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Feb 2, 2021 - 12:19:29 PM
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74230 posts since 5/9/2007

I love my 2 way Cox truss rods.
Neck is always at .015" dip at the 7th fret,no matter what time of year it is.

Feb 2, 2021 - 12:50:41 PM
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3967 posts since 5/12/2010

The picture Ken posted with the truss rod flanked by carbon fiber rods or bars is the best of both worlds. The CF reinforces the weak transition area I am most concerned with. That is what I have done on the few banjos I have built with an adjustable rod.

I understand that an adjustable truss rod is often a selling point for a lot of buyers, and were I building banjos to make a living that would become a bigger part of the equation, but I certainly am not in it for the money.

I have spent many times over any money I have made with the few banjos I have sold. I actually have given away a lot more banjos than I have ever sold.

Ken said:

"A truss rod costs $10 or less—I don't understand the resistance."

My resistance to one has nothing to do with cost, in fact the CF bars I use cost more than an adjustable truss rod.

My resistance is to building a hollow neck.

One thing that has been mentioned in passing about the relationship of "relief" with playing up the neck. With banjos this would matter more for the bluegrass picker who plays up the neck. With a few exceptions most down pickers or "Clawhammer" players don't usually play above the 9th fret.

The banjos I build are specifically designed for certain styles of "Clawhammer" ( a modern generic name I don't like), and none of the people playing my banjos play high up on the neck. I build my necks dead flat, and depending on the size of CF bar I use these will either stay dead flat, or they will flex just enough (1/4" square CF Bar) to develop some "relief", but it is not something that I am very concerned with.


 

Feb 2, 2021 - 3:18:04 PM

8370 posts since 8/28/2013

quote:
Originally posted by Random Scandinavian

I don’t think comparing a banjo neck to a steel string guitar neck is a very fair comparison. There’s an enormous amount of pressure at work on the guitar compared to on the banjo.

I’m going to try carbon fiber for my next neck. I have bought a couple of thin rods and the strength of them are incredible. And you need to take out less wood. I figure that as long as I get the neck right to begin with, it’s going to take a lot of bad luck for it to change with a reinforcement like that inside.


Although it's true that there is more tension on a guitar neck, it is somewhat negated by the banjo neck;s gretaer length. A short neck is inherently stiffer and can hold more tension withought being pulled out of shape.

In my experience, the neck is only one of the guitar's issues. The tension on a guitar can drastiaclly change the guitar's top by pulling the bridge upward and forward.

Feb 2, 2021 - 3:21:38 PM

8370 posts since 8/28/2013

One thing I have considered is the possibilty of a flat truss bar, rather than a simple rod.  A flat bar could be laid out not only along the length of the neck, but it's width could extend a little bit outward to help prevent twisting. 

Feb 2, 2021 - 3:47:31 PM

11192 posts since 10/27/2006

quote:
Originally posted by steve davis

I love my 2 way Cox truss rods.
Neck is always at .015" dip at the 7th fret,no matter what time of year it is.


That.

I remember when I first set up a fretboard to be absolutely flat. I was in high school. After I saw how much higher I had to set the bridge to get the clearance I needed to make it playable, it was also the last time I did that.

The concept of neck relief became crystal clear that day.

Feb 2, 2021 - 3:53:26 PM
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2407 posts since 12/18/2004
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quote:
Originally posted by jbalch

After 40+ years of owning and trading all kinds of instruments, I would not buy a new (steel-strung) banjo without a two-way adjustable truss rod.


And after 40+ years of building 5 string necks for prewar Gibson tenors, I have always used an adjustable truss rod and over 150 neck builds later I am and still will be using them until I quit building!

Wood moves sometimes between season changes and curly maple is the most prone and mahogany the least prone.

As mentioned above, the climate you live in has a huge effect on this as well.

If the neck moves the wrong way and you have no way to correct then what do you do then?  Just saying......

Don Bryant NC banjo luthier

Feb 2, 2021 - 3:58:56 PM
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74230 posts since 5/9/2007

I prefer the look and feel of a solid piece of mahogany,walnut or maple.

I live on the end of a 15 mile long peninsula off the coast of Maine and our flucuations in temperature and moisture are extreme.My truss rod gets attended to a number of times in a year.I'm very fussy about my neck feeling exactly the same every time I pick it up.

I do maintain a low action of .092 at 12 and .098 at 22.This takes some looking after.

