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Quick Release Banjo Straps: How Safe Are they?

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Dec 12, 2019 - 7:01:39 PM
383 posts since 11/21/2018

I've been thinking about a quick release buckle or two on a strap for a heavy top tension banjo. None of the manufacturers or small leather shops have stated on their sites exactly what their quick release mechanisms are constructed of, weight testing specs. etc.

Does anyone here own a strap with quick release nylon (?) buckles that routinely trust their heavy Bluegrass/resonator banjos with them over many years? Franklin Straps look nice in leather. the Neoprene straps are another choice. I noticed that Lakota doesn't offer this option and figured they might not have confidence in those mechanisms at least they don't offer the option.

I would be most interested in a quick release that has a safety mechanism to catch the banjo should the clip ever fail.
Thanks.

Dec 12, 2019 - 9:15:15 PM

959 posts since 8/7/2017

A safety strap between the separate-able parts of the strap would defeat the "simple to remove strap" function of the quick release.

On the other hand, if what you really want is a fast deployable system to give you extra strap length (e.g. to make it easier to remove the banjo from your shoulder&head), then a permanent strong cord of sufficient length (6"?) between the separate-able parts would work. Just tie the ends of the cord to the loops in the strap that hold the quick release buckles.

I wonder if, in using a safety strap to prevent the banjo from hitting the floor if a buckle fails, you are increasing Your own probability of hitting the floor? The sudden drop of 10 pounds of weight, and it's abrupt stop (due to safety strap) will throw off your own balance. You could test this with a 10 lb. bag of flour + quick-release strap+safety strap, with someone primed to grab you if you start to fall. If you teeter dangerously, maybe you should scrap the idea of click release buckles entirely?

No one wants to drop their banjo. But no one wants to end up in the Emergency Room either.
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My homemade strap uses loops sewn into both ends of the strap (nylon strap from sewing store). The loops have a hole in the middle of the loop to accept short nylon cord loops tied to the brackets. Short sections of wood dowel secure the nylon cord loops to the strap loops. The setup depends on friction to hold the dowels in place (I also filed a shallow grove around the middle of the dowels to help keep the nylon loop from slipping off the dowel). This has worked fine as long as the loops are under tension; the only time the dowels have fallen out is after I remove the banjo from my shoulder, set it down, and the dowels are no longer under tension. My system is no where near as fast as quick release buckles, of course, but I don't worry about anything breaking while playing. I could give details and photos if you are interested.
---------------
I bought some click release buckles and strap from a camping store (with the idea of making a belt). The buckles had a suggested max weight on their package. If you have the manufacturer name of the buckles, perhaps contacting the company could give you their breaking strength.

Hope this helps

Dec 12, 2019 - 11:54:05 PM
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105 posts since 3/25/2016

Belle,

You raise an interesting question.  I have been using a Neotech quick-release strap on an Ome bluegrass banjo, which seems heavy to me after my open backs (!).  The Neotech folks use a mid-size buckle (5/8 to 3/4-inch?) utilizing two strands of half-inch webbing.  One supposes they considered your question, but perhaps (?) not.  It might be worth noting that those buckles come in various sizes, at least all the way to two inches wide, and appropriate webbing is widely available.  (Webbing will typically be the strongest part of the assembly, especially if nylon (climbing-style) webbing is used.)

I suppose I am comfortable with the mid-size buckles Neotech has used.  I am NOT drawn to the very small (half-inch?) size sometimes used for paracord bracelets.  Beyond strength, another advantage is that the mid- to larger-size buckles seem easier to operate.

Good luck!  Should it help, here are contact details for Neotech:  (406) 388-1377, and www.neotechstraps.com.

Dec 13, 2019 - 5:27:45 AM
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rudy

USA

14828 posts since 3/27/2004

I personally wouldn't trust them.  They are used on many dog collars and I have heard of the buckles popping loose when a dog on a leash strains against them, so it is possible for them to fail.

