Banjo Hangout Logo
Banjo Hangout Logo

Premier Sponsors

852
Banjo Lovers Online


May 15, 2021 - 9:38:21 AM

ragalb

Canada

85 posts since 1/27/2021

Hi all, I have several questions that just came to mind and I figured I'm stick them all in one thread.

My first question is about neck width. I've built two mountain banjos and I based the dimensions on the ones in foxfire that is a 1.5 inch wide neck. Obviously banjos nowadays have much thinner necks. I'm wondering if I can build mountain and gourd banjos with thinner necks as well. There's no truss rod in these so I'm wondering if that's why they have such beefy necks. I feel like 1.25 would be a lot more comfortable

Next question is about setting up lowtuned mountain/gourd banjos. What is going to get the best sound out of these guys? For example I have one tuned to E and one tuned to D. I used Aquila nylguts medium and light tension. Will they sound better with the minstrel set since I'm tuning down?

Another! My next project is a gourd banjo. I'm wondering about methods to create the dowel stick. I've seen some designs where the dowel stick is laminated on as a continuation of the heel essentially. Is this stable? Having just one long piece of wood seems precarious. I'm wondering what other methods there are as well keeping in mind limited woodworking experience and skills and just a drill for power tools.

Final question. What do you do about storage once you've started accumulating banjos. I've seen people hanging them. I dont really want to buy a bunch of cases

May 15, 2021 - 3:54:14 PM
likes this

269 posts since 10/18/2020

I think you can make the neck as thick or as thin as you want to a point as long as the woods you chose is stable, also i believe you can make the dowel how ever you want I have figured out some things on my first gourd banjo build as to why somethings are done the way they are it just makes it easy
the way i did my dowel has been a real challenge it made it hard to install the skin head

as for cases i believe they are much safer than just hanging the banjos on the wall or sitting them on stands but if you do not have people or animals to knock them off the wall or knock them over while in stands i see nothing wrong with either way personally i have two large rambunctious dogs that would knock mine over if they were sitting in stands so i have mine in cases and put them away every time i take one out and play it

The way i did my neck it literally bolts onto the gourd which makes it extremely hard to install the skin head then I drilled a 3/8 hole through the gourd into the center of the heel of my neck and installed a 3/8 walnut dowel and then used a 3/4 x3/4 granadillo dowel through the gourd what i did figure out that if the dowel is not doweled into the heel it also makes it hard to get the dowel that runs through the gourd lined up correctly so the tail piece is attached inline with the finger board lesson learned

Edited by - Don Smith1959 on 05/15/2021 16:05:29

May 15, 2021 - 4:56:42 PM

ragalb

Canada

85 posts since 1/27/2021

quote:
Originally posted by Don Smith1959

I think you can make the neck as thick or as thin as you want to a point as long as the woods you chose is stable, also i believe you can make the dowel how ever you want I have figured out some things on my first gourd banjo build as to why somethings are done the way they are it just makes it easy
the way i did my dowel has been a real challenge it made it hard to install the skin head

as for cases i believe they are much safer than just hanging the banjos on the wall or sitting them on stands but if you do not have people or animals to knock them off the wall or knock them over while in stands i see nothing wrong with either way personally i have two large rambunctious dogs that would knock mine over if they were sitting in stands so i have mine in cases and put them away every time i take one out and play it

The way i did my neck it literally bolts onto the gourd which makes it extremely hard to install the skin head then I drilled a 3/8 hole through the gourd into the center of the heel of my neck and installed a 3/8 walnut dowel and then used a 3/4 x3/4 granadillo dowel through the gourd what i did figure out that if the dowel is not doweled into the heel it also makes it hard to get the dowel that runs through the gourd lined up correctly so the tail piece is attached inline with the finger board lesson learned


I'm trying to visualize in my head what you're saying. So you have two dowels one small dowel that goes into the heel and through the gourd and one big dowel stick that goes through the gourd? I guess construction wise it'll be easiest for me to just laminate on the dowel as an extension of the heel

