Hey y’all, I am an intermediate banjo player lucky enough to have a job at a music store where most of my playing gets done on instruments I will never be able to afford…every once in a while I pick up a cheapie and try to fix it up, mostly just for the joy of tinkering, and I now have a head scratcher that’s flummoxed multiple banjo buddies and instrument repair folks, so here I am.
Got this banjo for $80(?) and it’s been fine to drag around without worry. It has a small hole/tear in the head and I thought it would be a good opportunity to practice putting on a new head. I consulted many how-tos, and all agreed that I was going to need to loosen the hooks, except this particular banjo’s resonator makes that functionally impossible without removing the resonator (one picture shows this; we managed to use needle nose pliers to get a quarter turn on one, but that can’t be the way to do this, right?!)
Removing the resonator was my next step, and I had noticed the damage in one of my other attached pictures before…it appears that on the bracket that attaches the resonator has 3 holes for screws, two of which the screws just go directly into the wood….the third (kind of between the two and above them like the point of a triangle) screws into a block of wood attached to the rim of the resonator, but the other two are just straight into the wood….
There are a few issues here, but I guess what I really need to know first is:
(1) am I missing some way to loosen these hooks that’s obvious to everyone but me? ?? (pretty sure I can take it from there, if so)
(2) the wood that the screws have gone into are stripped; the plate/bracket is old, rusty and seems to have flaking chrome, so I made sure to get the screws unstuck from the metal before I tried getting them out, once I get them unstuck from the rust/age, I can just pull the screws right out….I haven’t removed all of them, but if I do, how the heck would I get the resonator back on?
Yes, I a newbie so, I certainly hope I haven’t done something stupid beyond redemption at this point, but everyone I know has said they’ve never seen a resonator just straight up screwed into the rim before so…. Anyone got some ideas here? Help! Thanks in advance ??
Get a flat-blade screwdriver, remove all the screws from the resonator brackets, and the resonator will be free to remove. Then you have access to the hooks and nuts for the head.
Why is it built this way? Because it's a cheap, entry-level, imported, POC banjo, that's why.
Originally posted by inkandbourbon
I consulted many how-tos, and all agreed that I was going to need to loosen the hooks, except this particular banjo’s resonator makes that functionally impossible without removing the resonator (one picture shows this; we managed to use needle nose pliers to get a quarter turn on one, but that can’t be the way to do this, right?!)
On every banjo with a resonator, the only way to get to the nuts to loosen or tighten them is to remove the resonator. Well, maybe not on a top-tension banjo, but those are expensive high-end professional instruments that you have no need to know about.
You turn the nuts with either a banjo wrench or -- lacking one of those -- a common tool such as a nut driver or a crescent, socket or adjustable (monkey) wrench.
My first banjo had flat attachment plates like yours with screws that went right into either the top edge of the resonator or a block of wood just inside the resonator wall. It was 50 years ago, so I'll be excused for not remembering.
Originally posted by inkandbourbon
(2) the wood that the screws have gone into are stripped; the plate/bracket is old, rusty and seems to have flaking chrome . . .
Reduce the diameter of the holes by inserting toothpicks dipped in wood glue. Use a utility knife, razor blade or any sharp tool to cut off the toothpicks flush at the top surface. Replace the screws with new, shorter, "pan head" or "truss head" screws. Spring for the extra cost of stainless steel. Or go for chrome if your local hardware store has that.
Drill very narrow pilot holes to make it easier to drive the screws where you want them.
As to the flaky plates, clean and polish them with #0000 steel wool and some kind of metal polish. If plating is gone, you probably won't bring back a shine but at least you can get rid of rust or corrosion.
If they can be electro-plated, you might look up on the internet how to safely plate small objects at home with vinegar, a piece of nickel, some metal clips and wire, and a 6-volt battery.
Bill Rogers (Moderator)
At least some B&D Silver Bells had resonator holding screws right into the shell—and they were (and are) not cheap banjos.
A hole in a plastic head can be fixed with a little superglue or sticker.
The plating is just nickel, not chrome, just thinner because of budget.
Are you a lefty? Or just playing that way in your avatar photo?
You have an older, less expensive set up, and a perfectly good banjo.
This is a really good forum, welcome, lots of help here.
Maybe your banjo is similar to this Maybelle.
