I have an 89 Scruggs ess. my tone ring was so tight I had to heat it and still had to use a tool to loosen it enough to
get it off. The banjo had little volume and a dead tone to it.
I took a piece of 100 grit sand paper and folded it in half. I then rested the sand paper against the outer lip
and sanded in one direction while turning the rim in my hand. I was able to achieve a slip fit and can now
spin the ring on the rim. The ring has no side to side movement. This brought the banjo to a new level
of tone and volume. This is for anyone that had the problem I had.
I've had that same issue on a RK banjo. I used a wood scrapper on the ledge, and spun it in my hands. Only took small amount off to get that slip fit. The banjo is no longer choked, and sounds great. I find if you have tone ring stuck on real tight, heat the ring/rim on a skillet (Tone ring down on the skillet) and it will transfer the heat the the ring with out direct heat. After a min or two it fell right off with a little force but it came off. Depending where you keep your banjo(s) may have moisture fluctuations (I.e. basement room)and also seasonal changes. I always check for season changes and find spring and fall are my dead banjo times. My house hold moisture so I'm always running dehumidifier to try and knock it down to about 40-50%.
I had the rim on my Vega Ranger turned for a Stewart MacDonald rolled brass ring. When I got the rim back the tone was dead. The ring was so tight I had to pry it off with a thin screwdriver. I took a three cornered file and shaved the rim down the same way Jeb did. That loosened the ring on the rim and opened up the sound considerably. I have had no problems since.
Edited by - Culloden on 10/28/2020 09:39:51
A tight-fitting tone ring definitely kills the tone of a banjo. The tone ring is designed to vibrate, and when it can't vibrate, it can't do its job properly.
Do you slip-fitters reseal the wood, or leave the wood bare after the sanding/ scraping?
I put sanding sealer on the wood.
I feel that it depends on a particular banjo. I have a Stew Mac ring on a (top tension) Roger Siminoff pot who's ring is pretty tight and it rings like a bell. I considered having it loosened/shaved down when I had a new neck built for it but decided it's not broke so don't "fix" it. Then there's the whole Stelling wedge design thing...so I still think it depends... banjos can be such individualistic sums of their parts.
Back in the '70s it was the de facto "in thing" to have tight tone rings. The looser fit seems to be more recent preference at least by a large scale. Anyone else remember this? The tight tone ring (at least for Bluegrass) was touted in Picking Magazine, Banjo Newsletter, Mugwumps, etc. etc. quite a bit back then... these days it seems like you might actually have to ask for a tighter fit?
Agreed. All banjos are different. If you are satisfied with yours, it’s best not to mess with
It. I’ve learned a lot fooling with banjos for the last 44 years. Happy pickin to you all!
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