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Sep 6, 2021 - 9:05:56 PM
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23 posts since 6/8/2017

I am planning on building a couple of banjos during the next year. I am leaning towards using the wooden octagon sandwich type of pot construction. I wanted to find out, though, if there was any difference in sound or durability in that construction type or if the bent lamination yields any better results. Bent lamination requires a hellacious clamping form in order to achieve perfect roundness and gluing.

Sep 7, 2021 - 3:32:43 AM
Players Union Member

Helix

USA

14588 posts since 8/30/2006

Here's some other options.


Sep 7, 2021 - 4:05:37 AM

Fathand

Canada

11794 posts since 2/7/2008

Well known brands like Gibson, Stelling, Deering use laminated, we know it works.

Some use a brake drum as a clamping form or you could probably laminate mdf or plywood into a form.

Or Cooperman rims are reasonably priced.
cooperman.com/banjo-rims/

Sep 7, 2021 - 4:42:56 AM
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rmcdow

USA

1011 posts since 11/8/2014

Glenn Miller here on the hangout has a rim construction he calls the Viking rim that has the advantage of pegs that lock together the block sections, and lock together the layers of block sections. I don't know what the sound quality difference is, but when it comes to gluing up parts like this, pegs really help to register everything together and make for tight glue joints if the parts are cut accurately.

Sep 7, 2021 - 6:52:03 AM

573 posts since 1/28/2011

quote:
Originally posted by Fathand

Well known brands like Gibson, Stelling, Deering use laminated, we know it works.

Some use a brake drum as a clamping form or you could probably laminate mdf or plywood into a form.

Or Cooperman rims are reasonably priced.
cooperman.com/banjo-rims/


Stelling uses Tony Pass block rims, not laminated rims.  We know that works also.  I think it is probably easier for a large company to make laminated rims because they have the equipment to do it.  Both types seem to work fine.

Sep 7, 2021 - 7:40:09 AM

YellowSkyBlueSun

Virgin Islands (U.S.)

416 posts since 5/11/2021

quote:
Originally posted by latigo1
quote:
Originally posted by Fathand

Well known brands like Gibson, Stelling, Deering use laminated, we know it works.

Some use a brake drum as a clamping form or you could probably laminate mdf or plywood into a form.

Or Cooperman rims are reasonably priced.
cooperman.com/banjo-rims/


Stelling uses Tony Pass block rims, not laminated rims.  We know that works also.  I think it is probably easier for a large company to make laminated rims because they have the equipment to do it.  Both types seem to work fine.


The majority of Stelling banjos in existence have 3-ply laminated rims. He didn't start using Tony Pass rims until the mid-5000s. 

Sep 7, 2021 - 7:54:29 AM
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578 posts since 5/22/2021

You might like reading about my banjo Long neck build here: banjohangout.org/topic/376502/5

I describe on how I built my pot, using a nice birch "tube" that a hangout friend sent me from Tennessee, and a Walnut Veneer.

Sep 7, 2021 - 11:25:07 AM
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573 posts since 1/28/2011

quote:
Originally posted by YellowSkyBlueSun
quote:
Originally posted by latigo1
quote:
Originally posted by Fathand

Well known brands like Gibson, Stelling, Deering use laminated, we know it works.

Some use a brake drum as a clamping form or you could probably laminate mdf or plywood into a form.

Or Cooperman rims are reasonably priced.
cooperman.com/banjo-rims/


Stelling uses Tony Pass block rims, not laminated rims.  We know that works also.  I think it is probably easier for a large company to make laminated rims because they have the equipment to do it.  Both types seem to work fine.


The majority of Stelling banjos in existence have 3-ply laminated rims. He didn't start using Tony Pass rims until the mid-5000s. 


The early Stellings used block rims.  Stellings made in the middle years used laminated rims. Somewhere in the early 2000's Stelling started using the Tony Pass block rims.  The OP's original question was about the sound and durability of a block rim.  The post by Fathand suggested that all major manufacturers, including Stelling, used laminated rims.  That might lead people to believe that laminated rims were superior.  I don't think that is true.  If the block rims were not as good, or better, than the laminated rims I doubt Stelling would have been using them for almost twenty years. 

Sep 7, 2021 - 12:03:17 PM

Fathand

Canada

11794 posts since 2/7/2008

quote:
Originally posted by latigo1
quote:
Originally posted by Fathand

Well known brands like Gibson, Stelling, Deering use laminated, we know it works.

Some use a brake drum as a clamping form or you could probably laminate mdf or plywood into a form.

Or Cooperman rims are reasonably priced.
cooperman.com/banjo-rims/


Stelling uses Tony Pass block rims, not laminated rims.  We know that works also.  I think it is probably easier for a large company to make laminated rims because they have the equipment to do it.  Both types seem to work fine.