Not what you're looking for, but I have used Dunlop Strap-locs on several open back banjos.  I only build open backs, but I would trust a much heavier banjo to be safe from accidental release.  They need to be incorporated during construction to integrate them into the design, though.  I flush mount the female end into the rim and neck heel.  The strap is instantly removable and there's no protruding hardware.  I'd like to see the system offered by major manufacturers because it works so well if you want to use a strap.

Edited by - rudy on 12/13/2019 05:29:01

Dec 13, 2019 - 6:43:43 AM

12491 posts since 6/29/2005

Just out of curiosity, what is the benefit of a quick release strap? I have never heard of one.

Dec 13, 2019 - 6:56:28 AM
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rudy

USA

14828 posts since 3/27/2004

quote:
Originally posted by Ken LeVan

Just out of curiosity, what is the benefit of a quick release strap? I have never heard of one.


1. They make it easier to use the strap since you don't have to work it over your head.

2. Some banjos don't fit easily in the case with a strap, so you can remove the strap and store it in the case pocket.

3. Some players like to remove the strap when not in use to prevent any possible finish damage from interaction with whatever the leather is finished with.

4. If you have multiple instruments it makes shuffling your favorite strap from instrument to instrument quick n' easy.  I've even switched between banjo and Telecaster when on stage without moving the strap off my shoulder.

The quick release just make the process more or less immediate, with no fumbling with the strap end.  In many cases the strap attachment undergoes wear if it is removed and replaced frequently, the quick release eliminates that.

I use the Dunlop Strap-locs with banjo because I used them for years on Strats and Telecasters and always had confidence in their ability to hold a heavy instrument.

Dec 13, 2019 - 7:08:03 AM
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12491 posts since 6/29/2005

quote:
Originally posted by rudy
quote:
Originally posted by Ken LeVan

Just out of curiosity, what is the benefit of a quick release strap? I have never heard of one.


1. They make it easier to use the strap since you don't have to work it over your head.

2. Some banjos don't fit easily in the case with a strap, so you can remove the strap and store it in the case pocket.

3. Some players like to remove the strap when not in use to prevent any possible finish damage from interaction with whatever the leather is finished with.

4. If you have multiple instruments it makes shuffling your favorite strap from instrument to instrument quick n' easy.  I've even switched between banjo and Telecaster when on stage without moving the strap off my shoulder.

The quick release just make the process more or less immediate, with no fumbling with the strap end.  In many cases the strap attachment undergoes wear if it is removed and replaced frequently, the quick release eliminates that.

I use the Dunlop Strap-locs with banjo because I used them for years on Strats and Telecasters and always had confidence in their ability to hold a heavy instrument.


Thanks—I get it now—I thought maybe they were for if you were wearing a cowboy hat or had an arrow through your head as in the Steve Martin banjo sketch

Dec 13, 2019 - 7:17:20 AM

Fathand

Canada

11533 posts since 2/7/2008

I once saw a buckle like this break on a banjo. Luckily the owner was in the process of sitting down and the banjo fell in her lap. I will never use one after that. I use a cradle strap and do not remove it when storing the banjo, I just wrap it around and put it in the case. Just pull it out and over your head and ready to go.





 


Dec 13, 2019 - 7:29:12 AM

327 posts since 9/21/2018

Plastic or nylon buckles sound too iffy. Not saying there isn't a quick-release solution out there that could work, that ain't it though. I grasp that metal buckles come with some risk to finishes, but that's a bit too much money to trust with those kind of buckles.

That said, you could hang from one of these cobra buckles. (Edit: just learned that they make these in plastic.)


Edited by - Moose_Roberts on 12/13/2019 07:30:07

Dec 13, 2019 - 7:34:28 AM

53239 posts since 12/14/2005

I've used these quick-release key holders on some instruments.

Never broke an instrument.

They're noticeably less expensive than a Strap Lock.