Edited by - steve davis on 02/02/2021 16:03:36

Feb 3, 2021 - 7:59:02 AM
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banjoez

USA

2380 posts since 7/18/2007

Maybe old time banjo players don't care but as a bluegrass player the truss rod is another very important adjustment that can affect the tonal characteristics of the banjo and I would want that capability to fine tune the setup. Even if you could build a neck without one then you'd be stuck with it forever that way whether you liked it or not. Truss rod adjustments can affect the overall tone more than many realize. I do like the single action truss rod vs. dual action though as it seems to integrate better in the neck and arguably transfers tonal vibrations more freely with less mass.  Just my thoughts.

Edited by - banjoez on 02/03/2021 08:06:29

Feb 4, 2021 - 6:13:50 AM
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10997 posts since 6/17/2003

No need to compare with shorter thicker guitar necks. The old Liberty Banjos were built without an adjustable truss rod and have performed well for half a century. It can be done, but a builder making banjos for the masses and not knowing the type or gauge strings they will use or how hard they pick really needs to allow for adjustment. I think that most buyers would prefer the ability to be able to make an adjustment whether or not they actually do it.  Given the price of quality banjos as a lifetime investment for some folks, I see the ability to have the ability to make a needed adjustment as being important rather than taking the chance that a builder will make a stable neck with the proper relief.  The thing that will adversely affect an instrument's playability and value is a problematic neck. It's a matter of marketing as well as actual performance.  I've owned banjos that have never needed adjustment and one highly figured maple banjo that needed tweaking with season changes. With regard to breakage, a volute helps also.

Edited by - gottasmilealot on 02/04/2021 06:14:43

Feb 4, 2021 - 7:44:53 AM

74230 posts since 5/9/2007

The buyer of any instrument may very well want a set up that differs from the builder's point of view.
Race car designers are often guilty of not including the drivers' perspectives.

Feb 4, 2021 - 10:17:37 AM
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1600 posts since 7/2/2007

What I don't like about adjustable truss rods-

They require removing the core of the neck to install, and reduce the wood at the bottom of the truss rod slot to a point where the rod can break through. They add weight to the neck. Of all the guitar and banjo players I know, only a small percentage have adjusted the truss rods in years and years of playing. And the ones that are constantly fussing with them seem to be the ones breaking them potentially causing some real problems. Just look up broken truss rods, LOTS of them have terrible reputations for failure. Do your research. Adjustment openings at the peghead can weaken the area where neck breaks are more common and moving the adjustment to the heel is a pain in the butt if it requires removing the neck to adjust. Personally, I don't install them where removing the neck is required. All that being said, I've installed them in most of my steel string banjos.

Kind of like co-rods, leave them alone and they usually last for decades, fiddle with them a lot and you will likely eventually pull the lags out of the neck.

I've built acoustic guitars without adjustable truss rods without issue. Using multiple carbon fiber rods to add stiffness and control warp, twist and bow has worked for me. However I have 3 guitars on the bench right now and 2 will be getting 2 way rods and one just carbon fiber.

What I do like about adjustable rods is -

In the event of some ornery necks you can sometimes correct some of the problems that may occur. And if you are a low action fanatic they can provide some help in getting there when necessary.

My preference is 3-4 carbon strips epoxied in the neck. They remove enough wood from the neck shaft to relieve the stress that can lead to warping. They provide enough stiffness to counter string pull but allow enough flexibility to keep the neck alive and provide enough forward bow to to allow good action. They are glued in restoring the solid neck structure.

Opinions vary and it is all a compromise as is most everything in luthiery, and none of the "solutions" are perfect.

But the customer knows best and we have to do what keeps them happy.

Brian

Feb 4, 2021 - 10:22:10 AM

ChunoTheDog

Canada

707 posts since 8/9/2019

Speaking about truss rods, I found this quite amusing and super interesting:
earnestbanjo.com/wp/kel-kroydo...d-expose/

Gibson adding truss rods to all necks no matter the model, and covering the access at the peghead with the veneer on models not designated with a truss rod.

I still think having a truss rod is a valuable thing. If more neck stability is needed, laminate necks could probably fit the bill.

Feb 5, 2021 - 1:15:49 PM

1241 posts since 8/7/2017

I have adjustable truss rods in my banjos. I also had a luthier add a 2-way adjustable truss rod to my 1974 D-28. He was able to do this during a neck reset and refurbishment (the neck was coming off anyway).

