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Feb 18, 2021 - 1:33:43 PM
31 posts since 6/24/2019

Hello, All,

I'm a novice banjo plunker (been a guitar player for decades, though) and initially came here some time ago after getting and bringing back to life an old Concertone 17 Fret Tenor. While my banjo chops may never be anything spectacular, I love that little thing and have it "uke-ified" in its tuning to a linear GCEA with a set of La Bella 17 nylon strings that give me an old plunky sound I currently like.

I've had the itch for some time to make a cookie tin banjo, using an old, beat up tin from the '30s I've had for ages. Recently, I was able to make that a reality after finding a 19 fret tenor neck with dowel. Using the basic construction ideas of the Concertone, was able to put it together. I'll be working on the tailpiece tonight (made from an old bottle opener), but then all I'll need to do is string it up, which brings me to my question. I've done a lot of digging around the archives, but have so far been unsuccessful in my search, which brings me out of the shadows in hopes of gaining some wisdom from you folks.

I'm thinking that nylon strings may be the best way to go for this, especially since it's got the Grover Champions on it, but I haven't come upon any suggestion as to which set of strings would best suit the 19 fret tenor length. Can I still use the same set as I would use for my 17 fret tenor? (I know it may sound like a silly question, sorry.) I don't also know diddly about tensions and all that stuff; I'm a guitar player, remember? :-P I don't know if using the La Bella strings would allow me to still tune to GCEA on the 19 fret length, but I'm not opposed to going down a step or two to DGBE, either. I just don't know if the La Bellas would allow that low of a tuning without being too slack. Would a set of Nylgut Minstrels work for this? I also know string preferences can be subjective. Any suggestions? And if my specific 19-fret-cookie-tin-string question has been answered previously, I would be obliged if a link to that discussion could be shared.

Thank you kindly,

Rick

Feb 18, 2021 - 1:42:30 PM

beegee

USA

22267 posts since 7/6/2005

You can cut off strings that are too long. Most strings are long enough to fit 17 or 19 frets necks.

Feb 18, 2021 - 1:47:04 PM

56965 posts since 12/14/2005

I've been using fishing line since 1992.
Single for 1 & 2, twisted double for 3, twisted 4 for 4th.

I imagine baritone uke strings should work.

Feb 18, 2021 - 1:56:47 PM

31 posts since 6/24/2019

quote:
Originally posted by beegee

You can cut off strings that are too long. Most strings are long enough to fit 17 or 19 frets necks.


 Would tuning be an issue, or would I be able to still go up to the GCEA tuning I have on the 17 fret? And as for baratone uke strings, would they be long enough for the 19 fret scale? I'm hoping to find just a basic set of strings to start with, before trying to find the best brand of fishing line to use. Though who knows, I might just end up there at some point, as I've made a custom set for one of my acoustic guitars.

Feb 18, 2021 - 2:25:17 PM

Omeboy

USA

2756 posts since 6/27/2013

One of the most knowledgeable guys in the cigar-box guitar and banjo business is Del Puckett. He has quite a collection of videos on Youtube and can be personally contacted thru this link: http://www.delpuckettcbg.com/    He can put you on to the right set of strings.

Edited by - Omeboy on 02/18/2021 14:26:08

Feb 19, 2021 - 9:58:54 PM

31 posts since 6/24/2019

quote:
Originally posted by mike gregory

I've been using fishing line since 1992.
Single for 1 & 2, twisted double for 3, twisted 4 for 4th.

I imagine baritone uke strings should work.


I've got it finished now (though I need to troubleshoot a rough edge on the tailpiece that wants to keep breaking the top string), and while I initially put on a spare set of the La Bella strings, I'm fascinated by the fishing line idea. I did a quick YouTube of sound samples and was impressed by what I heard. However, looking up prices of fishing line, it's a bit of coin to plunk down to get several spoils of line. Mike, may I ask what brand and gauges you use so I can price it? I wish I could go to a sporting store and just get line samples before committing.

Feb 19, 2021 - 10:06:11 PM
likes this

31 posts since 6/24/2019

Assuming I uploaded correctly, here’s the finished project.


Feb 20, 2021 - 4:26:38 AM

56965 posts since 12/14/2005

e-mail me your address, and I'll snail mail you samples & info.
I bought full spools, because I make lots of banjii from tin cans, salad bowls, and scrap lumber.

Feb 20, 2021 - 9:51 AM

31 posts since 6/24/2019

quote:
Originally posted by mike gregory

e-mail me your address, and I'll snail mail you samples & info.
I bought full spools, because I make lots of banjii from tin cans, salad bowls, and scrap lumber.


That's very much appreciated, thank you! This build has given me a bit of a bug. I'll send you my info. 

