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Aug 10, 2020 - 7:57:22 PM
2188 posts since 9/25/2006

I know folks were using weatherproof spray but I’ve also seen that folks use museum wax as well.

Which technique works better? Is it possible or necessary to do both?

Aug 10, 2020 - 8:23:11 PM
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4548 posts since 6/3/2011

Museum wax if I were to use anything at all.

Aug 11, 2020 - 3:40:19 AM

1062 posts since 5/19/2018

Museum Wax?

I know that stuff as an adhesive for securing paintings.

Please explain how it would be used on a skin head.

Aug 11, 2020 - 4:30:47 AM

768 posts since 2/19/2012

I think that's a reference to Renaissance Wax, recommended by John Balch. Good stuff, used in museums for all sorts of stuff including leather preservation.

Aug 11, 2020 - 4:42:43 AM
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2306 posts since 4/7/2010

We stopped using waterproofing on calf skin banjo heads. Though the heads were not susceptible to humidity changes, they would break sooner.

Bob Smakula

Aug 11, 2020 - 5:53:16 AM



240 posts since 6/26/2004

i guess my question would be "why?" Going by your home page, it looks like you have a lot of banjos. Why do you need to waterproof a head?

I, too, have a lot of banjos. I keep several banjos with plastic heads (usually Fiberskyn) that I use for performances with my band or for jamming in very humid conditions. The rest I keep in calfskin heads. I have never even considered waterproofing one of them. I love the sound and feel of a good calfskin head and wouldn't want to compromise it. I often take a calfskin head banjo out to play somewhere and seldom have a problem unless it is very humid. I have also used them for recording and they do just fine.

Aug 11, 2020 - 6:12:24 AM

768 posts since 2/19/2012

So you're probably not a proponent of Kyle Creed's neatsfoot oil treatment. :)

My attempts at waxing the head have been similar although more limited. I don't think it's all that helpful, generally not necessary after the head has settled in, and when it's just too humid, get out the banjo with the plastic head.

Aug 13, 2020 - 12:32:38 PM

53 posts since 10/23/2016

I my experience as a player for many years and more recently a builder, humidity-related skin head issues are most problematic with new skins, and on instruments with non-adjustable heads ( when skins are tacked/glued on, as with minstrel-style banjos, gourd banjos and so on). And in general, it is very hard to keep atmospheric humidity from entering a skin (or leaving it). Some of the treatments mentioned may slow the humidity absorption down a bit, and I don't see any real downside to trying a bit of wax, or silicone camp spray. It may help a little, and doesn't alter the tone appreciably, to my ear. I'd love to have something I could use as a treatment that really worked, was non-toxic, and didn't change the sound, but I suspect any coating that would really shut out the moisture would also effect the sound in ways that I wouldn't like. I've been experimenting with treating my goatskins with "Titebond lll", the waterproof version of the classic aliphatic resin woodworking glue. It's water-soluble before it dries, so I just add it to my soaking water when preparing the skin for stretching on an instrument. It does seem to slow the humidity absorption of the skin, and, yes, it does seem to effect the sound, but not much, and not necessarily in a way that bothers me. It still sounds like a skin head, not plastic. And I do like the sound of skin so much better than plastic!

Aug 14, 2020 - 12:09:46 PM

849 posts since 3/23/2006

I've tried various approaches for years -- and listened to folks who don't seem to have the problem -- but like Harry, I don't take my hide heads out to play with folks in the summer. I take the synthetics. For the rest of the year, aside from very rainy periods, the hide heads are fine.

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