May 15, 2021 - 6:37:10 PM

269 posts since 10/18/2020

quote:
Originally posted by ragalb
quote:
Originally posted by Don Smith1959

I think you can make the neck as thick or as thin as you want to a point as long as the woods you chose is stable, also i believe you can make the dowel how ever you want I have figured out some things on my first gourd banjo build as to why somethings are done the way they are it just makes it easy
the way i did my dowel has been a real challenge it made it hard to install the skin head

as for cases i believe they are much safer than just hanging the banjos on the wall or sitting them on stands but if you do not have people or animals to knock them off the wall or knock them over while in stands i see nothing wrong with either way personally i have two large rambunctious dogs that would knock mine over if they were sitting in stands so i have mine in cases and put them away every time i take one out and play it

The way i did my neck it literally bolts onto the gourd which makes it extremely hard to install the skin head then I drilled a 3/8 hole through the gourd into the center of the heel of my neck and installed a 3/8 walnut dowel and then used a 3/4 x3/4 granadillo dowel through the gourd what i did figure out that if the dowel is not doweled into the heel it also makes it hard to get the dowel that runs through the gourd lined up correctly so the tail piece is attached inline with the finger board lesson learned


I'm trying to visualize in my head what you're saying. So you have two dowels one small dowel that goes into the heel and through the gourd and one big dowel stick that goes through the gourd? I guess construction wise it'll be easiest for me to just laminate on the dowel as an extension of the heel


No in the center of the heel i drilled a 3/8 hole for a 3/8 dowel that dowel is approximately 3-4 inches long then the dowel that goes through the gourd is a 3/4 x 3/4 x 12 in square dowel i said i used granadillo but it was actually blood wood i drilled a 3/8 hole in one end of the blood wood dowel to slide onto the dowel in the center of the heel of the neck to attach the neck i installed to counter sink nuts, i shaped a brace out of zebra wood for the inside of the gourd where the neck attaches the two counter sink nuts in the heel of the neck drilled two holes for flat topped Allen head bolts to go through the shaped brace to hold the neck to the gourd, i then drilled the 3/8 hole for the 3/8 oak dowel pin centering it between the two counter sink nuts then on the opposite side of the gourd where the tail piece attaches i cut one square hole wth carving knives through the gourd to fit the blood wood dowel through, the 3/8 dowel slides into the bloodwood dowel that goes across the gourd doing it the way i did it made it extremely hard to install the skin head on the gourd

i had to leave the neck loose attach the skin on the neck side first then tighten the bolts up and then finish stretching the skin it was a pain in the butt like i said lesson learned but i will say the way i did the build made for one solid build   

 

yes to you thoughts about laminating the dowel to the neck it would make it much easier the way i did mine you have to attach the neck loosely and work around the neck to install the banjo head

Edited by - Don Smith1959 on 05/15/2021 18:47:45

May 15, 2021 - 7:11:15 PM

ragalb

Canada

85 posts since 1/27/2021

That sounds very complicated! Definitely beyond my skill levels. Sounds like it worked out well in the end though even if its was a hassle. Do you have any pictures of the banjo?

I will keep it simple I think. I have a feeling the gourd banjo will be a harder build than the mountain banjos. We'll see

May 15, 2021 - 7:17:35 PM

269 posts since 10/18/2020

quote:
Originally posted by ragalb

That sounds very complicated! Definitely beyond my skill levels. Sounds like it worked out well in the end though even if its was a hassle. Do you have any pictures of the banjo?

I will keep it simple I think. I have a feeling the gourd banjo will be a harder build than the mountain banjos. We'll see


the one thing you have to keep in mind with a gourd banjo that i discovered is they crack vary easy thats what happened to me on the first one, one minuet it was fine the next it had a crack running from the top where the skin attaches all the way to the bottom luckily i had four other gourds sitting here and one of the four spares was simillar to the one that cracked

 

no pictures yet i am still dong finishing touches on mine and i have to do all my work on it at around 3 Am so i get in no hurry

Edited by - Don Smith1959 on 05/15/2021 19:19:42

May 15, 2021 - 7:43:15 PM

ragalb

Canada

85 posts since 1/27/2021

quote:
Originally posted by Don Smith1959
quote:
Originally posted by ragalb

That sounds very complicated! Definitely beyond my skill levels. Sounds like it worked out well in the end though even if its was a hassle. Do you have any pictures of the banjo?

I will keep it simple I think. I have a feeling the gourd banjo will be a harder build than the mountain banjos. We'll see


the one thing you have to keep in mind with a gourd banjo that i discovered is they crack vary easy thats what happened to me on the first one, one minuet it was fine the next it had a crack running from the top where the skin attaches all the way to the bottom luckily i had four other gourds sitting here and one of the four spares was simillar to the one that cracked

 

no pictures yet i am still dong finishing touches on mine and i have to do all my work on it at around 3 Am so i get in no hurry


Oh that's a little scary as I just have the one gourd. I will be gentle with it. 

