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Jun 17, 2021 - 3:09:14 AM
101 posts since 12/4/2007

I am new to banjo maintenance and repair.

Here's my dilemma. I have a Gibson TB that I replaced the head on.

The banjo itself was reworked. It has both a dowel stick and coordinator rod. The coordinator rod takes a 10mm wrench instead of a 1/2". The tailpiece fits through the outside ring where the hooks go. It does not have individual shoes. There is a screw that goes in the dowel stick that probably once was a tailpiece hanger


I got the tension to 92 pounds evenly, all around. Went to string it up and the strings were sitting on the fingerboard. I looked at the neck joint and there is a big, 1/4" gap at the tension hoop where there was none before. The neck at the bottom seemed to be the same.

I removed the tail piece and loosened up the screw at the back of the dowel stick and loosened the coordinator rod so both have no tension. The neck does not move back in place, or much at all, but it did reveal a bit of the dowel stick at the bottom of the rim by the tailpiece, so there is some movement.

I suspect the pot is in a different state of round now, causing the issue. My next step might be to loosen the head brackets and see if it will fit back together properly. Nothing is stripped or has been over tightened. I know when to stop and ask.

This is the banjo. The pictures do not show the tailpiece, "No Knot", but do show the hook assembly.

reverb.com/item/40149734-gibso...-sunburst

Any advice would be helpful.

Edited by - steveintampa on 06/17/2021 03:30:41

Jun 17, 2021 - 7:11:47 AM
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8722 posts since 8/28/2013

Please show the banjo as it now appears. I can't make much sense of the issues from your description, and need to see exactly what's happening, not what the banjo looked like before you got it.

Pictures of the neck-to-pot junction inside and out and from the side, the actual tailpiece area, and the coordinator rod/dowelstick would be helpful. 

Jun 17, 2021 - 9:49:47 AM

101 posts since 12/4/2007

I will have to get my wife's phone and do that. Basically the neck is now tilted back slightly. A small gap at the top of the rim. I have it all loose now and it does not want to go back in to correct position leading me to believe the rim is in a different shape from the new head.

Jun 17, 2021 - 11:07:55 AM

101 posts since 12/4/2007

Jun 17, 2021 - 11:10:02 AM

8722 posts since 8/28/2013

It's possible that the neck is binding on the head's mounting ring. The new plastic heads have a wider, thicker, mounting than the flesh hoops used to mount the original hide heads.

Again, pictures might show whether this is the case or not. Can't make suggestions for repairs without detailed photos.

Jun 17, 2021 - 11:10:27 AM

101 posts since 12/4/2007

Jun 17, 2021 - 11:13:26 AM
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13700 posts since 6/29/2005

That looks as if the long nut at the neck end of the coordinator rod isn't tightened enough to pull the heel up against the rim.

Edited by - Ken LeVan on 06/17/2021 11:13:57

Jun 17, 2021 - 11:17:25 AM

101 posts since 12/4/2007

Everything is loose right now. It will not push together to close up. Even before I loosened it up the neck angle was back.

Jun 17, 2021 - 11:47:06 AM
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mbanza

USA

2359 posts since 9/16/2007

When you reassemble, you must make sure that the small end of the rimstick is fully inserted into its mortise or it will cause the problem you describe.

Jun 17, 2021 - 11:55:43 AM

101 posts since 12/4/2007

The rim stick was fully inserted and both the dowel and the coordinator rod were at the same tightness as they were before I changed the head. I loosened it all up to try to adjust it and took the photos that way. The dowel doe snot go back in to the slot now. It does not make sense to me. I was wondering if anyone else has had a similar experience.

Jun 17, 2021 - 12:12:34 PM
Players Union Member

Blackjaxe47

Canada

1601 posts since 6/20/2014

quote:
Originally posted by Ken LeVan

That looks as if the long nut at the neck end of the coordinator rod isn't tightened enough to pull the heel up against the rim.


I agree with Ken LeVan, another thing I see is the tail-piece bracket is missing. Without that bracket trying to tighten the outside nut it will get driven into the wood rim. Once that is back in place the inside nut and washer should be snugged up and them use the long nut to draw the heel back against the rim. If this was my banjo I would remove the dowel stick and see if there is a lag-bolt in the heel, if there is then I would find a corresponding sized nut plus a washer and tighten snuggly it against the inside of the rim until there is "NO MORE THAN A 1/8" AGAINST THE TENSION HOOP". You might find that with everything tighten up that the action is either too high or too low. If this happens then the inside of the heel may need reshaping or the use of shims would be in order. Just remember do not over-tighten any of the nuts, just snug enough that they do not work loose.

Edited by - Blackjaxe47 on 06/17/2021 12:14:30

Jun 17, 2021 - 12:28:37 PM

101 posts since 12/4/2007

So I took it all back apart and lo and behold, George was correct.

"It's possible that the neck is binding on the head's mounting ring. The new plastic heads have a wider, thicker, mounting than the flesh hoops used to mount the original hide heads."

The new head's mounting ring is close to twice as wide as the old one. When I tightened the head, it separated the neck from the body and offset the neck.

