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Jan 10, 2021 - 8:25:04 AM
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1295 posts since 10/11/2012

I started this banjo years ago, for various reasons the project stalled but I recently got back on with it. It's now finished and I am well pleased with it.

It's has a 12" Yew rim with a Dobson tone ring and Bubinga rim cap. It has brass hardware including the Vine & Thorn Oettinger that I recently built and Gotoh tuning pegs from Japan. The neck is Yew with a beautiful scalloped Bubinga fingerboard and a Dobson style heel. It is strung with Nylgut strings and tuned gDGBD...

Front view of Yew banjo

Back of Yew banjo

Scalloped fingerboard in Bubinga heart and sap wood

Scalloped Bubinga fingerboard close-up showing the grain pattern

Scalloped fingerboard in Bubinga on Yew banjo

Beautiful scalloped fingerboard on a Yew banjo

Yew banjo with scalloped fingerboard heel area

Yew banjo peg head front

Yew banjo peg head rear

Yew banjo peg head side view showing pinstripes

Yew banjo raked peg head

Yew banjo rear side view

Yew banjo vine and thorn Oettinger and tension hoop

Vine and Thorn brass 5 string Oettinger tailpiece

Jan 10, 2021 - 8:44:19 AM
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785 posts since 12/30/2008

A beautiful banjo there. A simple, understated beauty expressed through the woods you used, and details such as the scalloped nut, block outlined dot markers, and subtle decorative embellishments in the tailpiece and tension hoop. Would love to hear it.

What's the wood that caps the front and back of the peghead? Looks to be the same that the dowel stick is made from too...

Jan 10, 2021 - 9:05:52 AM
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7898 posts since 1/7/2005
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Nice job Lyndon. Great choice of materials and super clean fit and finish. To me, the star of the show is that handsome scalloped fretboard.
I've had some experience working with yew wood--for archery bows. It's lovely stuff and is the hardest of the softwoods. I assume your banjo is made of English yew? Probably somewhat different than our Oregon yew, but it looks very similar. The yew I've worked with darkened to about the color of redwood.
I believe that yew was/is the material of choice for building lutes. So it has proven worth acoustically. I like your metal bits too. The file work really adds to the elegant look.

DD

Jan 10, 2021 - 9:20:55 AM
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Emiel

Austria

9762 posts since 1/22/2003

Stunning banjo…

Jan 10, 2021 - 9:27:01 AM

1295 posts since 10/11/2012

quote:
Originally posted by championofnorthhuron

What's the wood that caps the front and back of the peghead? Looks to be the same that the dowel stick is made from too...


Thanks for your compliments...

The banjo is entirely made of Yew except the fingerboard and rim cap which are Bubinga, the pinstripes which are dyed tulip wood or something and the little wedge on the dowel stick which is Ziricote (left over from my Ziricote banjo). The front and back peghead veneers and the dowel stick are all what is known as 'Pippy Yew' which can be very beautiful in colours and grain pattern.

Jan 10, 2021 - 9:32:24 AM

1295 posts since 10/11/2012

Thanks Dan. I totally agree about the fingerboard, you don't know quite what you are going to get when you mill the scallops into the fingerboard. This one just got better and better. The heart and sap wood look so good together. I've done some really nice fingerboards in the past but I think this one tops the lot...

Yew gets darker when it is exposed to sun light. I expect this banjo will darken up over the years...

Jan 11, 2021 - 8:04 AM

1295 posts since 10/11/2012

5 String Oettinger Tailpiece in brass with Vine and Thorn pattern

Just in case anyone is interested, you can buy an Oettinger Tailpiece from me in brass or solid nickel silver by clicking on the previous link.

I would even consider making a Vine and Thorn Oettinger should someone want one. I'm very approachable and get great satisfaction from making someone's day...

You can find me here on FaceBook too...

Jan 11, 2021 - 8:27:41 AM
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898 posts since 2/17/2005

dang lyndon - that is a gorgeous banjo head to toe but that tailpiece...oof, stunning!

Jan 11, 2021 - 2:38:02 PM
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342 posts since 6/26/2011

Gorgeous banjo. Love that fretboard especially.
Bill.

