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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!

7100 reviews in the archive.

Build an Appalachian Banjo with Pisgan Banjos

Submitted by ahswan on 11/9/2014

Overall Comments

In October, I attended the 1st “Build an Appalachian Banjo with Pisgah Banjo Company” workshop at the Warren Wilson College Folk Shop in Asheville, NC.  It was one of the most fun, challenging and educational weeks of my life, and I came home with a banjo that is not only beautiful and fantastic-sounding (comparable to Pisgah’s Ramber model), but one that I’m extremely proud to say that I built myself.

I have been restoring old banjos for a couple of years, but had limited knowledge.  I had been wanting to learn enough to build my own banjo, so when I saw that this workshop was being offered, I immediately signed up.  As it turns out, I learned everything I had wanted to know, and more. 

Considering the workshop was only 6 days, I had expected that we would be using power shapers and jigs for things like carving necks.  However, Patrick handed out rasps and cabinet scrapers, and taught us how to hand-shape a banjo neck. We steam-bent rim plies, did our own fret work, etc.  It was a lot of ground to cover in 6 days, especially since some of us (10 of us took the workshop) had little or no woodworking experience.  However, Patrick amazingly kept us all on track, so we had 11 completed banjos at the end of the 6 days, and I think everyone was very pleased with what we accomplished.  Patrick and Adam (who also works with Pisgah Banjos) were extremely helpful and really gave away their banjo-building “secrets.” 

The one aspect that I really appreciated about the workshop is that it wasn’t just a lesson in working in a banjo factory; we actually learned enough to go home and build a professional-quality banjo with very basic tools.  I'm already planning out my next banjo.

I should also mention that Bill at Warren Wilson College was a great host, and he and his wife went above and beyond in providing us with lunches and snacks for the week.  

WWC and Pisgah Banjos are offering the workshop again March 16-22, 2014.  You can see some photos of the class on PBCO’s facebook page, and I’ll try to upload a few on my BHO homepage as well.

 

Overall Rating: 10

Pisgah: 12" Walnut Dobson

Submitted by ahswan on 12/19/2013

Where Purchased: Pisgah Banjo Company

Year Purchased: 2013
Price Paid: 1375 ($US)

Sound

The sound of this banjo is amazing. It has the classic Dobson tone ring sound and the 12" Walnut rim gives it a great, solid low end. And, it really projects. To me, this provides a great sound for old time and folk styles and will certainly hold its own in any kind of setting.

Sound Rating: 10

Setup

The banjo came from Pisgah with a 1/2" bridge, and the setup was perfect with that bridge. I'm experimenting with 5/8" bridges, which brings the action up a bit high, but is still extremely playable. I do prefer a 5/8" bridge, and Patrick has been very helpful in answering questions about how to adjust it to my liking.

Setup Rating: 10

Appearance

This is a beautiful instrument. Mine is a walnut neck and rim with a cherry rim cap and persimmon heel cap, and the finish allows the wood's natural beauty to come through. The persimmon fretboard is really unique, and adds a lot of character. Overall, it's very neat and clean.

Appearance Rating: 10

Reliability

This appears to be a very solid instrument, and I expect that it will outlive me.

Reliability Rating: 10

Customer Service

I live on the opposite side of the country, so have dealt with Patrick via phone and e-mail, and he has always been very responsive, and always willing to answer questions. I have no doubt that they will stand behind their instruments.

Customer Service: 10

Components

The hardware all seem top quality. I had them add an S-scoop, which was done very well. I am really glad I made the extra investment in the S-scoop, as I tend to play right along the scoop edge. The back of the neck has a v-shape which I was not used to, but find that it allows for a very natural hand position and is a very "fast" neck. I adapted to it in about 30 seconds.... Everything on this banjo is top quality.

Components Rating: 10

Overall Comments

I was a tad nervous about having an instrument built for me when I had never actually seen a Pisgah banjo in person, but relied on the reviews I read. Within moments of opening the box, I was glad I had trusted my instincts.  I like the fact that this is a truly Appalachian-made banjo, from Appalachian hardwoods. and you can talk to the actual builders. It looks and sounds authentic.  And, the fact that it's hand-made in a completely solar-powered shop is a nice touch.

Update: As I've played this banjo for a month or so now, I find that I am still impressed every time I pick it up.  It's just a beautiful sounding instrument.  I am also impressed with the intonation, which is as perfect as a banjo can get. I use compensated or moon bridges on most of my other banjos, but I've found no need on this one. 

 

Overall Rating: 10

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