The solution seems to be either to notch out the neck at the heel to allow for the head to fit notch out the head in the area where the neck meets.

The tailpiece gots through a hole in the ring where the hooks mount. There is just a screw in the rim through to the dowel stick.

Jun 17, 2021 - 2:00:20 PM

101 posts since 12/4/2007

It's at the luthier now.

Jun 18, 2021 - 2:17:54 AM

101 posts since 12/4/2007

quote:
Originally posted by steveintampa

It's at the luthier now. They are going to file out the neck joint to allow the modern head to fit and do a set up.


Jun 18, 2021 - 9:35:49 AM

8722 posts since 8/28/2013

I have a somewhat similar early Gibson. I notched the head. I always hate to alter an original neck. If done correctly it works fine (mine's been on for about 40 years now).

It appears to me that new frets were installed on your banjo sometime in the past. The originals were quite small and not so rounded.

Jun 18, 2021 - 11:46:35 AM

101 posts since 12/4/2007

George,

It is not all original. The instrument was refinished, and the fingerboard radiused and refretted with the fatter frets. Played really nice before the head broke.

Now that I know the deal with the head issue, I have seen some on the internet with the neck notched out to allow a modern head. It is only about 1/8" so I think that is the way we will go with mine.

Again, thanks for making that observation.

Jun 19, 2021 - 5:08:18 AM

DSmoke

USA

1014 posts since 11/30/2015

I would take a dremel to the head, a simple fix that I've done before.

Jun 19, 2021 - 5:11:57 AM

DSmoke

USA

1014 posts since 11/30/2015

It's also possible that your crown height is too high and when you tightened your new head it bottomed out in the neck notch and pushed down on the neck. You might consider a lower crown head as it appears your tension ring is sitting below the tone ring.

Jun 19, 2021 - 5:37:13 AM

8722 posts since 8/28/2013

quote:
Originally posted by DSmoke

It's also possible that your crown height is too high and when you tightened your new head it bottomed out in the neck notch and pushed down on the neck. You might consider a lower crown head as it appears your tension ring is sitting below the tone ring.


I agree that the crown height is probably too high. It looks that way, anyway, what with that very low tension hoop. However, the neck notches on these old Gibsons are generally so shallow that the head's mounting would most likely need filing, anyway.  I've done more than one of these, and even with the proper crown, the heads bottomed out.

Jun 19, 2021 - 10:01:44 AM

101 posts since 12/4/2007

The skin head that broke had the same crown height as the replacement. The size difference was in the flesh hoop.

My luthier will get it working and I will share what he comes up with.

Jun 19, 2021 - 3:35:24 PM

8722 posts since 8/28/2013

quote:
Originally posted by steveintampa

The skin head that broke had the same crown height as the replacement. The size difference was in the flesh hoop.

My luthier will get it working and I will share what he comes up with.


The old head was probably badly stretched out. Your tension hoop looks too low to me (the tension hoop should not be below the plane of the head) due to an incorrect crown height, and could give further problems in the future as the new head stretches.  You certainly don't want to take more out of the neck notch than you need to.For reference, I'd have used a low crown on my Gibson, but the small head size was only available in a medium.

See what your luthier has to say when he checks everything. 

Edited by - G Edward Porgie on 06/19/2021 15:41:43

Jun 19, 2021 - 6:24:37 PM

101 posts since 12/4/2007

This is a 12" head. I will pass this entire thread on to him.

I really appreciate the advice from everyone.

Jun 20, 2021 - 4:05:42 AM

DSmoke

USA

1014 posts since 11/30/2015

Steve since you're here on this forum you hopefully already know this.......not all luthiers know banjos. I fix many banjos after being with a luthier. Make sure your luthier knows banjos and knows how to properly set them up for the music you want to play.

Jun 20, 2021 - 4:24:49 AM

101 posts since 12/4/2007

My luthier knows banjos pretty well. When I called the response was, "yeah we can fix drums with strings". Turns out one of the luthiers worked in the warranty department for large company, and has repaired thousands by his recollection. Not the main staple of their business, but certainly not out of their wheelhouse. Small busy shop with very experienced luthiers. I have worked with these guys for almost 20 years and everything has come out right.

Jun 25, 2021 - 11:30:47 AM

6 posts since 10/29/2010

What a strange coincidence that this post should just come up now. Yesterday I fitted a new plastic head on one of these old Gibson tenors and ran into exactly the same problem with the thick rim of the head preventing the neck from fitting back on the pot. I had to chisel some of the wood away in the notch at the heel to allow more room for the modern head rim. This was the first banjo rim I had come across with two thin walls separated with wooden blocks - no wonder the dull tone was produced compared with a solid maple rim.

Jun 25, 2021 - 7:33:51 PM
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8722 posts since 8/28/2013

I have always found that it's much easier and less destructive to file the edge of the new plastic head than to chisel away at the neck (or as Dan Shingler suggests, use a Dremel).

Slip while filing a head, it's cheap to replace it. Slip while chiseling a neck, and you've done damage that probably can't be fixed without it showing.

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