Dec 13, 2019 - 9:33:56 AM

Owen

Canada

4643 posts since 6/5/2011

I googled "wooden toggle buttons" and came up with this .... not exactly quick release, but should be reasonably secure.

Image result for wooden toggle buttons

Personally I use the "bad buckle" type that Rick pictured.... BUT a) I only "play" sitting down,  b) I did my own test before sewing it on, and c) I'm in no position to offer "advice."

Dec 13, 2019 - 10:01:41 AM
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35 posts since 3/13/2014

Anything made from plastic is going to become brittle over time and subject to breakage. I made the strap I use today 30 years ago and it’s good as new. I chose a small steel snap for each end which attaches to leather loops that extend a couple of inches from the flange holes of my Vegavox.

Dec 13, 2019 - 6:42:01 PM

383 posts since 11/21/2018

Yes, I was interested for all the reasons Rudy has listed. I've seen the wooden toggle versions (I think either banjo ben clark or banjo teacher . com has them. Case fit with the top tension in a "Superior" case has been a problem and I like instant adjustablility but having doubts I may try a Dakota or similar to see if it'll fit.
Thanks for the feedback as always.

Dec 14, 2019 - 9:21:32 AM

Owen

Canada

4643 posts since 6/5/2011

I probably don't have an accurate picture in my mind, but.....  IF the toggles were on the actual strap itself [i.e. not on the "tabs" affixed to the banjo], it/they could be completely detached when the banjo goes into the case. I do this with my "bad buckle" strap, and put it in the case separately [under (?) the peghead].  This might help with the "case fit" issue .... alas not with instant adjustability.    I'm not trying to promote one method over another.... just thinking out loud.

Dec 14, 2019 - 10:31:20 AM
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70681 posts since 5/9/2007

My favorite strap has been this "Blue-Note" with heavy duty quick-clips.
Exceedingly strong,comfortably padded and lightweight.
I threaded in a piece of 550 nylon twine which stays on the banjo(s) at all times and simply clip on this strap to whatever one I want to play.
It unclips and folds neatly in the case compartment.




 

Edited by - steve davis on 12/14/2019 10:32:46

Dec 14, 2019 - 12:11:14 PM
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959 posts since 8/7/2017

Here's my homemade strap and construction details:
Materials:

Strap: Buy about 6' total length, 2"wide
Cut into 2 pieces: about 58" and 8" long (distances are not critical). Cut with hotknife to seal edges.

3 feet of 1/8" dia nylon lawnmower starter cord (woven)

Fittings (nylon or metal) for 2" strap: 1 Square ring, 1 Adjustment square ring (with fixed center bar)

Dowels: 2, 5/16" dia, 2 1/2" long, shallow groove filed in middle of each.
----------
Construction:
Strap:
Holes: burn 2 holes ( about 1cm wide, 1 1/2 cm long), one in center of long strap about 3" from end, the other in the 8" piece about 2 1/2" from end. A soldering iron works well for this, or a heated nail - burn outside unless you like the smell of burning nylon.

Sewing: Long piece: Fold over holed end about 3" (centering hole in fold), and sew end of strap to long strap. Short piece: Feed the 8" piece through the square ring, overlap ends about 3/4" and sew together. Use strong thread (eg. carpet thread, sailmaker's thread, tent repair thread)

Assembly: feed the bare end of the long strap through adjustment ring, then through square ring, then back through adjustment ring. I ended up with about 6" of tail past the adjustment ring. Adjustment ring can be slid up and down the strap so it does not ride on your shoulder. I left the tail end as is, but you could fold it over a couple times and sew if you were worried about the strap slipping out of the adjustment ring. I've never had the strap slip in the adjustment ring, but I don't dance around on the stage :-) Or, you could sew the end to the strap once you got the strap adjusted to where you want it.

