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Jul 7, 2020 - 12:48:40 AM
87 posts since 8/13/2017

Hi

I'm having a banjo built for me here in the UK and I'm pretty impatient to get it done, I ordered it 4 months ago and I'm expecting he will start on it in the next couple of months. I'm pretty clear about the major specs apart from one and that's the neck profile.

I already have a Grafton Clipper which has a 35mm nut and a fairly chunky grippy" neck and it quite suits me. If I had a choice I'd probably trim a mm off and go for similar but with a 34mm nut.

The fellow who will build the new one for me tells me most of his customers would find a slim profile and 32mm nut to be good which is similar to my Deering Goodtime, and I'm also comfortable with this. At the moment I just get used to whatever of the two I'm playing.

Here's my issue though. I have a couple of hand issues mainly relating to arthritis and a bit of tendonitis. I'm not expecting these to go away as I age ( 65 this year if I'm spared! ) and I'm wondering if a chunkier neck with a wider nut would be the best idea. I know Jeff Beck has tendonitis and recommends a chunkier guitar neck as you age

On balance I slightly prefer the chunkier Grafton neck and would probably send him the banjo to measure up and imitate the profile with perhaps a 34mm nut and I'm likely to do that,

On the other hand, I'm trying to guess which one would suit my condition in future and I'd be interested to hear other peoples' views.

Does anyone have any personal experience of this?

My question

Edited by - wooster on 07/07/2020 00:57:13

Jul 7, 2020 - 1:33:57 AM
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4867 posts since 5/14/2007

I'm 73 and while my arthritis isn't bad, its worse than it was a year ago and I doubt it will get any better. I find instruments with beefier necks more comfortable to play. (I also find thick chopsticks easier to use.)

As you are buying a custom instrument, I would think your builder would be willing to comply with your needs. You are not "most of his customers."  You are you.

And I am grumpy today. I guess it's coming out.  frown

Jul 7, 2020 - 5:12:09 AM

1393 posts since 4/25/2007

quote:
Originally posted by wooster

Hi

I'm having a banjo built for me here in the UK and I'm pretty impatient to get it done, I ordered it 4 months ago and I'm expecting he will start on it in the next couple of months. I'm pretty clear about the major specs apart from one and that's the neck profile.

I already have a Grafton Clipper which has a 35mm nut and a fairly chunky grippy" neck and it quite suits me. If I had a choice I'd probably trim a mm off and go for similar but with a 34mm nut.

The fellow who will build the new one for me tells me most of his customers would find a slim profile and 32mm nut to be good which is similar to my Deering Goodtime, and I'm also comfortable with this. At the moment I just get used to whatever of the two I'm playing.

Here's my issue though. I have a couple of hand issues mainly relating to arthritis and a bit of tendonitis. I'm not expecting these to go away as I age ( 65 this year if I'm spared! ) and I'm wondering if a chunkier neck with a wider nut would be the best idea. I know Jeff Beck has tendonitis and recommends a chunkier guitar neck as you age

On balance I slightly prefer the chunkier Grafton neck and would probably send him the banjo to measure up and imitate the profile with perhaps a 34mm nut and I'm likely to do that,

On the other hand, I'm trying to guess which one would suit my condition in future and I'd be interested to hear other peoples' views.

Does anyone have any personal experience of this?

My question


As a fellow UK Arthritic I'll share my thoughts. My Arthritis is mainly in my shoulders and hands. Awhile ago i commissioned a neck from UK builder Leon Ballard. Leon fitted the neck to an antique Dobson SB 10 inch pot. The nut is 36mm and the scale 24 & 1/2. Leon does tend to make a pretty chunky neck. I find it a really comfortable combination. I would add that Leon is a particularly good guy to work with. 

On the subject of Arthritis i would also recommend checking out all the available information on diet. Over the past year I've changed mine completely but i realize this can be an emotive subject particularly here.

Jul 7, 2020 - 5:45:55 AM
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7382 posts since 8/28/2013

Your banjo should be the way YOU want it, not the way others want it.

Jul 7, 2020 - 6:02:10 AM

1393 posts since 4/25/2007

quote:
Originally posted by G Edward Porgie

Your banjo should be the way YOU want it, not the way others want it.


Yes i think John has ALREADY covered that point.

Jul 7, 2020 - 6:26:11 AM

3859 posts since 10/13/2005

I recently had problems with neck profile from a custom banjo builder. I ordered a very specific neck profile ("U-Shaped"), sent a picture of another banjo/volute that I was after, and somehow he created a flat-backed neck profile similar to some classical guitars ( dead opposite of what I was seeking) and the volute was toward the second fret instead of being above the nut (contrary to the picture I sent), totally interfering with playability. To this day I have no idea how/why the communication broke down? Too much wi-fi frying the brain? Too busy to pay attention to my communication? Afraid to ask clarifying questions? I just don't know?

