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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!

6626 reviews in the archive.

Carl Arcand Luthier Reviews

Submitted by robobanjo (see all reviews from this person) on 1/29/2017

Overall Comments

Overall Rating: 10

Submitted by darkhall (see all reviews from this person) on 1/5/2017

Overall Comments

 

I acquired this Ludwig art standard as a brass pot and resonator only at a flea market 40 years ago for 15 dollars .......no one knew what i was [i did ]...Recently i was able to have a neck made .i tracked down Carl Arcand through this site and shipped it off to Quebec from B.C. .it took about 2 months with various updates and pictures during the process .my photo o this site has a pic of the front and in pictures i show the back .The neck is American  black walnut  with some dyed laminations .the fingerboard is Ebony as well as the headstock  veneer .there is a truss rod accessible by the  neck heel  which preserves its vintage look .he did mother of pearl inlays and was even able to find some of the hardware that was needed in his existing vintage stock .he repaired some missing wood [beautifully ] and finished with 10 coats of tru-oil 

Thank you Carl for an outstanding job .........to give an instrument such as this its voice back is nothing short of a resurrection . it sings clear ,sustaining  ,and bright    David Emerson hall 

Overall Rating: 9

Submitted by banjoquebec (see all reviews from this person) on 1/4/2017

Overall Comments

The day after New Year I drove from my home in northern Vermont to the scenic little village of Ulverton Québec to take two old banjos in need of repair to Carl Arcand to see what he could do with them. While there I started looking at banjos he has restored and made.When I picked up a 12 inch Tubaphone he had made I knew the purpose of my trip had changed. It has 2 ply maple pot and curly maple neck with beautiful top of the line hardware.The inlays are lovely with a fleur de lis pattern on the peghead and another complex inlay where the neck meets the pot. The neck is scooped there but with a very pleasing serpentine shape instead of just being squared off. It has a natural thick goat skin head and a crescent shaped "moon" bridge for compensation. It chimes perfectly across all the strings. The bottom of the pot has a beautiful herringbone inlay (purfling) that really dresses it up.

When I played the banjo I got the throaty, rich sound one associates with a Tubaphone. It has excellent sustain but it also fades fast enough so you are not left with discordant sounds when you move to the next note or chord. The sound up the neck is pure all the way to the throat. With a twelve inch pot it has lots of volume which can project when playing with others but it can also sound sweet when played with a lighter touch which I like because I like to put a crescendo in songs then fade down to softer sounds. 

End of story, I traded the two old, in need of major repair, banjos to Carl for a down payment on the Tubaphone. He gave me a very fair price for them and the price on the new banjo was very reasonable especially considering the neck and pot details, the inlays, and the expensive hardware. I have never seen a new banjo of this quality for the price he charged. A banjo playing friend and I spent two hours there talking to Carl, playing banjos, and visiting his shop. He loves bringing old instruments back to life and making new ones, one at a time rather than in an assembly line fashion.

If you need a new banjo or an old one repaired, call Carl. His website is Second Life Banjos. Carl takes great pride in his work and it shows. I could not be more pleased with my new Arcand banjo.

Robert

Overall Rating: 10

Submitted by banjori (see all reviews from this person) on 3/12/2016

Overall Comments

Carl made me a conversion neck for a 1928 TB-3. His craftsmanship and attention to detail is impressive and the neck he built is a pleasure to play. Carl worked on it over the course of a month, giving me updates and sending me photos every week. He is very easy to communicate with and he responded to my emails quickly whenever I had questions. I highly recommend him. 