I play a D-28, Taylor GSmini, and my 3 banjos (Stelling Bellflower, Carver Whyte-Ladie, and Cedar Mountain Brainjo Hobart). I have found with my instruments that changing the tuning will result in a bowed neck. If left in the non-standard tuning, it takes about a month for the bow to show up in my instruments. Since I leave my 3 banjos in 3 different tunings, it makes sense for me to be able to adjust the neck bow to suit.

If you don't mind returning your instrument to your standard tuning each time you end a session, then you can retune to non-standard tunings all you want w/o warping the neck. As long as you return to the tuning the instrument is used to, perhaps an adjustable truss rod would not be needed.

Humidity will change the neck, so if you can't maintain the humidity recommended by the builder, an adjustable truss rod may be required. I use small sponges (in perforated pill bottles) in the cases of my instruments to combat the dry Montana winter air. The instruments do respond: if my banjo goes a little flat, while sitting in it's case, it will be due to shrinkage of the neck as it drys out; re-wetting the sponges will grow the neck, and the next time I play, the instrument will be a little sharp. These small changes don't affect playability/neck bow (at least at my level of skill). I might not notice these small pitch changes if I did not check tuning with my electronic tuner (a fancy Peterson Strobo plus, which I use to obtain Just Intonation pitches).

That's my experience in dry Montana. I would not buy an instrument w/o an adjustable truss rod.

Edited by - BrooksMT on 02/05/2021 13:20:40

Feb 6, 2021 - 6:27:33 AM
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Ybanjo

USA

681 posts since 11/15/2009

I'm a woodworker so I know that perfect wood sounds great, but isn't a reality. And if there was "perfect" wood, the continuous string tension pulling one direction will warp any wood over enough time. It's just physics.

Feb 6, 2021 - 7:32:53 AM

141 posts since 7/14/2017

I've just started restoring a 1934 Gibson tenor guitar, of my own use. 86 hears had pulled the neck into rather too much of a bow for comfortable playing - that's just string tension + time. Fortunately the truss rod works, and the neck is now flat.

However, the body has also moved, as they do, so a neck reset is the next item on the agenda. But without the truss rod working, there'd be no point* me doing the neck reset!

*OK, I know that I could attempt compression fretting to straighten it, but that's definitely above my level of experience and comfort and would make restoring it uneconomic if I paid someone to do it.

Feb 6, 2021 - 8:38:28 AM
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3 posts since 9/20/2011

I've built one banjo so far with a carbon rod in it.  I've been contemplating an adjustable rod for the next one. My buddy is building tele style guitars and used a 2-way adjustable rod with a spoke nut at the heel, accessible from the top of the fretboard. I've had thoughts on trying this with a banjo, with the spoke nut recessed in the scoop area right where the neck meets the pot. Sort of like this photo. Any thoughts?


 


 

Feb 6, 2021 - 9:14:20 AM

2557 posts since 6/19/2008

I like that solution. Even better, if you can put a decorative cap over it.

Feb 23, 2021 - 9:48:54 AM

94 posts since 4/6/2009

quote:

In the diagram below, compressed to make it easier to understand, you see that you give something up at the octave in return for a lower action farther up, plus, it's a kind of compensation for the way a string vibrates, that should be of special significance to those who like short scales and slack strings.

 

 

 

 


Why are the string heights in these two diagrams an "either-or" proposition?  Couldn't a neck be constucted with relief such that we combine the low string heights from frets 1-12 in your top diagram, AND the low string heights from frets 12-22 in your lower diagram?  Imagine the two diagrams cut and pasted.  Maybe this could NOT be accomplished with the "natural"  neck relief created by string tension + truss rod, but couldn't it be achieved by precision machining or hand work?  For the sake of discussion and acoustical physics, let's assume we have made a perfectly rigid and eternally stable neck reinforced with carbon fiber, and we will never need to modify the shape for a different player or picking style.  If the entire string vibrates without buzzing in both diagrams, why would it not vibrate freely over our hypothetical precision-machined combined neck?

Edited by - bart_brush on 02/23/2021 09:54:01

Feb 23, 2021 - 10:04:34 AM
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2557 posts since 6/19/2008

Maybe Ken LeVan could elaborate since he drew the diagrams, but I think that without raising the action at the bridge (causing higher action on the lower frets), the relief would cause the strings to buzz on the frets somewhere.  Maybe I'm just confused, since the bridge height is labeled the same on both diagrams.  Perhaps the neck angle has changed? Ken? Anyone? Beuler?

