and contact Chris.  Make no mistake – it will take longer and cost more than a few hours with a “setup guru” but you will absolutely get the best results possible and be certain your banjo will be as good as it can be. 

Overall Rating: 10

Chris Cioffi

Submitted by Rainor (see all reviews from this person) on 10/12/2018

Overall Comments

It all started with the need for a fret job on my 1995 Rich & Taylor JD Crowe banjo.  There was no one locally (Edmonton, Alberta) that had banjo specific experience and, as timing would have it, we were planning a vacation to Nashville in January 2018.  So I researched banjo luthiers in Nashville and it didn’t take long before I started seeing many referrals to Chris Cioffi.  The more I read the more I was convinced that if I was going to take my R&T all the way to Nashville for Chris to redo the frets he might as well do a complete overhaul to get the absolute best out of my banjo.

If you want someone to rush through an overhaul and do what he can in the limited time available don’t bother contacting Chris.  Chris is a perfectionist to the highest degree and will not compromise the quality of his work for ANY reason.  Chris will do what he does (some call it “magic”!)  in the time that it takes him and he will not rush or settle for anything less than perfection!

Before I got to Chris’ shop he said to plan for 3-4 hours.  Huh, 3-4 hours to drop off my banjo?  Well, Chris likes to pull your banjo apart piece by piece in front of you commenting on what issues he sees and explains what should be done to make your banjo sound its absolute best.  It was a great learning experience for me and left me knowing exactly what and why he was going to do specific adjustments. 

What Chris did to my banjo…

  • Installed stainless steel frets.  Very smooth and will never wear out!
  • Moved lag bolt holes on the rim over about 1/8”.  It had caused the neck to be out of alignment.  Chris says every little thing matters!
  • New nut, 5th string pip, and railroad spikes.
  • Did a speed neck.  I wasn’t too keen on this but the neck needed refinishing and Chris guaranteed me I wouldn’t be disappointed.  He was right silky smooth and looks great!
  • Hand fitted the tone ring (Kulesh Big 10) to the rim.
  • Polished all metal parts as well as repairs to minor dings in the wood.  Looks like new!
  • Refitted the resonator.  

Aside from looking spectacular the sound is better than I could have expected.  Nice growl on the 4th and clear bell like all the way up the neck. 

A couple of months after getting the banjo back I contacted Chris about a tuning issue I was having.  He immediately gave me some things to try and very quickly we worked out a minor adjustment that fixed the problem.  Once you’re a customer of Chris’ you’re a lifetime customer and he will do whatever it takes to keep you happy.

Granted I don’t have any experience with other banjo luthiers but seeing, and hearing, the result of Chris’ work and getting to know him personally I highly recommend him.

Sorry for the long winded description but if you’re looking for someone to overhaul your banjo this is probably the information you want to know.  If you’re not looking for someone then congratulations for reading this far! J

Overall Rating: 10

Deering Service

Submitted by DrBillM (see all reviews from this person) on 10/4/2018

Overall Comments

Not sure what category this should fit under. I purchased a 1997 Deering GDL from Banjo Warehouse (Geoff Hohwald) in Atlanta in the Spring of 2018. Great place by the way.  Check them out. Played it awhile and it developed a little buzz. Just couldn't solve it. Eventually the magicians at Bernunzio's here in Rochester said something was off. They contacted Deering who said send them a  few pictures. Mike at Deering didn't like what he saw and said send the banjo to them. They determined that the co-rod holes had been drilled off center and  thus didn't line up quite right with the tail piece. The previous owner was a well known recording artist so the banjo clearly worked just fine for a long time. They didn't care because it wasn't right. They took the GDL apart, plugged and then re-drilled it, and fixed the problem on  my 21 year old, at least two owner banjo. Then they cleaned  and polished it, set it up and sent it back to me no charge. That is customer service!