Overall Rating: 10

Submitted by R.D. Eno (see all reviews from this person) on 12/3/2015

Overall Comments

Carl Arcand, Second Life Banjos, in Ulverton, Quebec just completed -- after only a couple of months -- a custom neck for a Vega Style M tubaphone pot, and I couldn't be more thrilled with his work.  Last summer, I ran across Second Life Banjos' website with images of many vintage banjos that Carl has restored or remodeled, and I was planning to drive up and have a look at a Dobson Carl had built a neck for, but someone bought the instrument on line before I could get there.  Not long after, I was offered this old pot, in great condition, and Carl was the first luthier to reply to my request for an estimate.  He also told me he could complete the job before Christmas.  And he has.  He made the bird's-eye maple neck to my specifications -- wider at the nut and slightly short of scale to accommodate my short, stubby fingers, the fifth string dropped down to the sixth fret, a frailing scoop, paddle peg head and low action to make it easy for me to play up the neck.  It is perfectly mounted, using the original dowel stick, and the banjo just sings -- it's bright and pocky at the same time, with terrific volume but not so much sustain that I can't play complicated figures and hear them with great clarity.  Carl also performed a few small repairs and adjustments to flaws I had overlooked and created the instrument of my dreams -- a classic specimen of banjo history mated with a beautiful example of contemporary craftsmanship.  A match made in Second Life Banjo's workshop.  The cost was reasonable, the aesthetic result beyond value, and when Carl begins to fabricate his own pots, I believe the Arcand original will be quite stunning.

Overall Rating: 10

Submitted by Brooklynbanjoboy (see all reviews from this person) on 11/28/2015

Overall Comments

I just received an exquisite Carl Arcand Second Life Banjo – mating one of Carl’s fine necks to a Little Wonder pot that is 11 and 13/16 inches.  Carl’s hand made neck is Maple and ebony – a nice backstrap and very fine inlay work including a semi-chubby dragon in the peghead, and some flowers, seashells and other odds and ends arrayed on the fingerboard. 

 

Carl’s banjo is well balanced in terms of weight.  I don’t like my neck to outweigh the rim, and Carl has that equation down just right.  He’s mounted a nice piece of calfskin on a square brass flesh hoop, set the scale at 26 and 3/16th inches, and outfitted the thing with Gotoh tuners, a repro wire armrest. 

 

Carl is a serious artist who works with sound as much as he does with wood.  I feel distinct notes coming from the banjo, and all the while the thing produces that old timey sound that I associate with rain on an old tin roof. 

 

I like the extra width on the fingerboard.  Compared to some of my banjos, it feels as though I’ve got about as much space on the fingerboard as a bowling alley lane, and my left and right hands move around with great ease and comfort. 

 

I like to fuss around and install various versions of my preferred bridges.  Carl knows his banjos and after swapping out several different types of “designer” bridges, I cirecled back to the 5/8 inch beavy moon bridge the banjo came with.  Got the best sound, showing me that Carl knows his banjos, knows how to coax the best sound out of them, and makes well thought out choices regarding string gauge, bridge type and tailpiece (a simple no-knot) -  he’s got a particular banjo set -up strategy and that whole equation works our real well, to my ears.   

 

THANKS CARL!

 

V/R,

 

Lew

Overall Rating: 10

Submitted by Jakobeit1 (see all reviews from this person) on 7/24/2015

Overall Comments

I just received delivery of a 1961 Gibson RB100 conversion from Carl. The banjo was refurbished by Carl. He constructed a new neck and replaced the head and did a complete set up on the instrument. This thing is beautiful to look at and so much fun to play. Carl is a true craftsman. I would refer him to anyone needing work done on their instrument or looking for a new banjo.