Feb 23, 2021 - 8:49:37 PM

56965 posts since 12/14/2005

Sending it in Wednesday's outgoing mail.
At least twice as much as you'll need, so experiment.

Feb 24, 2021 - 5:33:54 AM

367 posts since 4/11/2019

I also like the uke style set up on tenors. I have been using Aquila banjo strings, there are a few different types but they all work about the same.

I keep the standard uke format, using a re-entrant G. I like the higher pitch on the bass side.

I have found that the high A at 440 can be troublesome. The maximum scale length that seems to work is just a little bit over 20 inches. Much over that and it will break every time. I have a short scale Vega that stays just fine, but the same set up on an Orpheum at 20.5 inches, not so much.

Fishing line works OKish as long as the temperature doesn't change too much, but right now I've a 0.009 stainless on there. I don't really like that, its a bit too bright.

Feb 24, 2021 - 11:35:12 AM

31 posts since 6/24/2019

quote:
Originally posted by mike gregory

Sending it in Wednesday's outgoing mail.
At least twice as much as you'll need, so experiment.


Thank you so much! I really appreciate it. I look forward to the experiment!

Feb 24, 2021 - 11:44:50 AM

31 posts since 6/24/2019

quote:
Originally posted by Knows Picker

I also like the uke style set up on tenors. I have been using Aquila banjo strings, there are a few different types but they all work about the same.

I keep the standard uke format, using a re-entrant G. I like the higher pitch on the bass side.


I'm thinking of making a tin banjo uke specifically for the re-entrant tuning. I like the linear uke tuning on my 17 fret Concertone tenor, and have been okay with the strings on that so far. It seems like putting the nylons up to that pitch on the tinjo have resulted in a broken string each time. I'm assuming the 19 fret tenor scale may have something to do with that. I tuned it down a step (and refiled and smoothed the tailpiece holes in case) and so far that seems to be fine. It's a matter of finding the strings that work and sound best now. If the fishing line experiment is successful, then that opens up new possibilities.

Feb 24, 2021 - 11:51:41 AM

367 posts since 4/11/2019

I have mixed results with 40 lb test monofilament for the A up top.

I pulled this from the Aquila web page, its not too complicated, and it does show that 20 inches is pretty much at the outside of the envelope:

What is Breaking Point Index?
The Breaking Point Index is the highest frequency a gut string of any diameter can reach at a string length of 1mt. For gut a mean value of 260 Hz.mt is a good reference parameter. For Nylgut, one can generally go as far as 300 Hz/meter. In other words, a 1 meter long gut string will statistically always break at 260 Hz, i.e. about ‘C’. Hence we deduce that the product of the pitch of the treble and by the string length (‘Working Index’) must always be below this value, and it is strongly advised to keep the number below 240. Instruments of the gut string era were always designed to function within these boundaries, and is why instrument families are scaled the way they are, and why re-entrant tunings were used on some instruments.

What is the use of this in practice?
A safe index for gut stringing should not exceed the 240 value. For Nylgut, ~260.

Example I: can I tune a gut strung lute top string to A, with a string length of 62cm in the pitch center of A 440 ?
.62 mt (62cm) x 440 (Hz) = 272.8 Hz.mt
The answer is: no, I can’t.
What should the appropriate string length be? A safe index should not exceed the 240 value. 240/440 Hz = .545 mt, so in practice the appropriate string length (at A-440) should not exceed 54 cm.

Example II: can I tune a gut strung lute in G, with a string length of 62cm in the pitch center of A 440 of .62 mt? (62cm) x 392 (Hz) = 243 Hz.mtThe answer is: yes, I can, most definitely if using NNG.

The rule of thumb is, assuming the contact points are free from any sharp edges, which will quickly sever a gut or Nylgut string: Keep the working index below 240 for gut, 260 for NNG, is the recommended upper limit.
Gut at working index between 250 and 260: not safe. The treble could break in a few hours/days, especially in high humidity conditions.

Gut at working index over 260. Extreme danger; the treble will break immediately or within minutes.
Because of the lack of the instrument size standardization, it is important to verify whether medieval lutes and harps adhere to these values. Historical instruments or copies that, when calculated, divulge numbers that are above 260, were not intended by the maker to be tuned to the pitch center being calculated.

Feb 27, 2021 - 7:23:43 PM

31 posts since 6/24/2019

That’s really interesting, actually. Far more than I knew previously, and makes sense as to why various instruments are traditionally tuned as they are.

Additionally, I got the fishing line samples in the mail today. Thank you so very much, Mike. I really appreciate it. It’s going to be fun experiment to see how the fishing line works compared to other nylon strings.

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