White lawnmower cords:
Cut two pieces, each about 18" long. Make a double loop around a bracket, and tie ends together (I like the double carrick bend, but double sheet bend would work, or triple square knot; Need a good knot here because nylon is slippery, though soft woven nylon holds knots better than hard laid nylon.). You will adjust the length of the loops to your banjo, along with possibly trying different brackets to get the banjo to hang like you want. I ended up with 3" double loop for top of banjo, and 2" double loop for under the neck. Paracord would be another possible option; I have not worked with it, so don't know it's knot-holding  characteristics.

Use:
Tuck the doubled loop through the hole in the strap, and secure with dowel toggle. If you perform, you might want to make a couple extra dowel toggles in case you drop one and it rolls off the stage.

Any questions, email me: bkmart@hotmail.com

Photos: overview of strap, banjo with white cords, dowels and strap holes with blue cord substituting for the lawnmower cords.




 

Edited by - BrooksMT on 12/14/2019 12:16:09

Dec 14, 2019 - 5:33:02 PM

70681 posts since 5/9/2007

I like how my 550 twine doesn't touch the tonering.

Dec 20, 2019 - 9:31:31 AM
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15 posts since 2/7/2019

I have a black Neotech strap & i'd say it's a very solid choice. i have to squeeze pretty hard to open the buckles so in my opinion it's pretty safe. It's also a very comfortable strap.

Dec 20, 2019 - 12:41:38 PM

120 posts since 4/3/2009

At one time I used a Slider Strap and put Dunlop Strap-loks on to change instruments. On the banjo, I bolted the Strap-lok buttons to the flange with nylon washers to protect the flange. No longer use the Slider Strap (got in the way of playing up the neck on Dobro) but I left the Strap-loks on the banjo with a dedicated strap.

I do have a number of straps with the black plastic buckle...

Dec 20, 2019 - 7:08:30 PM

383 posts since 11/21/2018

Dave (and Rudy) I use strap locks on my very heavy bass guitar and love them. I'd be interested in seeing a pic of how you attatched yours to your flange.

Is it a brass or pot metal flange? It seems like that would be a lot of weight for hanging from the flange as opposed to the hooks? Anyway if you've got a pic I'm sure others might find your solution of interest.
Thanks

Dec 20, 2019 - 7:59:57 PM
Players Union Member

rudy

USA

14828 posts since 3/27/2004

quote:
Originally posted by northernbelle

Dave (and Rudy) I use strap locks on my very heavy bass guitar and love them. I'd be interested in seeing a pic of how you attatched yours to your flange.

Is it a brass or pot metal flange? It seems like that would be a lot of weight for hanging from the flange as opposed to the hooks? Anyway if you've got a pic I'm sure others might find your solution of interest.
Thanks


Dunlop strap-locs come in two configurations, surface mount and recessed socket.  I like to use the standard surface mount version and I countersink them into the surface of the neck or rim so they don't protrude when they are not in use with a strap.  When adding them to thinner rims I use a small bolt and attach them with a acorn nut from the inside of the rim.  For the neck end I locate them on the bottom side of the neck heel, sometimes closer to the rim and sometimes further out.  They don't get in the way of playing for me, so I'm happy with placing them a bit further out so the balance is better when standing.

The surface mount should be able to be mounted solidly using a number of options depending on the particular way a banjo is constructed.

Dec 20, 2019 - 8:20:08 PM
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rvrose

USA

706 posts since 6/29/2007

I have used the Neotechs for over 10 years on both my banjos - one is a 11+lb Deering Calico. I have never had a problem. They are also very comfortable. Easy to install by just looping them thru brackets.

https://www.musiciansfriend.com/accessories/neotech-super-banjo-strap

 

Rick

Dec 22, 2019 - 7:27:43 PM

383 posts since 11/21/2018

Thanks for your pics, Rudy. I'm not going to insert them on this banjo but as I said I think they're great on my other instruments.
I was interested in seeing what Dave cooked up using the flange and a removable stay-lok.

Rick thanks for the feedback with the Neotech. I'm considering trying one sitting until I see how I feel about them.