Yes its definitely worth putting in extra time to get something beautiful. I look forward to seeing it when it's ready 

May 15, 2021 - 8:29:20 PM
likes this

134 posts since 12/6/2019

For neck thickness, I aim for about 1 inch at the nut and up to about 1.25 before the heel, which ends up being about 1 7/8" or a little thicker.

I'm almost finished with my third gourd banjo so I'm not by any means an expert, but the design I've settled on works well for me. I start with a solid stable well seasoned (ideally kiln dried) block of wood 2" thick, around 2.75" wide and about 40" long. Ideally its cut so that its "on the quarter", with the grain running vertically across the width. The width is mostly determined by peghead design. If you are okay with a thinner styled peghead you can get away with a 2"x2" blank. The blank pictured is about 2 5/8".

I made about 4 necks that had critical failures when it came to cutting the heel or setting the dowel. It can be done, it just makes things incredibly difficult if you dont have the tooling. The combination of the radius of the gourd/drum, the neck angle, and setting the dowel perfectly in line and square makes for a pretty big challenge.

But! Making the neck without a complex heel radius and setting the angle into the drum makes things 100% simpler. At least with my tooling.

The first three photos are the blank with the top and side profile drawn on.

The next three are what the neck looks like after being carved and sanded and there is one photo of the heel area after it leaves the bandsaw. Ugly. I always start my carving with a No. 4 plane to get all of the sides nice and square and to the proper dimensions. The last photo shows the grain orientation, but the blank is on its side. Hope that makes sense

As far as stability goes, I think that this design is perfectly sound provided the wood you're using is properly seasoned and stored and as long as you're using nylon strings.

As far as tone, I prefer la bella over nylgut by a long shot even in low tunings.

Hope this helps and sorry for the poor photo quality.






 

May 15, 2021 - 8:31:26 PM

134 posts since 12/6/2019

Forgot a couple of the photos




May 15, 2021 - 11:19:27 PM

269 posts since 10/18/2020

Strewthday47 I like the way you are building your neck it looks pretty simple

I wanted to start out with a 2-3 degree drop in the neck which i was able to achieve with my design at the heel of the neck once i had the 2-3 degree drop i wanted the heel to fit as close to the gourd as i could get it so i used a contour gauge to get the shape of my gourd and used the gauge for a pattern to shape the heel where it sits against the gourd when it was all finished i had the 2-3 degree drop in the neck

the next one i build i will do the same but i will not make it a bolt on neck

May 15, 2021 - 11:43:25 PM

134 posts since 12/6/2019

quote:
Originally posted by Don Smith1959

Strewthday47 I like the way you are building your neck it looks pretty simple

I wanted to start out with a 2-3 degree drop in the neck which i was able to achieve with my design at the heel of the neck once i had the 2-3 degree drop i wanted the heel to fit as close to the gourd as i could get it so i used a contour gauge to get the shape of my gourd and used the gauge for a pattern to shape the heel where it sits against the gourd when it was all finished i had the 2-3 degree drop in the neck

the next one i build i will do the same but i will not make it a bolt on neck


Thanks! So far I'm happy with how they've turned out. They're inspired by Rudy's build here which in turn is inspired by some of the first banjos which employed the same simple neck through rim design.

https://www.banjohangout.org/archive/305109

My design is much simpler than Rudy's but the idea is the same. I plan to document my next couple builds thoroughly because I think there is some magic to doing things simply and I was pretty near giving up on banjo building because of the damn compound radius heel angle cut. 

With this design there doesnt need to be any heel angle and there is no compound radius. The neck angle is created by the dowel and its path through the rim. A 2-3 degree angle is created by putting the heel through in the right place and the tailpiece end of the neck through the gourd or drum about half an inch higher than where it enters at the heel end. A tight fit is crucial. I start both holes small and work them to the right shape with files. I also cut the dowel so that it has a slight taper up from the base of the heel. It really can't get any simpler. It takes me about 6 hours to make a neck from rough sawn lumber to final sanding. 

