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Aug 7, 2020 - 10:03:51 AM
893 posts since 2/21/2011

I guess I could do a search but this may be easier.

What is the best fit of a Gibson style flathead ring on a wood rim?

1. very snug almost press fit?
2. slip fit so it slips on and off easily but has no slop?
3. inner part of ring snug to, and resting on, rim?
4. ring supported by skirt and inner part of ring not touching rim?

Aug 7, 2020 - 10:13:01 AM
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11067 posts since 6/2/2008

I think most people believe in or prefer a combination of option 2 and option 3: slip fit with ring equally supported by skirt resting on ledge and inner bottom resting on top of rim.

Advocates of Bill Palmer's "Tone Bell System"  believe in option 4. I've never heard a banjo with that setup, so I can't say.

Slip fit around circumference with solid foundation at skirt and lower inside edge works for me.

Edited by - Old Hickory on 08/07/2020 10:13:18

Aug 7, 2020 - 10:43:26 AM

BobbyE

USA

2754 posts since 11/29/2007

From everything I read I would agree with Old Hickory. I think I remember hearing or reading that Arthur Hatfield says he builds his banjos with a pretty loose fit. I own a Buckcreek so I guess I should know.

Bobby

Edited by - BobbyE on 08/07/2020 10:43:59

Aug 7, 2020 - 12:09:13 PM
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1345 posts since 4/13/2017

A friend of mine performed some experiments. He put a tone ring in a refrigerator over night. The rim this tone ring was paired with was fitted to make the tone ring a slip fit. After He took the tone ring out of the fridge, it had shrank by 10 thousandths and would NOT go back on the rim, even after it reached room temperature.

Also, before he performed that experiment, he took the same rim and tone ring to a humid room in his house. After leaving them there over night, he tried to remove the tone ring and it would NOT come off. He had to take them back to the not-so-humid room and let it sit there for days before it would come back off.

Keep in mind he had this ring fitted as a slip fit.

He is now of the opinion that if one is going to use a standard tone ring with a skirt, it should be a sloppy fit. Just sloppy enough that there's enough room for the wood to swell or the metal to shrink without the tone ring getting tight. However, he just built a banjo with a skirtless tone ring, and he said that it has a much more open sound, and doesn't come and go as much with humidity.

That's just the experiences of my friend. Not my own, nor should it be everyone's consensus. I'll turn on the popcorn machine.

Aug 7, 2020 - 1:04:03 PM

234 posts since 6/15/2006

I also would go with Old Hickory, and think it is important that the skirt stands very firmly on the outer ledge the whole way round without exceptions, end likewise should there be contact between the inner part of the ring and the pot. So the two parts have to be crafted very precisely.
I have earlier said that i could not have things tight enough, but if the skirt goes so tight that it prevents the ring to stand firmly on the ledge, it is too tight.
I once had a guitar where the bridge saddle went so tight in the groove, that it did not touch the bottom of the groove. After it had been sanded and went the whole way down it was like having a new guitar. So thing may be too tight - even for me :) Steen
Haven´t experienced the bell system, so cant tell, but am a little sceptical - perhaps without reason.

Aug 7, 2020 - 2:00:47 PM

RB3

USA

755 posts since 4/12/2004

I own a pre-war, flat head Gibson, and this is what I've observed about the fit between the tone ring and the rim.

1. The clearance between the inside diameter of the tone ring skirt and the
mating outside diameter of the rim is minimal, creating a snug slip fit. That
clearance is not, however, small enough to create an interference condition
when atmospheric conditions change.

2. When the tone ring and rim are assembled, the inner face of the tone ring
bears on the top face of the rim and there is a very small amount of clearance
between the face of the tone ring skirt and adjacent face of the shoulder of
the rim.

3. After the complete pot is assembled and the head is tightened enough to get
the desired tone, there is no longer clearance between the face of the tone
ring skirt and the adjacent face of the shoulder of the rim, indicating that the
tone ring has flexed as a result of the applied, head tightening load.

Aug 7, 2020 - 2:08:46 PM
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13140 posts since 6/29/2005

This is a thing we read about all the time— we all want a "slip fit".

SO,

assuming you live in a part of the US, where there is a difference in heat and humidity throughout the year, the fit will vary seasonally.

