I was reheading a friend’s banjo and came up with this method on a whim that for me was far less time consuming and troublesome than the usual procedure. It may have been done before but I thought it was worth sharing in case anyone finds it helpful. Many are bound to prefer the typical method but this did work well as far as I’m concerned. It may be useful where there is little calfskin to spare (as was the case here) or a quick approach is desirable.
Here’s the lowdown:
I simply clipped the soaked skin with clothes pins around the full diameter of the flesh hoop, folding the skin over the edge all the way around. I kept it fairly tight but not taught—just intuitively and evenly tensioned.
Once the skin was fully clipped in place I took packing tape and wrapped it around the appropriate side of the clothes pins, so that they formed a sort of basket. I went around multiple times, leveraging the pins at gradually tighter angles with each pass. This had the double function of tightening the head while also making an even crown or a lip around the whole edge of the head, using the clipping end of the clothespins for shape.
I let this dry overnight, and ended up with a very tight and even head with only a few indents where the clothespins had dug in. I simply dampened the top of the head, being careful not to wet the crown I’d made, trimmed off any excess skin, and installed on the banjo like a normal synthetic head.
After drying for a second time, the results were an even and very tight, bright sounding head without any of the headache (har har) and risk I usually associate with installing new calfskins.
Sorry my pictures aren’t more thorough, it would have been nice to picture the first steps before the tape, but hopefully you get the point. It’s really a simple procedure.
Hopefully this can save someone some trouble in the future. I for one typically dread installing new skins because of all the times I’ve bungled it and been out $20 and 5 hours of fiddling with the thing or what have you, so I’ll certainly be using this in the future. But again, to each their own.
Clever strategy! I'm gonna try that whenever I get around to re-heading my Harmony Resotone.
That’s actually brilliant.
If you do it again, make a video or post more pictures. But thank you for posting this.
Whatever works for you is the way to go.
I'd like to offer a bit of constructive criticism, though. From the photographs you provided it appears that your method leaves folds in the skin as it bends around the flesh hoop. I'm not sure if that will affect the sound of the banjo. These are easily removed when the skin is installed in the standard fashion under a loosely applied tension hoop. The technique is really not that difficult to master.
I have had the most difficulty when trying to install a thicker skin in a banjo that has only a little clearance between the tension hoop and the rim/tone ring. One thing I've found that helps is temporarily using quick release bar clamps between the bottom of the rim and the top of the tension hoop to hold everything in the correct position until brackets can be placed.
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