The Little Washington Birdseye is played daily for Special Ed. students, they brought the whole school out for the delivery driver. What?
My 30 year career was with challenged adults, and yes, they can be much more interesting and civil and capable than the gen pop goobers.
"Heaven takes the fast ones, Nature takes the slow, the rest of us are in between, it's the hardest way to go." (c)2021 me.
Edited by - Helix on 06/24/2021 03:32:13
I agree with most of what was said here but I would fill the holes as Ken said with tooth picks or drilll them out and glue in a dowel. After that I would rotate the resonator brackets one hook on either direction as long as it did not interfere with the neck or tail. Now drill holes and insert threaded wood inserts and replace the old wood screws with a screw/bolt.
If the edge of the resonator is not wide enough then consider using a wood block that you can shape to match the inside curve of the resonator, glue it in and drill your hole for the insert. Just add the wood blocks where you are putting the brackets, stain them to match the resonator. The example below talks about using some epoxy to glue the insert in and that is a good idea. I have used 2 part JBWeld to do this in the past.
Doing this means that in the future you can remove the resonator without doing any damage. Removing a resonator is a pretty normal thing to do. You have to do this to adjust the head tension anyway.
Here is a link to show you what the threaded inserts are and how to use them.
Edited by - wizofos on 06/24/2021 05:26:36
The second banjo I owned was a bottle cap with a resonator held on with drywall screws going into wood blocks inside the resonator. It worked fine, though it was not at all stylish. I don't imagine the drywall screws were original from the factory, nor were they pre-war, but they fulfilled their role.
Old Hickory thank you for the detailed response! My quote about missing a way to tighten the head without taking off the resonator was a bit tongue in cheek, as you said my experience with every banjo I’ve seen in person the resonator needs to come off to tighten the head, but I was holding out a shred of hope that maybe I missed something. I’m not surprised that my only option is to take the resonator off, so much for wishful thinking ?? I’m not sure I’m brave enough to try at-home electroplating, but I’m super impressed you suggested that and if I get up the gumption to try it, I will be sure to let you know!
Helix thank you for your response as well! I had a sticker holding the hole on the head together, but part of this repair journey is exploring working on my own instrument to see if I am comfortable working on others…where I live there are a few people who work on guitars but I called every music store and repair person in a 150m radius and had no luck finding anyone willing to work on a banjo (to get my fiddle bow rehaired, the local shop shipped it to Atlanta!) I am certainly not trying to become a luthier overnight, but if I can replace tuning pegs and heads and maybe even install railroad spikes, I’d be of service to musicians in the area. And thank you also for 30 years of serving the special needs community. It takes a special person to “get it” and not see it as an “easy paycheck” (which it’s NOT!) and it sounds very much like you are in the first category. Thank you.
wizofos thank you also, also for the helpful response! I am going to go with blocks attached to the inside rim, and it’s a little hard to see but there is a third hole on the brackets that sits in the right place to go into a block on the inside rim, instead of into the rim itself. The advice on how to fix the current holes in the rim sound spot on, but since one has already busted through the “outer wall” of the rim, I think I’m going to play it safe especially with the extra screw hole in the plate ready to go.
Thank you all so very much! Watch out for future weird banjo questions….I am getting a lot of interesting instruments of questionable origin brought into our shop! I’ll have to get a picture of the homemade arm rest that appears to be the result of some creative home metal working ????
Here is the arm rest in question:
Originally posted by inkandbourbon
Here is the arm rest in question:
Does look DIY to me.
The resonator attachment shown in the newest photo isn't a plate like in the other one. So I guess one is original and one is a replacement. I can't tell from the photos. And since the plate is a known type of attachment for cheap Asian banjos from the 70s and later, it could be original. Typically, these banjos had three points of attachment. Does your banjo have two plates and one plateless thumbscrew (like in the newest photo)? Or two thumbscrews and one plate? Or one of each?
If the plate is original, I think the screws are replacements. They're big and ugly. One reason I suggest replacing with smaller.
inkandbourbon, you have a good positive attitude, great project.
One used longneck I traded for the neck had carpet tacks in the fingerboard for capo spikes.
Wrenching banjos is easier than just dialing guitars in. Have fun, good luck.
'pb-3 8662-23' 15 min
'name that tune' 44 min
'Resonator and Flange' 2 hrs