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Jun 19, 2019 - 7:06:46 AM
265 posts since 9/25/2006

I've been a hobbyist woodworker for a few years now and this spring I decided to try my hand at building a banjo. I started by building a mini-banjo with an 8" pot. (photos attached)

Now I'm in the middle of building a full size banjo. I bought a Gold Tone MC-150R kit and have been re-making all the wooden parts and using the hardware from the kit (except the tuners, I've swapped those out for better quality tuners).

The reason I went with the kit is because it was the cheapest way to get all the hardware I needed. I had tried buying all the hardware from Stew Mac, but it quickly got pretty expensive. I wasn't even done adding everything to the cart and it was already over $500.

So my question is, where do you guys get your hardware? Is there a place besides Stew Mac that has all the hooks, nuts, flanges, hoops, tone rings, etc that are decent quality but at a reasonable price?

Or does it just take $750 or more to buy the hardware for a decent home built banjo?

What's the average cost you spend on hardware for a banjo you are building?


Thanks in advance!

ryan


Jun 19, 2019 - 7:13:59 AM
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GStump

USA

258 posts since 9/12/2006

you can try FQMS, greg boyd house of fine instruments, ebay, prucha instruments, here, (the banjohangout) there are many sources for parts. in case you aren't aware, FQMS is first quality music supply in KY.
good luck!! also, I might as well throw it out there - i have many many parts.

Jun 19, 2019 - 7:43:55 AM
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296 posts since 3/26/2009

What building I do is always just hobby cobbling around, but I don't have $700 to spend on parts. But, I have no expectation of ending up with a high end banjo that I could turn a profit on. I'm just having fun.

I rely on used parts when I can find them. I've had good luck with Elderly for heads and strings. Amazon and EBay... I just shop around. The cheapo planetary tuners are hit or miss trash. Guitar style tuners are less expensive. The extremely cheap ones are bad, the Golden Gate branded stuff is ok for the price.

I like to build what parts I can, but I'm fortunate to have access to a full machine shop.

 

My main player right now I have about $60 wrapped up in parts. I had a banjo building bug and no budget. I've been playing it for about a year with no real issues.  The head is adjustable, wood tone ring and tension hoop, guitar tuners and tunneled 5th.  

Most of the odd design "features" were to cut cost. 

 

 





 

Jun 19, 2019 - 7:48:15 AM
Players Union Member

Helix1

USA

328 posts since 4/17/2019

I sent a private message. Call Gold Tone and get acquainted, they have returns and blems,

If Gstump has parts, find out what he has.

Edited by - Helix1 on 06/19/2019 07:51:36

Jun 19, 2019 - 8:37:21 AM
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3516 posts since 5/12/2010

Quality hardware is not cheap.

I source most of my parts from Balsam Banjo Works. I usually make my own tone rings, but the parts I do buy from them are very good quality.

The first banjo I owned that wasn't a "Franken banjo" was one I built from a Gold Tone kit. They will modify the kit to what you want, and the one I ordered was an open back with a WL tone ring. It was largely completed before I got it, all the holes were drilled in the rim, and all I had to do was tap in the frets which were cut to length and numbered, dress the frets, and finish the wood. It was a really good banjo for the money I had in it. I played it for a few years then sold it for more than I had spent on it.

If you aren't going to use the neck and rim from that kit I might be interested if you decide to sell them. I am often asked to put together a lower priced banjo for students who cannot afford much.

BTW - I see you are in Knoxville, so not too far from where I live. Be glad to help if you run into any trouble with your build.

Edited by - OldPappy on 06/19/2019 08:42:03

Jun 19, 2019 - 9:03:39 AM
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128 posts since 4/11/2019

I guess I'm doing it wrong.

I thought the whole idea was to put a bunch of money into a project, then dump it for as little as possible.

Jun 19, 2019 - 9:05:37 AM

69687 posts since 5/9/2007

BanjoTeacher.com has RK pot assemblies ring,rim and flange for $300.
Same as in the 75 and 76 banjos.

Jun 19, 2019 - 9:14:33 AM
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Players Union Member

rudy

USA

14257 posts since 3/27/2004

Hi Ryan,
Balsam supplies good American made hardware. You can also check the hardware from Rickard Banjos and Brooks Masten (Brooks Banjos) has also stepped up his offerings in the parts section of his website.

Me personally? I much prefer to make my own tension bands, tone rings, and shoes from solid brass. The shoes are stronger than the cast pot metal ones supplied from many other sources.

I have done entire topics on making hardware, sometimes posting them as pdfs so they can be easily downloaded and printed.

You trade your labor for a lower price, but that's part of the deal with building. Another reason I prefer to make my hardware is the instrument becomes much less of a "kit" where someone else makes the parts and more of a custom build where you determine what your finished instrument is going to be. Too many of the banjos assembled from cheap import parts end up looking like a cheap import banjo.

Dare to be different!

Jun 19, 2019 - 10:41:11 AM

69687 posts since 5/9/2007

The RK pot is of high quality if it's the one in their 75 and 76 models.
3 ply maple and bronze hardware.

