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Mastertone 1 piece flange neck heel fitment to pot

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Jan 19, 2020 - 7:14:52 AM

Brett

USA

2029 posts since 11/29/2005

I know I’m asking a trade secret. But on a standard mastertone type banjo with 1 piece flange, how can one adjust heel cut for incredibly high string height with 5/8” bridge, and without power tools (more than a dremel)?
I’ve got 2-3 RK necks laying around, and a couple RK pots. Bought individually. Every time I try to put together something with neutral tension on coordinator rods, I still have action for a dobro. I can shim around top lag bolt and get it playable, but then I have this huge unsightly gap between end of fingerboard and tension hoop. I know I could send parts off to a qualified luthier, but with 3 or 4 parts banjos laying around, I’d like to learn myself.
Please step me through a process or direct me to a video that shows this process after lag bolts (2 for mastertone type banjo) are removed, and I do realize it may require many episodes to get there. Thank you.

Jan 19, 2020 - 7:53:22 AM

1015 posts since 4/13/2017

I just posted a topic about a heel fitting jig my grandpa and I built. It works very nicely.

Edited by - Blue20Boy17 on 01/19/2020 07:53:59

Jan 19, 2020 - 8:29:52 AM

Brett

USA

2029 posts since 11/29/2005

Let me rephrase. I need to make minor heel cut adjustment at home to reduce string action, which I can shim top lag to reach. If I can shim around top lag and reach satisfactory action, how could I (with simple handtools) achieve similar action without shim? Does wood need to be removed off lower portion of factory heel cut to bring lower heel further in? I’m calling top lag one close to tone ring, and top portion of factory heel cut the same chunk of wood which contacts tone ring.
I imagine removing lower lag, using a dremel with sanding drum or a small sanding block. I don’t want to build or buy a machine as I just have zero space. Thank you.

Jan 19, 2020 - 9:55:46 AM
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roydsjr

USA

637 posts since 5/17/2007
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I usually do it with a dremel and a 1/2 drum. If the Neck lines up right, string location centered right before you start, then I slowly work the bottom part of the heel. a little at a time and then mount the Neck again to check the action with the middle string (G) . I know this is more work that way but I don't want to take off too much. I'd rather take more time than to over do it! I also check the upper part to keep it fitted well too, more or less the angle and not the top part of the upper section of the heel. My way of doing things work for me but other luthiers may have a better approach then my method.

Jan 19, 2020 - 10:52:02 AM

Blackjaxe47

Canada

1469 posts since 6/20/2014

quote:
Originally posted by roydsjr

I usually do it with a dremel and a 1/2 drum. If the Neck lines up right, string location centered right before you start, then I slowly work the bottom part of the heel. a little at a time and then mount the Neck again to check the action with the middle string (G) . I know this is more work that way but I don't want to take off too much. I'd rather take more time than to over do it! I also check the upper part to keep it fitted well too, more or less the angle and not the top part of the upper section of the heel. My way of doing things work for me but other luthiers may have a better approach then my method.


Good advice, I would add that you do not have to restring the banjo everytime your checking the fit. Use a pencil and mark your bridge placement, remove the strings and neck. Work slowly and take care to not remove too much wood, put the neck back on the pot and use a correct nut and washer to attach it.....no need to use the co-rods at this time. Now laying the banjo on a flat surface put the bridge back on the head and use a straight edge on the neck and see where it lines up with the bridge. 

Jan 19, 2020 - 11:06:18 AM

1162 posts since 2/2/2008

It can be done but requires patience and care. It may sound like a simple exercise but it's not. You can get lucky or you can ruin a neck. If using dremel I would keep truing the heel by hand with sand paper and curved block.
Maybe consider working the rim. That will bring your action down some without ruining a neck. Looking at lag screw location. Being mixed parts the neck may work better if it is raised to expose the fretboard over the tension hoop. There is much to evaluate.
Yes simple tools can do it. Sandpaper and a file if you have one. You need a reference to keep it straight also or you will have a crooked neck.