Overall Rating: 10

Submitted by Hooley (see all reviews from this person) on 7/4/2015

Overall Comments

I recently received a banjo that I had commissioned from Carl Arcand.  This is the second banjo that Carl has made for me.  The first one was a refurbished Tubaphone Vega (Vegaphone) pot from about 1926, to which he added a custom made neck that suits my three-finger playing style.  I have reviewed this banjo in an earlier posting.  The Vega is an amazing banjo that plays and sounds amazing and that looks extraordinary - with lovely inlays.  Carl also helped me by properly setting up a Will Fielding fretless banjo that I acquired in North Carolina - I have reviewed that banjo and Carl's help in earlier postings as well.  The Fielding is a beautiful instrument. The Fielding inspired me to ask Carl to build me a fretless banjo that would capitalize on the qualities of banjos made in the latter half of the 1800s and that would suit my three-finger picking style.  Carl used the rim and pot hardware from a Banjeaurine made by Lyon and Healy under their more prestigious Washburn label in about 1895.  He did a lot of work to restore the metal parts - stripping the plating from the brass brackets, shoes, bracket and tension band; and he repaired the wood rim.  He added a brass tonering to increase the depth of the pot to 2 & 1/2 inches.  The result is a 12 & 1/2 inch diameter pot that has deep tonality and clarity.  He built a custom neck of bird's-eye/tiger maple dyed a rich deep red, with an ebony fretless fingerboard with a 14 inch radius.  The neck has a hidden truss rod, which is  adjusted from inside the pot at the heel end.  No indication of the truss rod can be seen at the base of the peghead.  (This hidden trussrod approach was also used for the refurbished Vega Tubaphone.  The approach allows for a more traditional look to the banjo.)  The radius neck with its natural curvature combined with a neck engineered for Scrugg's-style picking makes this one fast-playing banjo!  The banjo is strung with Aquila 7B Minstrel Nylgut.  These imitation gut strings lend the instrument an amazing old-time sound with enough tension and deep tonal quality to ensure volume and precision.  The tail-piece is carved ebony.  The inlays are mother-of-pearl W.A. Cole peghead man-in-the-moon with stars and comet on ebony, and the fingerboard W.A. Cole traditional fret markers, which had to be re-etched after Carl put the radius on the neck.  I asked for very small dots on the side of the neck to indicate some of the actual fret positions to help me with intonation. The heel plate is a Paua abalone fleur-de-lis on ebony (which I asked for to indicate the Quebec location of Carl's studio), and the backplate in a Paua abalone Nude-with-Moon-Disc. The ebony tail piece has a mother-of-pearl star.  All inlays were done with extreme care and precision.  The pegs are traditional violin-peg style with no mechanical parts. Strings are set-up with a very low action, over a crescent bridge, on a calf-skin head.  I will also review the banjo as an instrument, but I felt it was necessary to describe the banjo in this luthier review in order to give proper credit to someone I consider to be a master. Carl took a lot of time to work with me at the inception of the project to ensure that I got exactly the instrument I asked for. He set a fair price and kept to that price.  The only exception to this was an added cost for inlays that I requested half-way through the project - an increase I regarded as quite fair!  Carl was consistently responsive to my questions and was very thoughtful when it came to ensuring that the banjo was shipped to me when I would be able to receive it.  It was delivered in a very padded box.  The banjo was sent in a Superior-brand Hard Case. I highly recommend Carl Arcand and I hope that other banjo players who want the finest instruments will contact him.  Wonderful luthier - Carl Arcand!  

 

 

 

Overall Rating: 10

Submitted by Hooley (see all reviews from this person) on 3/23/2015

Overall Comments

 I posted a review (9/25/2014) on the fabulous Vegaphone that Carl Arcand put together with a neck designed for my needs.  It's continues to develop and it is an outstanding instrument.  Thank you Carl!

On 10/25/2014, I posted another review, this time about a Will Fielding fretless banjo that I had bought at Zepp's Country Music Store in Wendell, North Carolina.  In that second review I mentioned that the Fielding's action appeared to be a little too high and that I was worried that it should not have been strung with steel strings.  (It had medium-weight steel strings when I bought it).  In that review, I also mentioned that I had had advice from a serious banjo store in Toronto that the banjo could be strung with either steel or nylon.  The advice I received at that time pointed out the the Fielding neck was "overbuilt" and that the steel strings (even medium-weight strings) could not have a demonstrably negative impact on the bow of the neck.  I can appreciate that a quick cursory review of the instrument in a store setting could easily result in this conclusion, given the general playability of the banjo.