Jan 11, 2021 - 3:33:19 PM
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Players Union Member

Helix

USA

13438 posts since 8/30/2006

In 100 YEARS, I predict this will still be playing. Everything is forethought, great example of how to do this. Thanks.

Jan 11, 2021 - 5:46:51 PM
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5569 posts since 12/20/2005

What amazing work.

All of the details really come together.
I really like the scalloped fingerboard.

Jan 12, 2021 - 4:05:27 AM

1295 posts since 10/11/2012

R. Blakeslee Gilpin, Bufo Bill, Helix and Leslie R

Thanks for those fine words, guys!

It's really appreciated!

Jan 12, 2021 - 4:25:03 AM
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915 posts since 3/7/2006

Banjos are like young children. They give us nothing but love.

It's not whether you win or lose; it's how you play the... banjo.

I have an old department store electric Telestar guitar from the 1960's. Over the years I have replaced the bridge, replaced and upgraded the electronics, changed countless strings, adjusted here and there, and today it is probably still not worth the wood it is made from. Except to me. Scratched up and with a few chips out here and there, my very first guitar sits beside my Epiphones, Ovations, Fenders, and my Banjos, and I would today still declare it my finest treasured possession.

Take care of it and love it back.

Jan 12, 2021 - 4:42:48 AM
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56655 posts since 12/14/2005

Yew did a very good job!

PS: Cleanest thumbnail I've ever seen on a banjo picker!

Jan 12, 2021 - 8:24:40 AM

342 posts since 6/26/2011

Lyndon, what finish did you use on the wood? It's such gorgeous wood, the finish either adds to it's beauty or at least certainly doesn't detract from it.
Cheers from Bill.

Jan 12, 2021 - 11:31:07 AM
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1295 posts since 10/11/2012

quote:
Originally posted by Bufo Bill

Lyndon, what finish did you use on the wood? It's such gorgeous wood, the finish either adds to it's beauty or at least certainly doesn't detract from it.
Cheers from Bill.


I used Carnuba wax disolved in pure turpentine. I mix it using gentle heat and add carnuba wax until I get a 'saturated' solution. You know when it's right because when the mixture cools you cannot see any wax globules reforming. That is, it is just a slightly cloudy liquid. I then just paint it on with a brush. The turpentine sinks into the wood and takes the wax with it. Then I polish it off. It actually worked better on my Ziricote banjo but I think that is just because Ziricote is much harder and takes a natural polish on the wood itself. The Yew rim was polished on my lathe and it came out shinier.

Other great things about carnuba wax:

  • It makes a nice 'slippery' neck.
  • When it wears off a bit you just paint some more back on and re-polish.
  • If it goes on the tuners or fingerboard, it's not a problem, just polish it off.

The only real disadvantage is that after using it I think you have to stick with it. Other finishes may have a problem adhering to the wood after that.

Any other questions, please feel free to ask...

Jan 12, 2021 - 12:47:13 PM

104 posts since 1/23/2017

I looked up yew on Wikipedia and was surprised to find out that almost all parts of the tree are poisonous! What kind of precautions did you have to take working with this wood?

Jan 13, 2021 - 2:58:56 AM

1295 posts since 10/11/2012

quote:
Originally posted by motorbuffalo

I looked up yew on Wikipedia and was surprised to find out that almost all parts of the tree are poisonous! What kind of precautions did you have to take working with this wood?


Yes, there is something in the wood called Taxine which is supposed to be poisonous. When I turned the rim I wore a proper filtered face mask. But not when doing less 'dust generating' operations. I asked the luthier wood supplier that I bought the neck wood from (rare straight grained wood) about Taxine and precautions I should take. He said he'd never taken any precautions when working with Yew and that he'd been doing that for years. Probably best to err on the side of caution, though.

Incidently, when I built my Ziricote banjo I did develop an allergic reaction to it. I ended up having to wear a full face mask or I got flu-like symptoms the next day. That's the only wood that has affected me, thankfully...

Jan 14, 2021 - 8:24:11 AM
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2534 posts since 6/19/2008

The thing that strikes me about this banjo is the balance between primitive and modern. At first glance it appears to be a minstrel era banjo (or at least in that style), but then you have all these advanced features like the scalloped fretboard, planetary tuners, and the fully adjustable tailpiece. I love it!

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