Jun 19, 2019 - 11:28:02 AM

9954 posts since 6/2/2008

quote:
Originally posted by RedArrowRyan


So my question is, where do you guys get your hardware? Is there a place besides Stew Mac that has all the hooks, nuts, flanges, hoops, tone rings, etc that are decent quality but at a reasonable price?


Yes. The eBay seller Zephyr_Surplus sells used or factory second/blemished Recording King banjos at low prices. RK parts are US threaded, so they meet Mastertone specs. You can buy a whole banjo, keep what you need and sell the rest to further reduce your already low cost.

Some examples:

An RK-O25 open back for $260. Part out the neck, rim and shoes for over $200 or even close to your purchase price and you have 24 hooks and nuts, notched tension hoop, Presto tailpiece, co-rod set and serviceable tuners for very little money.

An RKOT25 open back for $280. Better shape than the preceding one and not missing the nut or fifth string tuner. Same deal: keep what you need, easily part out the rest.

RK-35 pot - complete - for $380.  I have no need for this, otherwise I'd be on it in a heartbeat. Rim, bronze alloy tone ring, zinc alloy flange, hooks, nuts, tension hoop, tailpiece, head, resonator, wall lugs, thumbscrews.  Easily fixed scratch on the resonator and some play wear on other parts. Tremendous buy.  Don't want the resonator? Sell it for $80 to $100.

Previous posters have pointed out the other ways to get parts.

Jun 19, 2019 - 12:23:51 PM

265 posts since 9/25/2006

Thanks so much to everyone for the great advice!

I like the idea of buying blemished or damaged banjos and using the parts I want. It's especially helpful to have the old rim or neck to reference while I make replacement parts.

I love making the wood parts, but I don't have the machines or skills to attempt to make any of the metal hardware or parts.

Selling the wood parts I don't want is an idea I hadn't had before, so that's a great option as I move forward.

I'm still only 60% done with the banjo I'm working on now, but already know I'm going to want to make another soon.

ryan

Jun 19, 2019 - 3:38:49 PM

9954 posts since 6/2/2008

quote:
Originally posted by RedArrowRyan

I like the idea of buying blemished or damaged banjos and using the parts I want. It's especially helpful to have the old rim or neck to reference while I make replacement parts.


Follow up to my post about that: Even though Zephyr_Surplus's eBay listings are auctions, they rarely get multiple bids, so they tend to sell at the opening price. I suppose that's because his opening prices are reasonable asking prices. That RK pot is a steal, in my opinion, especially considering it's only $80 more than the price for a 3-piece RK pot of rim, ring and flange. 

Jun 19, 2019 - 5:58:52 PM

hbick2

USA

155 posts since 6/26/2004

You might check out eBay for old, junk banjos. Type in "Project Banjo" and see what you get. I just saw one that had 38 hooks, nuts, shoes and lugs that sold for $99. It was good looking hardware. The neck was worthless so you could tell the guy to throw it away and just ship you the pot. There are also some nice sets of vintage hooks and nuts and shoes and lugs for reasonable prices.

Jun 20, 2019 - 6:14:03 AM

265 posts since 9/25/2006

quote:
Originally posted by Old Hickory
quote:
Originally posted by RedArrowRyan

I like the idea of buying blemished or damaged banjos and using the parts I want. It's especially helpful to have the old rim or neck to reference while I make replacement parts.


Follow up to my post about that: Even though Zephyr_Surplus's eBay listings are auctions, they rarely get multiple bids, so they tend to sell at the opening price. I suppose that's because his opening prices are reasonable asking prices. That RK pot is a steal, in my opinion, especially considering it's only $80 more than the price for a 3-piece RK pot of rim, ring and flange. 


Great point!  I will seriously consider one of those. I don't need a neck, and the hardware for the neck is mostly just truss rod and tuners.  That pot assembly is almost perfect for me and at a great price!

 

Ryan

Jun 20, 2019 - 6:14:46 AM

265 posts since 9/25/2006

quote:
Originally posted by hbick2

You might check out eBay for old, junk banjos. Type in "Project Banjo" and see what you get. I just saw one that had 38 hooks, nuts, shoes and lugs that sold for $99. It was good looking hardware. The neck was worthless so you could tell the guy to throw it away and just ship you the pot. There are also some nice sets of vintage hooks and nuts and shoes and lugs for reasonable prices.


Great idea! I'll do that!

 

Ryan

Jun 20, 2019 - 6:58:21 AM
Players Union Member

Helix1

USA

328 posts since 4/17/2019

There is more than one way to make a wooden flange. The pieces are too short to flex, that should be in the archives

Also a lot of mileage goes to wooden rim caps on inferior rims to help solve the weight problem with bronze

Grenadillo, Black Locust and other high knock notes are used as rim caps just like an ebony strip on your bridge

Use what is at hand around you where you live. Some of us trade Lilac, and other exotics like Citruses, and prunus (cherries) for bridges, truss rod covers and binding

Some of us have gone to hardwood binding, shunning the plastic

Lumber liquidators has bamboo and Hickory in 5/8” thickness

Brass hex bar is available for your own hardware


 

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