Still, at that time I couldn't help thinking that there was something not quite right about the instrument!  I continued to find the action too high and I couldn't get the upper register to respond to my need for rapid note shifting.  So I decided to send the banjo to Mr. Arcand in Quebec for a more thorough analysis.  After his initial review, he said he would work out how to correct the height of the action.  Carl adjusted the neck to body relationship with some minor adjustments to the dowel stick positioning.  Most importantly, however, he observed that the Fielding had undoubtedly been built for nylon  strings.  He replaced the steel strings with Nylgut and found that the bow of the neck relaxed into a more normal to-be-expected curve.  (It has no truss rod.)  The result is a fretless Fielding banjo that plays extremely easily and that has a fabulous round, sweet sound.  I play it three-finger style.  Sliding into the notes and using a lot of pull-offs and rhythm shifts to enhance the spooky tonal strength of the instrument, I am finding new depths that were not there when I first bought it last fall.  The simple changes made by Carl were the result of a Master's analysis and expert decision-making on the proper set-up for this particular banjo.  I recommend Carl Arcand without reservation and encourage other players to consider his services when thinking about their banjos.  I intend to discuss with Carl other banjos I would like to commission from him in the future.

Thank you again, Carl!

Overall Rating: 10

Submitted by golanu (see all reviews from this person) on 12/28/2014

Overall Comments

The only thing I have to say is "thank you" Carl. Beautiful cherry neck, sounds fantasic, I couldn't be happier with the work on the William A Pond. So happy in fact, I picked up a used Vega Long Neck conversion and had it sent directly to him. A great guy.

Overall Rating: 10

Submitted by YosemiteEd (see all reviews from this person) on 10/26/2014

Overall Comments

In the past couple years, I have purchased 2 refurbished early 20th century Paramount banjos from Carl Arcand (Second Life Banjo) and he is now building me a Mastertone flathead from vintage parts he has collected for me. Needless to say, I think very highly of Carl's work. His craftsmanship is the very highest. His wood carving, fit, and finishes are beautiful, his selections of materials are right on, and the sound of his instruments is startling. My Paramounts have a resonance that builds and builds as the months go by. If they sound this good now fresh from the luthier, how great are they going to sound ten years from now? I happen to live in banjo country (western North Carolina) where there are plenty of luthiers to choose from, but I am more than happy to do business with this gentleman from Quebec instead because he is just that good.

Overall Rating: 10

Submitted by Hooley (see all reviews from this person) on 9/25/2014

Overall Comments

Carl Arcand - Second Life Banjos

Open-backed Vegaphone (Tubaphone) five string banjo.

Original pot from mid 1920s (Vega no. 74150) – all original including dowel piece, with neck constructed by Carl Arcand.

Banjo pot is in excellent condition - some wear.

Three piece neck done in figured maple and ebony – maple stained to match mahogany of the pot.  Ebony fingerboard and head plate, back plate, and heel cap. Fingerboard has tortoiseshell binding to match the binding on the pot.  Fairbanks/Vega style Flowerpot mother of pearl inlay on head plate, Griffon on back plate, flower on heel cap, and dots, leaves (1st fret) and star (5th fret) on fingerboard.  Calfskin head.  Original Vega wire armrest.  Gomer Patent Presto tailpiece taken from a 1940s Gibson.  Moon bridge.  Fitted with railroad spikes. Gotoh tuners with ebony pegs.  I put Newtone medium gauged strings on it.

Overall it looks like an old Fairbanks or early Vega.

The playability is sensational.  I took a few weeks to break it in, trying everything I could up and down the neck – fast notes – as well as languorous melodies. The sound is true and clear at all positions.  Bell-like tones in the upper registers, and rich lower notes.  A punchy quality with lots of volume. A lovely quick decay is followed by a resonating subtle harmonic quality that I associate with the Tubaphone sound.  The sound has developed now to the point that I can barely stand to put the instrument down.  I feel like I’m discovering new territory every time I play it.  (By the way, I love the sound quality of the calfskin head.  It takes more care and I have to tune the banjo more frequently, but it’s worth it.)

The inlays are superbly done.  The flowerpot alone holds your attention, it is so beautiful.  Edges of the inlays are flawless.  The neck construction is beautiful and clean – the ebony and figured maple work really well together.  Neck fitting to the pot is perfect.   Overall, the reconstruction is a work of art.