May 16, 2021 - 12:16:23 AM

134 posts since 12/6/2019

Also, for the thickness/width question.. are we talking nut width or neck depth from the fretboard to the back of the neck? I may have misunderstood. If nut width, I aim for 1.25" - 1 3/8" at the nut tapered up to about 2" at the heel which is about the standard these days.

May 16, 2021 - 1:18:38 AM

269 posts since 10/18/2020

Strewthday47 there is nothing typical about my neck dimensions other than length I hand carved mine to make it comfortable for me to play because of the size of my hands most all banjo necks feel to small in my hands almost like having a tooth pick attached to a banjo for a neck

the dimensions on my neck are 1 3/4 wide on the finger board 1 1/2 inch thick at the nut tapering to 1 3/4 thick just ahead of the heel what i found for me with those dimensions is it allows my fretting hand to sit naturally and feels much better for me most would probably say its way to thick and uncomfortable but for me its comfortable

May 16, 2021 - 9:40:23 AM
likes this

ragalb

Canada

85 posts since 1/27/2021

Thanks for all the comments guys! It's very helpful. I was referring to the width at the nut not the thickness. My homemade mtn banjos are 1 1/2 inch across at the nut but my modern openbacks are 1 1/8 inch across. I find this more comfortable but I was wondering if mountain banjos were designed with a larger width because they lack a truss rod and so need to be wider for stability/prevent warping. In any case it sounds like I can go down to 1 1/4 inch safely so I'll try that on this next build.

If I'm understanding correctly you would make the hole where the heel of the neck meets the gourd such that if there were no angle the neck would be level with the head and then on the tailpiece end you would make the hole a 1/2 inch higher than the one on the other end which gives about a 2/3 degree angle? You guys have definitely convinced me to do the one piece through the gourd design! I just have the one gourd so simple but effective is probably a lot smarter than trying something fancy.

May 16, 2021 - 10:31:55 AM
likes this

269 posts since 10/18/2020

quote:
Originally posted by ragalb

Thanks for all the comments guys! It's very helpful. I was referring to the width at the nut not the thickness. My homemade mtn banjos are 1 1/2 inch across at the nut but my modern openbacks are 1 1/8 inch across. I find this more comfortable but I was wondering if mountain banjos were designed with a larger width because they lack a truss rod and so need to be wider for stability/prevent warping. In any case it sounds like I can go down to 1 1/4 inch safely so I'll try that on this next build.

If I'm understanding correctly you would make the hole where the heel of the neck meets the gourd such that if there were no angle the neck would be level with the head and then on the tailpiece end you would make the hole a 1/2 inch higher than the one on the other end which gives about a 2/3 degree angle? You guys have definitely convinced me to do the one piece through the gourd design! I just have the one gourd so simple but effective is probably a lot smarter than trying something fancy.


yes that is correct depending on where you cut the hole in the gourd on the tail piece side of the gourd will determine your neck angle with a one piece neck with the dowel incorporated in

May 18, 2021 - 7:13:44 AM
likes this

134 posts since 12/6/2019

quote:
Originally posted by ragalb

Thanks for all the comments guys! It's very helpful. I was referring to the width at the nut not the thickness. My homemade mtn banjos are 1 1/2 inch across at the nut but my modern openbacks are 1 1/8 inch across. I find this more comfortable but I was wondering if mountain banjos were designed with a larger width because they lack a truss rod and so need to be wider for stability/prevent warping. In any case it sounds like I can go down to 1 1/4 inch safely so I'll try that on this next build.

If I'm understanding correctly you would make the hole where the heel of the neck meets the gourd such that if there were no angle the neck would be level with the head and then on the tailpiece end you would make the hole a 1/2 inch higher than the one on the other end which gives about a 2/3 degree angle? You guys have definitely convinced me to do the one piece through the gourd design! I just have the one gourd so simple but effective is probably a lot smarter than trying something fancy.


Yep you've got it. A half inch is just a ballpark but it seems to work. Also keep in mind that the bottom of the heel is your reference. If the bottom of the heel hole is 1 15/16" from the flat top of the gourd the bottom of the tailpiece goes through at 1 7/16".  I've also found that a good method for placing the heel hole is to measure the height of the heel and add about 1/16" to that measurement. That is how far down from the flat part of the gourd the bottom of the heel will go. Hope that all makes sense. Find your centers and use a soft tape to mark out the holes and start small


 

Hangout Network Help

View All Topics  |  View Categories

0.234375