Anyway if there is some way to send/take the neck of a banjo you like to the builder and have him copy it I suggest you do it. The above builder I think meant well. It probably took him just as long to make a bad neck as it would have to make a good neck but his mind was on some off-tangent for reasons I guess I'll never know. Just a suggestion and warning about what can happen. Best wishes! banjered

Jul 7, 2020 - 6:47:14 AM

7382 posts since 8/28/2013

quote:
Originally posted by Stephen John Prior
quote:
Originally posted by G Edward Porgie

Your banjo should be the way YOU want it, not the way others want it.


Yes i think John has ALREADY covered that point.


So what? Sometimes it's wise to get two pieces of the same advice, sometimes even three or four.

I read duplicate ideas all the time in the BHO threads.

Jul 7, 2020 - 6:57:22 AM

1393 posts since 4/25/2007

quote:
Originally posted by G Edward Porgie
quote:
Originally posted by Stephen John Prior
quote:
Originally posted by G Edward Porgie

Your banjo should be the way YOU want it, not the way others want it.


Yes i think John has ALREADY covered that point.


So what? Sometimes it's wise to get two pieces of the same advice, sometimes even three or four.

I read duplicate ideas all the time in the BHO threads.


Apologies for my POOR attempt at humour  should have added a smiley Imoji.

Jul 7, 2020 - 9:57:23 AM

87 posts since 8/13/2017

Hi folks

I might have given the wrong impression. The luthier isn't trying to persuade me to have any particular neck profile, it just was something that came up in our conversations. He will do what I ask, and he seems a really nice guy and happy to give me what I want. Sorry if I gave another impression, but I was really just introducing the pros and cons of neck profiles.

My question was really about the ease of playing for arthritic fingers and it seems that so far people find chunkier profiles to be better. That goes along with my gut feeling and so I'm likely to go in that direction.

Thank you for your advice and for sharing your experiences.

Wooster

Edited by - wooster on 07/07/2020 09:58:28

Jul 7, 2020 - 1:12:29 PM

7382 posts since 8/28/2013

quote:
Originally posted by Stephen John Prior
quote:
Originally posted by G Edward Porgie
quote:
Originally posted by Stephen John Prior
quote:
Originally posted by G Edward Porgie

Your banjo should be the way YOU want it, not the way others want it.


Yes i think John has ALREADY covered that point.


So what? Sometimes it's wise to get two pieces of the same advice, sometimes even three or four.

I read duplicate ideas all the time in the BHO threads.


Apologies for my POOR attempt at humour  should have added a smiley Imoji.


Nothing you said needs an apology., but I appreciate it nonetheless.

I sometimes fail to add one of those ugly little emojis myself; in fact, I don't even like the stupid things. I've had to go back a few times to clarify something I've said.  

By the way, you spelled "humor" wrong! wink

Jul 8, 2020 - 8:59:38 PM

2099 posts since 2/7/2008

Just to throw a wrench in the works (or a spanner in wooster's case :)

Below is a link to a thread in which Ken LeVan talked about making a neck with an asymmetrical profile. I could see this working out well for arthritic hands.

Perhaps he'll chime in on this thread.


banjohangout.org/archive/324543

Jul 9, 2020 - 3:56:43 AM
Players Union Member

Helix

USA

12721 posts since 8/30/2006

I always ask questions of each customer like how tall they are, how big their hands are, do they sit or stand to play.

I use a V profile or a U profile. Once I innovated a P profile because of a longer thumb on a taller person.

I think it's fun to develop one's own specs, just like different spacing at the bridge.

At the heel, I also put a "toe" there so the strap can hook through there instead of sliding off an un-hooked or other Dobson like neck, this helps keep the banjo tilted towards the players' abdomen.

I'll be 75 this year. I have Osteo arthritis in my thumbs, it doesn't prevent me from the tiny hand movements needed to play bluegrass or claw. i've broken both my metacarpal little finger bones, left thumb, first joint amputation, and had both my knees replaced, thankfully. My metatarsal pads are gone, I ride my Mtn bike daily, but I can't walk barefooted in the house anymore. My shop tables are all on wheels so I can sit or stand as needed to build.

I know when it's going to rain in Kansas City from the phantoms.
I recommend that one keeps playing as much as possible. Even my friends who have had strokes and Travis Edmundsen himself continued to play tamborine when they could no longer play. Singing is one thing our species does well.

This music kills death itself, be hard to kill.

Jul 9, 2020 - 10:39:01 AM

115 posts since 2/16/2020

I appreciate this discussion, even its digressions into health concerns. You get to a certain age and creaky knees or arthritic thumbs become interesting to talk and hear about (I'm at that age).

Anyway, my old StewMac kit neck is thick and narrow and hard for me to play; it is U shaped. My Goodtime neck is "average" width (1.25" nut) and shallow (kind of flat) and hard to play, but better than the StewMac with its narrower nut. I played the Goldtone CC-Carlin neck and found it to be a pleasure (I think it's 1.375" nut, with adequate depth to feel good to me). As I ponder having a neck made I wonder how to work with a builder. Are their descriptive profiles that builders understand and use?