Jan 19, 2020 - 11:13:37 AM
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2315 posts since 12/18/2004

Brett,
When I started building back in the early 1980s , I would use bandsaw and rough cut the heel profiles and then use a dremel tool with sanding disc to fit to pot......could never get a quality fit with no gaps that was required if I was gonna be successful in the luthiery business and satisfy myself in the process.
I went to a luthier friend in Tn. and he showed me how he accomplished this and I came home and built the neck fixture with correct diameter sanding discs and learned how to use it......after building around 130 new necks using this fixture I can get a great fit which satisfies my customers as well as myself.
So if you are looking to learn to do this job correctly then you may want to get the proper equipment to do it with.......but if you don't want to spend the effort or have room for this then I would say send to a qualified luthier and they will do it for you.
If you decide to get set up and do yourself, if you contact me I will be more than willing to tell you exactly how I cut my heels and can give u some tips that will make it easier for you......some that I had to learn the hard way..LOL!
Here is a pic of my heel cutting fixture on a dedicated drill press in my shop.
Don Bryant NC banjo luthier

https://www.banjohangout.org/photo/116718

Edited by - bryantde on 01/19/2020 11:22:48

Jan 19, 2020 - 12:05:27 PM

DannyB4

USA

425 posts since 10/3/2010

I've done heel fitting by hand to correct action heights and bad neck to heel pot fits. It's a time consuming process by hand.

There's two things that need to be stressed. First, if there's any doubt to your skills as a wood worker/ mechanic, I'd recommend going to someone that has the tooling and the knowledge it takes to make the neck fit and at the same time get your action where you like it. Because even with the specialty tooling , it takes some time to get the results that you want. It will be worth the money, too, in the long run.

Secondly, you'll need to buy a contour gauge , have accessibility to a belt/disc sander, 80 and 100 grit sand paper, a small steel ruler and feeler gauges for measurements, and a Dremel@ type tool for the initial cut, and at last, time.

I know this sounds like a lot but you'll have to make some sanding blocks with the right arc to them to final the fit. You're gonna have to measure the thickness of the shims, and remember, the more you take off the bottom on the heel, the more the angle has to be adjusted on the upper part of the heel.
Also there might be a need to plug and redo the lag bolts if the angle is two much after the cut.
So, there again, I'd recommend taking it to some one who has the tooling, but if not, good luck and take your time,IMPO

Jan 19, 2020 - 1:24:49 PM

96 posts since 1/24/2019

It’s hard to keep a straight, true surface with a dremel tool. I use sharp chisels, being careful to take the same amount off both sides. Then I finish up with sanding blocks. If you are making complete banjos, and the neck to pot fit is the same on them all, it definitely makes sense to make jigs to cut them all the same. The problem with using a jig to fit parts by different makers, is that the dimensions are rarely going to be exactly the same

Edited by - Bobby Burns on 01/19/2020 13:25:53

Jan 22, 2020 - 4:30:46 AM
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Players Union Member

Helix

USA

12191 posts since 8/30/2006

Find the centerpoint and centerline of your neck. i made a neck sled using cello clamps. I use the sled to hold the neck where I want it.
I make peghead cuts, heel cuts and square cuts for the 3 degree angle of both legs of these "bluegrass" necks.

I use 18 x 24" paper to draw the heel if I need to.

You only need to remove a small amount of wood to get this right. With no tools but a Dremel, one can still hold the 5" radius needed to snug the neck to the rim

A customer sent me a bluegrass heel cut on a blem neck he bought, but he got a straight sided open back type rim with a magnetic resonator. I cut the lower leg to length even with the top leg. That's different to what you want to do here.

Hand chisels are one of the "hand processes." Obviously very useful and skillful in the older days.

I use teflon baking sheets and have a pocketful of little templates for heels, fingerboard radii and such.


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