Carl Arcand was extremely helpful in guiding me to the right choices to match my needs – at my request, he designed and built the neck and set the instrument up for me to play Scruggs-style Bluegrass on it, no matter what the purists may say.  He was patient and thoughtful.  Very easy to work with.  The estimate for time and expenses that he produced at the beginning of the project was dead on.  He shipped it very safely in a Superior case contained in a well-padded shipping container.

I cannot recommend Carl Arcand and Second Life Banjos highly enough.

Overall Rating: 10

Submitted by BlowingRockNC (see all reviews from this person) on 5/29/2014

Overall Comments

Well, I just got my third banjo from Carl. It's a real beauty, and it plays great. I don't know what Carl uses for his secret sauce, but he really knows how to bring life back into vintage banjos. I just hope I can stop buying more banjos, because I've got more than enough right now. Any doubts, just ask my wife. Anyone has a chance to buy a banjo from Carl should do so, because they won't be disappointed.

Overall Rating: 10

Submitted by BlowingRockNC (see all reviews from this person) on 1/3/2014

Overall Comments

I've purchased two banjos from Carl over the last several months. The best banjos I've ever seen or played, no BS at all. He's a master at what he does. I might even get him to do a fretless for me, but my budget for banjos is a little exhausted right now, since I also got a cello banjo from Ross this morning. Bottom line: When dealing with true quality, I deal with Carl. He knows his stuff.

Overall Rating: 10

Submitted by standman (see all reviews from this person) on 7/30/2013

Overall Comments

I recently bought an open back from Carl, the "No. 1163-3", that I discovered through the classifieds right here at the Banjo Hangout. I am superbly satisfied with the instrument.. The tone and response of the banjo is very musical, with a surprising amount of sustain and nice full body. The feel and balance is delightful, and the fit and finish is very, very good indeed, with high quality parts throughout and a GREAT refurbished Slingerland rim!
Carl was a complete pleasure to deal with. Fast and reliable communication, and the instrument was packaged with great care when I got it after a substantial journey up here to Oslo, Norway.
Last but not least, this high quality instrument is in my opinion an incredible value for money at 895$..

Thanks again Carl, hope to do business with you again sometime in the future!

Best regards,

Stian J Sveen
Oslo, Norway

www.luckylipsband.com
www.4sound.no

Overall Rating: 10

Submitted by Graeme Dargo (see all reviews from this person) on 1/30/2013

Overall Comments

I consider myself fortunate to have had a great experience purchasing a renovated classic banjo from Carl. Carl's web store Second Life Banjos (http://www.secondlifebanjo.com) is aptly named as he breathes new life into quality banjos from days gone by. I am now the proud owner of a Vega style 5 string that includes restored vintage components as well as parts fabricated in Carl's workshop. Carl is clearly a talented luthier and went to extreme lengths to meet my needs and I was more than pleased. He kept in constant e-touch as he added capo spikes and finalized the set up. He packed the banjo extremely well for shipping and followed up ensure that all was well. If you want to purchase a banjo from someone who has a real passion for what he does, is very talented and really cares about customer service then I highly recommend that you get on touch with Carl.

Overall Rating: 10

Submitted by mikey49 (see all reviews from this person) on 7/29/2012

Overall Comments

I wasn't too happy with the sound of my Recording King rk-r20. I found Carl's name on the list of luthiers at BH.I called him up and told him I needed my banjo setup as it wasn't setup by the store I bought it from.I made an appoinment to see him on Saturday and drove out to see him. He lives about 1 1/2 hours from my house.He found that the head was too loose,the neck wasn't tight enough against the rim, strings too high, bridge too high also. After doing the setup, it is like having a completely different banjo. The sound is significantly better, and is easier to play.And after all his work, he wouldn't accept any payment.Absolutely a pleasure to deal with.He definitely knows his stuff, and he builds his own banjos from scratch too. If there is anyone looking for a great banjo luthier, I highly recommend Carl.

Overall Rating: 10

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