Overall Rating: 10

Dave Rice

Submitted by jellowaydan (see all reviews from this person) on 9/19/2018

Overall Comments

I live in northern Ohio and needed fret work done on a Gibson conversion. I heard about Dave Rice at  Family Learning Center for Music and did some research and took my banjo to Dave. I am very pleased with his quality of work. He replaced some frets, leveled and crowned the frets, and fixed a string slot in the nut. The banjo plays great and looks great. I highly recommend Dave Rice for instrument repair. He is located in Twinsburg, Ohio...Phone...330-487-1171  Thanks...Dan Fruth                                                                                                                                                                                  

Overall Rating: 10

Smakula Fretted Instruments

Submitted by kimmattis123 (see all reviews from this person) on 8/29/2018

Overall Comments

I've know Bob many years through the Augusta Heritage Festivals at D&E College in Elkins, WV.  He has repaired many of our club instruments- He has fixed and set up two of my banjos [ both vintage with Dowl sticks].  He is one of [ if not the..] best person for this.  He has sold me a vintage fiddle  set up and ready to go [ an great old Nippon, great instrument].  If you need vintage instruments or any repairs of them-- Bob is you go-to guy.  I go out of my way to send him my repairs or parts problems.  His work could could not be better.

Overall Rating: 10

Terry Bell

Submitted by Londobanjo (see all reviews from this person) on 8/2/2018

Overall Comments

I have ordered and paid for a fretless banjo but have not heard from Terry Bell for over a month. No answer to my emails or phone calls from London, UK.

Mal B

Overall Rating: 1

John Boulding

Submitted by loggerhead (see all reviews from this person) on 6/29/2018

Overall Comments

For the past couple of months I have been playing and enjoying a neck that John has re-shaped and re-stained. I was taking a few Skype lessons with John when I happened to ask whether the profile of the neck on one of my banjos could be re-worked to be more comfortable and user friendly. The answer, I can attest, is a resounding yes, and John did a first-rate job of shaving down and thinning a far-too-beefy neck into one that is a pleasure to play. He matched the original stain exactly, and I am a happy dude. His work comes highly recommended.

Overall Rating: 10

Chris Cioffi

Submitted by Haard (see all reviews from this person) on 6/3/2018

Overall Comments

I have always wanted a full flathead tone ring banjo but never found one with the depth and clarity that satisfied. Chris rebuilt a custom banjo with a major makers tone ring for me and while good it didn't have the punch and clarity I was looking for. Chris's work was damn near perfect as usual, the problem was me. I came to the conclusion that I couldn't get that I wanted in a full flathead banjo.Chris and I have spoken alot about tone and what different rims, flanges, tone rings and / or tone hoops have to offer. We rebuilt a 1954 RB-100 with the tone hoop and it has great clarity and a nice tight base response. We also did a TB-1 shoe and plate tone hoop banjo which is really clear and has great growl to it. However, I still coveted a one piece flange flathead style banjo with the right sound.

Russ Carson visited Chris and videoed a banjo that Chris had put together for his wife. It had a TB-00 thin rim, resonator and neck from Chris's days at Huber's shop. I was amazed by the tone that Russ got out of the banjo. I called Chris and we discussed the banjo. No tone ring, no tone hoop just the original 1/2" vintage rim with turned wood bead. I was sold.

I searched the 'net and found a pristine TB-00 at Intermountain Guitar and Banjo. The banjo didn't look like it had ever been out of the case. The finish was perfect and the flange was flat with no pull. I bought the banjo and had it dropped shipped to Chris. Then i had to notify Chris of our new project!!! He was gracious enough to take the job on. (I would suggest you call Chris first before sending a project, I took advantage of our friendship...a little).

Chris called one day and let me know that he had a lightly used Huber Workhorse Walnut neck become available. We decided to use that neck for this project. We also changed out the thin tension hoop to the pre was grooved version (still with flat hooks) and a Presto style tailpiece. 

Chris did his usual perfect job on the fit of all the banjo parts. He emailed me that I would be satisfied with the banjo. He had several professional musicians come up from Nashville and they were blown away by the banjo and couldn't believe that it had that tone without a tone ring.

I got the banjo in September and I do not know how I could be more satisfied. It seems that with every banjo Chris has done for me (and this makes the 4th) that he raises his "game" every time. This banjo has everything I have been looking for in a full flathead banjo. It has the "hollow deep" sound that flathead experts talk about that I never understood...until now. It's really responsive and punchy also. Chris commented that it turned out sounding better than his wife's banjo and it holds it's own.....tone ring or not.

I feel lucky to have run across Chris Cioffi and now have a long distance friend who happens to do some pretty awesome banjo work. 

Highly recommended.

 

Overall Rating: 10

Don Bryant - Thurman NC

Submitted by possumontherun (see all reviews from this person) on 5/1/2018

Overall Comments

  After recently acquiring a prewar conversion banjo Don built for me i could not be more pleased. After my initial visit and much discussion Don had a clear understand of what i was seeking in my new banjo and made many recommendations. Wow...what can i say, the neck fit-up & finish is flawless and the setup is spot on. Don recommended that we use the original rim and tone hoop (what...no tone ring?). The tone and power up & down the neck is unbelievable.