Edited by - Jonnycake White on 02/23/2021 10:08:06

Feb 23, 2021 - 10:51:09 AM

94 posts since 4/6/2009

I thought I was responding to Ken, but I made an error somewhere.  But thank you Jon for responding, and to others who are reading this.  Neck relief IS confusing. Here's another way of explaining what I think I'm thinking--
1. We have a string at tension stretched between a given nut and bridge, fixed in space (forget the rest of the banjo except for the fretboard).
2. The string in both cases is at the same height above the nut and the 12th fret (and at the same height at top of bridge).
3. Therefor we can do ANYTHING to the REST of the fingerboard/neck--the relief--as long as the nut, 12th fret, and bridge remain fixed in space.
4. Yes, we may have to change bridge height (but NOT the position of the bridge top in space), or angle between neck and pot, but I am only asking about the string action--can we not machine the fingerboard/neck so that both sections--before and after the 12th fret--are optimized for lowest possible string action for a given player?

Edited by - bart_brush on 02/23/2021 11:04:14

Feb 23, 2021 - 2:57:18 PM

jumahl

USA

5 posts since 2/6/2016

I use a steel adjustable truss rod in a slot accessed at the heel and ending near the nut. It can be adjusted in either direction and is used to remove bow to flatten the fingerboard, not to adjust action, which is a function of neck angle, bridge height and nut slot depth.

Feb 23, 2021 - 5:50:07 PM

13470 posts since 6/29/2005

quote:
Originally posted by bart_brush

I thought I was responding to Ken, but I made an error somewhere.  But thank you Jon for responding, and to others who are reading this.  Neck relief IS confusing. Here's another way of explaining what I think I'm thinking--
1. We have a string at tension stretched between a given nut and bridge, fixed in space (forget the rest of the banjo except for the fretboard).
2. The string in both cases is at the same height above the nut and the 12th fret (and at the same height at top of bridge).
3. Therefor we can do ANYTHING to the REST of the fingerboard/neck--the relief--as long as the nut, 12th fret, and bridge remain fixed in space.
4. Yes, we may have to change bridge height (but NOT the position of the bridge top in space), or angle between neck and pot, but I am only asking about the string action--can we not machine the fingerboard/neck so that both sections--before and after the 12th fret--are optimized for lowest possible string action for a given player?


That's exactly right, and I made the diagrams by just drawing it on the computer with Adobe Illustrator and a CAD plug-in like you could draw anything accurately.

Both diagrams were drawn full scale (way too large to post on this site) and assume .125" string clearance at the 12th fret and a .66" bridge height, which is a little bit more than 5/8". The flat fingerboard is drawn flat, and the relief one was drawn as if the fingerboard was slightly upbowed so that a straightedge laid on the frets would be .028" above the 7th fret.

Then I just measured the string clearances on the drawing—very simple.  I also made other drawings as if the banjos were capoed at various frets, which obviously changes it.

Feb 24, 2021 - 12:11:59 AM
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15012 posts since 2/7/2003

With the damands of musicians today and critical set up and the fact that the cheapest Chinese Vietnamese and Indonesian instruments all have perfectly functional adjustable truss rods I find it amusing people trying to build a case against them, banjo makers got to love them (g)

Scott

Feb 24, 2021 - 2:28:28 AM

calfskin

England

39 posts since 5/30/2011

nobody has mentioned the elephant in the room ! yes you can have the neck made strongly as the op wants but then you drill a 6mm hole halfway through at the 5th fret which will weaken it, i have a few old banjos that have good necks without reinforcement but any necks i have made have a two way rod adjustable from the heel and have been fine

Feb 24, 2021 - 5:02:26 AM
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13470 posts since 6/29/2005

quote:
Originally posted by desert rose

With the damands of musicians today and critical set up and the fact that the cheapest Chinese Vietnamese and Indonesian instruments all have perfectly functional adjustable truss rods I find it amusing people trying to build a case against them, banjo makers got to love them (g)

Scott


I agree with you completely. 

I realize there are some very competent people who for rational reasons have developed reinforced neck constructions of their own design, much more difficult to do than truss rods—some for historic restoration type necks, and good for them, but for many others, the choice to not use a truss rod is an excuse for not learning how to do it, and justifying that on the pretense of being something philosophical.  At least that's the way I perceive it.

I could name a bunch of other things with a similar theme ranging from rim construction to inlay to binding etc etc.

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