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Trouble mounting a skin head on an old luscomb

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Jan 14, 2020 - 2:24:20 PM
35 posts since 9/9/2012

I'm running into a bit of trouble trying to mount a skin head on an old Luscomb I recently got. After mounting the head, and letting it dry the tension hoop is sitting high enough above the fretboard that it looks like it will interfere with the strings. I might be able to tighten the brackets another half turn, but it dried really tight.

The tension hoop is sitting above the plane of the head about as high as on any of the other banjo I've seen. I'm assuming that since it isn't cut out at the fretboard (like on all of my other banjos), I should be setting it really low? However it was really difficult to get it this far down over the skin without over-tightening it and it would make sense to leave a bit of room for tightening it come summer.

I'm not sure if I should give it another attempt and try to get it lower or just take a dremel to the tension hoop to carve it down a bit where it meets the fretboard.

The photos are of my second attempt.


Jan 14, 2020 - 2:33:49 PM
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882 posts since 1/9/2012

Stieltjes?

Even S.S. Stewart, after giving explicit instructions on mounting a head, wrote (to paraphrase) it's a bit of a crap shoot. There's no way from the photos to tell what would happen if you keep tightening, but you're probably right if the current tension seems playable.

DON'T grind down the tension ring. In fact, you've left enough skin to just re-do the whole thing. Take it off and soak it again, and it will be none the worse for wear. Keep in mind that the issue is not just how tight you make it when it's wet but also how high the tension ring sits at that point.

Jan 14, 2020 - 2:57:54 PM
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631 posts since 2/19/2012

What David said. Been there done that. I never trim off the excess until I get an idea of how it's coming out. Re-wetting and adding a little slack is the way to go.

Jan 14, 2020 - 4:59:25 PM

286 posts since 5/29/2015

Cut a circle of paper towel the same size as the head. Lay it on the head and wet the paper towel. The paper towel will dampen the head allowing it to be tightened some more.

Jan 14, 2020 - 5:04:45 PM

12508 posts since 6/29/2005

I find that they stretch down quite a bit.

Jan 14, 2020 - 5:42:07 PM

4927 posts since 9/21/2007

I can pretty much dial them in these days the first time. In the past I would take a damp sponge and dampen (top and bottom) the head almost to the edge until it would get soft. Then I would bring it down till tight and repeat.

Let it stand proud about 1/8" or a little less and then bring it down a little at a time over the next few days. This will set the head and it will stop stretching.

Jan 14, 2020 - 5:50:02 PM

1006 posts since 2/2/2008
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I think you need to remove it and try again. Once the skin dries around the wire hoop at the height you have it will rip if you pull it down that much.
I would remove it, soak it well and take note of the ring mark that it may of made.
Refit and try and pull the skin at the edges once you have the hoop lower.
You will have to feel it out like a wise blind man.
If the cause is due to a thick skin you can research how to thin out a skin.
In the past I have scraped the skin and worked it while it was wet.
You may need to put lube on hoop and wire. I have used a bar of lanolin soap.
Some vintage banjos are very difficult and I'm guessing they had very thin skins when building.

Jan 14, 2020 - 5:50:42 PM

631 posts since 2/19/2012

I've only done a few, but I've usually erred on the side of leaving them too loose and ending up with the tension hoop too low. That's when I've gone back and pulled a little more through before cutting. I also try to end up with the hoop about 1/8" high initially.

I've always been a little leery of continuing to stretch them with more water after that initial drying if they're really tight, but maybe that's an unfounded concern.

Jan 14, 2020 - 6:17:32 PM

6574 posts since 8/28/2013

Go with David Politzer's suggestion. Take it off and re-wet the whole thing. Keep trying untile you get it right; that's what all of us have had to do at times, and don't feel bad about it. Even after mounting dozens of heads, there's always one or two that can make a person crazy.

And please, DON'T grind down the tension hoop.

Jan 15, 2020 - 3:01:36 PM

35 posts since 9/9/2012

Thanks for all the replies!

I took it off, re-soaked it and gave it another shot. This time I pulled the tension hoop down more so it is just a hair (maybe 1/16") above the plane of the head. The head is still wet but has about as much give in it as it did last time at this stage so I feel pretty good about this one. I'll let you all know how it turned out in the morning.

Jan 15, 2020 - 5:34:01 PM

6574 posts since 8/28/2013

quote:
Originally posted by Lebesgue

Thanks for all the replies!

I took it off, re-soaked it and gave it another shot. This time I pulled the tension hoop down more so it is just a hair (maybe 1/16") above the plane of the head. The head is still wet but has about as much give in it as it did last time at this stage so I feel pretty good about this one. I'll let you all know how it turned out in the morning.


Please let us know after two weeks, too. You'll be adjusting the head tension for at least that long simply because it will keep stretching for that long.

Jan 16, 2020 - 8:18:14 PM

35 posts since 9/9/2012

The head tightened up to a good playing tension after drying and the tension hoop is sitting just about as high as it could go without interfering with the strings so it is looking promising.

Thanks again everyone for the advice!

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