And there is a question of how one interacts with the neck. I have an Irish tenor banjo with 1.25" width at the nut, and relatively shallow. But I play it differently. I use more of guitar grip with the 5-string, and a cello grip with the tenor (thumb placed on the back of the neck). Just speaks to the point that there are individual variations in what neck feels right, even if you don't have arthritis.

Robert

Jul 9, 2020 - 4:43:32 PM

3859 posts since 10/13/2005

"I appreciate this discussion, even its digressions into health concerns. You get to a certain age and creaky knees or arthritic thumbs become interesting to talk and hear about (I'm at that age)."

A friend calls this "The Organ Recital." banjered

Jul 9, 2020 - 9:07:17 PM

Bart Veerman

Canada

4665 posts since 1/5/2005

Fortunately, I don't have any issues like that myself so I have no personal experience that way. I can imagine though that hand/wrist problems like that would come in personal "flavours" so they might not be the same for everyone.

I would/should be fairly easy to shave a chubby neck down a bit if too thick, it wouldn't work the other way round.

You could consider making a dummy neck: get an 8 foot piece of cheap two-by-four, they're 38 mm wide, cut it up in 12 inch lengths and whittle each piece down to various neck shapes and dimensions - you won't need a lot of fancy, or expensive, tools. This way you can have your own fingers do the deciding what works best for them. When you come up with a shape & dimensions that works best for you, just send it to your builder for them to use as a template when they build your neck and you'll know you'd be getting the right thing from the get-go...

Jul 9, 2020 - 11:05:54 PM
Players Union Member

Helix

USA

12721 posts since 8/30/2006

I play a flat fingerboard at 1.25” at the nut . I’ve only built one at 1-5/16”
I guess you can pick the profile you desire

No one has made a more ergonomic neck that is shaped more like what the palm and fingers need to be, not fatiguing the whole hand/wrist/forearm, nobody that I know of

Instead the “one size fits all” edict is offered with “tastes just like chicken”

Is that a better answer, I thought the P profile was at least a viable solution. We’re all different

Jul 9, 2020 - 11:07:56 PM
Players Union Member

Helix

USA

12721 posts since 8/30/2006

As far as neck shape

Find a shop that can extrude aluminum for a hollow neck

Jul 11, 2020 - 9:05:25 AM

115 posts since 2/16/2020

U profile and V profile are self-explanatory. What is a P profile?

Jul 11, 2020 - 12:34:34 PM

jamesinkster

Canada

234 posts since 5/25/2010

Assuming this is an openback banjo, I certainly don't think 34mm is too wide.
For oldtime/clawhammer, I tend to build them wider, unless someone specifically specifies otherwise. I've built as wide as 35.5mm and found it to be very comfortable...

And, to be clear -- just because the nut is wide doesn't mean it has to by any stretch be "chunky"...

Jul 11, 2020 - 1:15:47 PM
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13054 posts since 6/29/2005

I was trained as an industrial designer, so I'm persnickety about ergonomics, but how a neck feels in the hand can mean a lot and contribute to better playing. 

This may seem counterintuitive, but people with limited mobility in their hands do much better with thicker grips than thinner ones. This is true from little kids to older people with everything from forks and spoons to bicycle handlebars to cooking pot handles and knife handles. Instrument necks are no exception.  The widest and neck I have ever made was for a champion powerlifter, who didn't have typical mobility issues, but very strong hands and didn't like squeezing down on skinny necks.

It has been my experience that necks with a modified V profile are very comfortable, and it's my basic profile.

Here's an example of one that's 35.8 mm at the first fret.

a more ergonomic method is to make the neck profile asymmetrical, the logic being that your hand isn't symmetrical. This is a very comfortable profile and I have done a number of them.

Here are some profiles I have collected—the modified V is wider than the Gibson, Vega or Ode ones, and the Ode profile may look goofy, but the drawing was made from an actual 60s Ode neck.

 

I would suggest getting your builder to make a "maquette" or model of a neck section around the 3rd fret, from scrap wood or pine for you to feel and see if you like it.  I have done this, and it's very helpful in the case of special profile necks because you can actually feel it.

Jul 11, 2020 - 7:33:59 PM

87 posts since 8/13/2017

Wow. That's a lot of information above. Thank you all for your help. I'm very interested in the profiles you show, Ken. I have played Banjos with V profiles and for some reason they're not really to my taste. Interesting that, because two of the nicest profiles in guitar necks for me both have soft V necks: the Martin CEO7 and Fender Baja Telecaster!

I'm definitely leaning to the thicker profile to give good grip as I agree that thicker grips make sense for me. I reckon I'll stick with he chunky profile of my Clipper with a mm shaved off the nut width

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