Just curious what precision tools people have for setting up their banjo. Exact names would be helpful because I plan to look up tools that I don't have to figure out whether investing in them would be feasible. I'd be curious specifically if there are tools for string height for action measurements, bow of the neck, tools for bridge placement (I imagine a ruler or maybe a protractor is best for this). Also curious what people use to clean maple, walnut, ebony, etc.
I do have the basics: drum dial, tape measurer, wrench for head tension screws, screwdriver for tuning pegs, etc.
Among my modest tool box are: small wire cutters, tri-banjo nut wrench, automotive feeler gauge set (useful for gauging nut slot depth, RR spike installation, measuring strings heights), a hacksaw blade ground thin for notching bridge or nut, some small files in various shapes, mill bastard file for dressing frets, small dead-blow hammer, screw drivers, tape measure and 12" scale, and a drum dial. Also useful at times are #ooo steel wool and various fine grit sandpapers.
Seems like we already got it covered, but I would add some 80 grit sandpaper and an inexpensive caliper for when I'm thinning or shortening bridges. I also have a tube of simichrome to help clean things up. I also steal some of my wife's Q-tips now and then.
Any cheap ebay $10 digital gram scale, for bridge weights. A cheap grocery store bottle of toasted sesame oil for my fretboards.
Probably have thread drift already, since the OP asked about precision tools. Oh well...
Edited by - Eric A on 01/16/2021 08:12:05
Good afternoon, I am fairly handy with my hand so I took on the task of doing the maintenance myself, some workshop videos and other instruction allowed For the implication of the following a drum Dial, Micro files for the nut, wire cutter/needle nose pliers for bending the wire down towards the peg head, I re-loop The fifth string and cut it so it goes inside, keeps me from getting poked by wire. I have various size banjo keys to tighten or loosen the head tension, A stick of bearing edge conditioner, To help with stretching of the drum head. A homemade maintenance stand to support the neck while I want to table. A piece of carpet to prevent scratches cloth measuring tape plastic head for lining the inclination. Pile of strings for change outs. Hydration humidifier gets installed in the cases. Maintenance schedule for wipe downs and polishing services and Application of other conditioners to fret boards and metal Surfaces.That’s about it, I enjoyed reading about else’s tool list
In my opinion the best precision tools are a careful, steady hand, good vision, and lots of patience. It's surprising what can be done with a six inch rule, some feeler gauges, a sigle edge razor blade, and some cheap Harbor Freight jeweler's files if one is careful with them.
Research is also very helpful. Not all operations are the same and depend somewhat on the banjo itself. One needs to have an idea of what to expect before starting.
Also, no one seems to have mentioned a truss trod wrench (or wrenches; some banjos have different rods) in their lists so far.
Here are most of what I use, some of which I made myself, other things are common tools:
You need a piece of carpet on top of the workbench. The wooden sleds of different angles are used to adjust heel fit along with a Dremel cutter and spindle sander
an aluminum straightedge is used to determine the bridge placement both octave-wise and, with a homemade height gauge to determine what the best bridge height will be—then a temporary bridge is used and one string—the third string is installed to refine the heel fit and angles and action height. All this must be done with the head fully tensioned.
The wooden block with a carpet-lined neck cradle is an important tool
and of course, the drum dial with the plate glass square for calibrating it.
I doubt you would need some of the tools Ken LeVan has shown for doing an ordinary set-up.
I have to say The tools that Ken Levan has built seem to be very impressive for set up and I will be taking notes from his pictures, I thought I was doing while building a neck support but that inclination system wow!
A set of welding tip cleaners comes in handy to clean fuzzy/buggy string slots in the nut or bridge. They're cheap and available in most hardware stores:
I also use my StewMac slotting saws as "feeler gauges" for measuring my 1st fret string clearances (.010 - .013" and my 7th fret neck bow (.015").
Tiny adjustable wrench and tiny screwdriver for co-rods and truss rod cover screws.
Head taps from G# to A (Ears).
Knowing that a quarter turn once around the hooknuts equals a 1/2 step+ of head note up or down.
'Helix Jack Rabbit' 9 min
'Blank Canvas' 35 min
'Bartlett Banjo Mic' 50 min
'Todd banjo' 1 hr