If you fit the tone ring in the winter in a heated shop and get a slip fit, when summer comes around, you won't be able to pry the tone ring off.

If you fit it in the summer, when the humidity is going to be high, and get a slip fit, it will be very very "fall off" loose in the winter.

There is no fix for this with a cast tone ring, other than moving to California or always keeping the banjo in a climate-controlled chamber.

Maybe the answer is to fit tone rings in October or April ha ha.

Edited by - Ken LeVan on 08/07/2020 14:10:17

Aug 7, 2020 - 7:09:49 PM
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2355 posts since 12/18/2004

Ken.......
This is exactly what gave me the idea of a shirtless tone ring!
Don Bryant NC banjo luthier

Aug 8, 2020 - 5:56:33 AM

1345 posts since 4/13/2017

quote:
Originally posted by bryantde

Ken.......
This is exactly what gave me the idea of a shirtless tone ring!
Don Bryant NC banjo luthier


If I remember correctly, my friend said he got the idea for a skirtless tone ring from "a guy in North Carolina". That must be you haha.

Aug 8, 2020 - 2:27:16 PM

13140 posts since 6/29/2005

quote:
Originally posted by bryantde

Ken.......
This is exactly what gave me the idea of a shirtless tone ring!
Don Bryant NC banjo luthier


Don,

I just extolled the virtues of your skirtless design on another thread—solves all the problems.

Ken

Aug 8, 2020 - 5:03:44 PM

5706 posts since 10/13/2007

Kind of off topic but it seems to beg the question. If my memory is correct, it seems like 20-40 years ago the recipe called for thinning bridges, tight fitting rims and cranking the head as tight as it could go. Now a lot of loose fitting rims, thicker heavier bridges, and heads not so tight. Is my memory correct and if so why the change?
Ken

Aug 9, 2020 - 5:08:04 AM
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13140 posts since 6/29/2005

quote:
Originally posted by From Greylock to Bean Blossom

Kind of off topic but it seems to beg the question. If my memory is correct, it seems like 20-40 years ago the recipe called for thinning bridges, tight fitting rims and cranking the head as tight as it could go. Now a lot of loose fitting rims, thicker heavier bridges, and heads not so tight. Is my memory correct and if so why the change?
Ken


I don't really know the answer, but I remember the same thing—55 years ago when I first started playing bluegrass and set up my 1927 Granada, I made bridges that were ridiculously light and used a clear head cranked so tightly that I broke some of the original hooks.  I was after a loud, thin, plinky sound with no sustain for some reason.  I never fooled with the tone ring fit, which was original to the banjo, but it was (still is) on the tight side,

It's hard for me to imagine that I would have ever set up a PW archtop like that, but I wasn't the only one, and it's difficult if not impossible to make one of those banjos sound bad—you can make it louder or plinkier, but they just have a distinctive sound that can transcend a lot of bad setup.

Here's a goofy maple bridge, which I used for at least 15 years—obviously I didn't care what it looked like, even though I was perfectly capable of making a much better-looking one.

I made a more normal looking, slightly heavier bridge in the 70s, and switched the head to a 5-star, which I never liked, but by that time, I had made a banjo I liked better than the Granada, and only rarely played the Granada when I needed it for the authentic "look" in a concert or something.

I finally did a proper setup and made an accurate reproduction neck in 2009, and in 2010 made a bridge that weighs about 2.5 grams and put an elite amber head on it, cranked up to 89-89.5 by my drum dial (I realize they vary), and I think it now sounds better than it ever did before, but everything that goes around comes around— tastes change—nowadays some people like those no-tone ring rb-100s, which I think are flighty" but never flew very high back in the day.

Ken

Aug 13, 2020 - 9:11:34 AM

906 posts since 6/6/2008

I don't think there is any absolute rule. Charlie Cushman once told me he's seen banjos with the tonering so tight he couldn't get it off but the banjo sounded great. Others were too tight. I think with expansion/contraction due to heat/humidity, it would make sense to have a more slip fit to best accommodate the extremes. What works on one banjo is no guarantee it will work for another.

Edited by - o2playlikeEarl on 08/13/2020 09:11:55

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