I've softened up my old leather strap so that it now fits in the case with the banjo but seeking more "on the fly" adjustability down the road.
Mine is a simple affair with long rawhide strings that tie onto the hooks/t.t. bolts. i think it was simply marketed at "The Banjo Strap" back in the '70s. Adjusts the usual way through the shoulder pad but time consuming and a hassle. I have it set where it works most of the time but occasionally an instant tweak could be nice when I switch from center of the lap/between the legs to sitting on my right leg

Dec 28, 2019 - 3:37:29 PM

120 posts since 4/3/2009

quote:
Originally posted by northernbelle

,,,. I'd be interested in seeing a pic of how you attached yours to your flange.,,

I no longer have the banjo, and I'm not using this on my current banjos.  I'd probably spend more time drawing a picture than describing, so here I go:

For each end, you will need:

  • The Straplok strap button
  • Two steel washers larger than your flange holes, small enough to clear the rim and resonator
  • Two nylon washers the size of the steel washers.
  • A flat- or oval-head machine screw that fits in the Straplok button
  • A locking nut that fits the machine screw (I used a nylock nut, you may be fine with an added lock washer or Loctite)

Assemble screw through Straplok button.  Add one steel washer and one nylon washer.  Place this through the front of the flange opening.  From the back side of the flange, add the other nylon washer and steel washer, and tighten down the locking nut until secure).  Nylon washers will touch the flange on both sides and prevent marring.

Since you are in the good ole' US of A, you are probably within driving distance of an Ace Hardware.  Ace is the place with the Helpful Hardware Folks, and also the place of the Hillman hardware bins - You will find this hardware easier there than at Stuff Depot.

Extra points:  The head of the included Straplok screw is not exactly oval head; its sides are flat like a fillister head screw.  The machinists here may actually know the name of that particular screw head design; I couldn't find it with a quick search.  The oval head screw that fits in the Straplok button may look more flimsy than you would want (probably plenty strong anyway).  However, if you have a bench grinder and a "healthy" dose of OCD like this poster, you could use the next larger screw size and grind the sides of the screw head to match the head of the included Straplok screw.

Dec 28, 2019 - 10:57:53 PM

383 posts since 11/21/2018

Thank you for your very detailed instructions Dave! Would've replied earlier but was at a jam.
I'll experiment with this eventually to see if I like it. I appreciate your taking the time to fill us all in.
Have a great New Year,
NB

Dec 29, 2019 - 12:55:17 AM
Players Union Member

Helix

USA

12130 posts since 8/30/2006

Well written, Rudy, I've had strap locks come loose off the strap from usage, and I don't drill holes in the side of necks, nor eye bolts like Seeger did, balance is important. Your solution is personal and just as well thought out as your other work.

I think we all agree keeping the banjo tilted to the player is paramount.

My plastic buckles are 2" wide. One of the buckles came with improper de-burring of the mold spew, that leaves me question the whole buckle.

I use another bag for my 22 lbs. Jack Russell/Corgie. He actually steps into it for me, then I put him on my back, he sticks his head around my right side, and we take off on my mountain bike for the short trip to the desert, where he pulls like a tractor. If plastic broke or came loose, I risk losing him to the scent of wildlife

And, If one ever came loose, it would be disaster for both, my thumbs are showing some age and we don't use choke collars on our rescue dogs. I can't take him as often while I'm rehabbing my knee replacement, but next time, I'll see to a metal clip or a different bag.

Sorry, I can't support some other solutions, flange mount is adventurous in my view. I've seen too many repair needs of bent flanges.

I use dedicated cradles that are installed not to muffle thangs.

I always like Steve Davis's solutions from the nautical point of view. No holes, no problems, just solutions and interchangeability.


Formula One tried tire tethers to keep wandering rims out of the audience. I'm curious now about a tether. A bungie?

My main concern is getting my customers banjos to lean towards them rather than away.


 

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