  If you are seeking a honest first class luthier that's committed to satisfying you as a customer i strongly recommend giving Don a call. A true gentleman and now a friend!   

Overall Rating: 10

Chris Cioffi

Submitted by Texican65 (see all reviews from this person) on 4/16/2018

Overall Comments

     I met Chris by chance, through a random WANT add that I had created on BHO, looking for an old Morrison banjo. He ended up selling me an old Morrison that he had had for years, at the same cost that he had payed for it, a very stand up thing to do. Throughout that interaction, Chris had been so pleasurable and easy to deal with, and happy to talk banjo and share knowledge on the instrument in general. Having never met him, I could still tell that he was highly dedicated to his work, not only as a respected professional, but in a recreational aspect also, he has a true love for anything banjo. And aside from the whole business perspective, I also made a friend through Chris, he is now somebody that I can talk with anytime about banjo, music in general, or really anything in life. He's a wealth of knowledge and wisdom, and his steadfast attention to detail and dedication to perfection are what set his work ethics above other luthiers. So, as it turns out, with all this in mind, it came easy for me to select Chris out of a long list of luthiers for a challenging banjo restoration project that I have had for sometime. I wasnt comfortable enough with just "anybody" re-working this banjo, and after interacting with and then later researching Chris' qualifications and work history, I felt like he was the right man for the job.

     The banjo in question was a 1963 Earl Scruggs model Vega. They are quite rare, and although they bear Earl's name on the truss rod cover, they are also not the best designed/built banjo straight from the factory. I had had mine for 15+ years, and it was a COMPLETE DUD. ZERO volume, ZERO tone, hard to play, just downright embarassing, especially with Earl's name on it. Some of them are better than others, but many of them all suffer from the same flaws...mainly a poor neck heel to rim fit, which kills the tone. Mine, like several others, had a 1/4" gap at the bottom of the neck heel when attached to the rim. And there is a metal plate between the heel and rim that 2 allen screws butt up against that are used to adjust the neck left or right. Some argue that this is a good set-up, but most of us with these models, and who have had them re-worked, have seen the dramatic change in the instrument once the gap and metal plate are addressed. This banjo needed several other little things as well, but the neck fit was the main focus of the restore. 

     Since I live near Seattle, and Chris in Tennessee, I couldnt just walk onto his shop every weekend to discuss plans. But it did not hinder this project in the least sense, Chris dedicated many hours of conversation over the telephone and also through email. He took several hundred pictures throughout the project, of before and after, as well as current step by step detailed procedural photographs showing me just exactly what he was doing, and this was all free of charge. It was very convenient for me to be able to track and keep up on his progress. 

     The work he did to transform this banjo was phenominal. He completely disassembled, inspected, cleaned, polished the brightwork and wood finish, giving this instrument a sparkel it never knew. Sanded and polished the fretboard and fretmarkers to a luster never acheived before, the pearl went from a greyish white to a beautiful shiny silver with hints of red, blue, and yellow. Replaced the old frets with new stainless steel frets, which will not only last longer, but assist in better sound transfer through the neck. COMPLETELY rebuilt and had re-finished the neck heel, which allowed for a super flush/tight fitting result afterwards, no more gap and tone loss. Refit the tonering to the rim, and flange to the rim. He made several other slight alterations here and there for optimum performance. Rebuilt all 4 original Elton pancake tuners, and also installed a set of Hoppers cam D tuners in the peg-head. He had several other chrome parts re-chromed, where the chrome was damaged and flaking off, he installed anew arm rest per my request also. And top it all off with an expert set-up afterwards....VIOLA! 

     This instrument was transformed from an introvert into an ANIMAL! Before it was gutless and embarassing, where as now it has piercing tone and volume, and great playability and response. i'm very proud of it and the work Chris did. It sounds easy on paper, but it was not. This was a lengthy challenging project, but it did not deter Chris at all. He persevered and presented me with a very special banjo that I will always enjoy having in my posession and playing. Where it was shunned in its case under a bed before, it now will be proudly displayed and make music for people for years and years to come. Chris is a true genious in banjo restoration, and I consider myself lucky to have been able to work with him, and have him bring this banjo back to life, it was an honor. 

 

Dow Douthitt

Overall Rating: 10

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