My Stelling rim, from 1985, is laminated. It is the loudest banjo I have heard. Stelling used laminated rims from 1981 to 2002 from Stew Mac and Cooperman. And yes there are lots of good block rims too.

Sep 7, 2021 - 12:19:29 PM

Fathand

Canada

11794 posts since 2/7/2008

quote:
Originally posted by latigo1
quote:
Originally posted by YellowSkyBlueSun
quote:
Originally posted by latigo1
quote:
Originally posted by Fathand

Well known brands like Gibson, Stelling, Deering use laminated, we know it works.

Some use a brake drum as a clamping form or you could probably laminate mdf or plywood into a form.

Or Cooperman rims are reasonably priced.
cooperman.com/banjo-rims/


Stelling uses Tony Pass block rims, not laminated rims.  We know that works also.  I think it is probably easier for a large company to make laminated rims because they have the equipment to do it.  Both types seem to work fine.


The majority of Stelling banjos in existence have 3-ply laminated rims. He didn't start using Tony Pass rims until the mid-5000s. 


The early Stellings used block rims.  Stellings made in the middle years used laminated rims. Somewhere in the early 2000's Stelling started using the Tony Pass block rims.  The OP's original question was about the sound and durability of a block rim.  The post by Fathand suggested that all major manufacturers, including Stelling, used laminated rims.  That might lead people to believe that laminated rims were superior.  I don't think that is true.  If the block rims were not as good, or better, than the laminated rims I doubt Stelling would have been using them for almost twenty years. 


It was not my intent to deny block rims work, only that laminate rims do work and you won't go wrong using one. They seem to be the standard, at least among bluegrass banjos, also used by Gold Star, Gold Tone, Recording King.

I did briefly forget that Stelling went back to block, maybe because I am so happy with my laminated Stelling.

Sep 7, 2021 - 2:11:37 PM
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13943 posts since 6/29/2005

The most important aspects of a banjo rim are strength, particularly circumferential stiffness and the geometry.

By far the most commonly used method of constructing banjo rims has been bent wood—a single piece in primitive banjos, and later laminated in layers;  from two to eight layers in modern ones. Virtually all production banjo companies have used this method, with the exception of Stelling, who had a complicated rim profile and used a block construction that could be turned to that profile.
The laminating method has several advantages, the greatest of which is that the grain is running horizontally, which provides great strength, stiffness and stability.

Also, laminated rims are stiffer and stronger in given thicknesses than those made by other methods, so if you want a thin rim. lamination would be the only feasible way. Thin rims are good for spun-over cladding, and were popular historically.

The normal method is to steam and bend wood slats, then glue them face to face in a form with staggered joints.  
Providing the steaming is sufficient, and the proper kind of glue is used, the laminations will be stable and remain so indefinitely.

The other common method is the block rim type, which, as the name implies is laid up brick-fashion.
This is a very common method, popular with hobby-builders and beginners because it’s easy to make, doesn’t require a steam chamber, molds or forms, a method to make accurately thicknessed slats, or any specialized skill, and works best for heavy rims.
This method can be useful useful in some cases, such as in the use of unusual exotic woods that can’t be easily steamed, or for unusual diameters, particularly special rim profiles (Stelling), and can be constructed in interesting ways, such as splined.  You can make virtually any diameter rim as a block rim.

Beyond these two basic methods, there are others:

• Finger-jointed, which is great, but dangerous and requires special router or shaper cutters

• Stave construction, which is very easy to do, especially with special router bits available today, including "bird's mouth" ones, but lacks the necessary circumferential stiffness unless the rim is very thick or the sections are oriented so that the grain runs horizontally around the rim

• single piece rims made from sections of tree-trunk, which are very difficult to make and require careful seasoning and monitoring.

Edited by - Ken LeVan on 09/07/2021 14:15:38

Sep 7, 2021 - 2:28:08 PM
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58246 posts since 12/14/2005
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For quick and cheap, yet surprisingly sweet and functional, a thrift shop salad bowl with the bottom cut out works rather well.

Tack on a hide head, or, for ALSO cheap, flatten out a 2-liter bottle, epoxy and tack in in place, shrink it tight with a hair dryer or CAREFULLY hold it over a gas stove.


Sep 7, 2021 - 6:02:30 PM
Players Union Member

Helix

USA

14588 posts since 8/30/2006

Don’t be fooled by opinion expressed as fact

Ask the pros how long it takes to make a lammy? 11days plus additional curing to be warranteed

Many imported lam rims are green, they warp and so on
We can discuss other types of rims in another place

I want to make sure the op gets a good look at what options exist without personal prejudice

Sep 7, 2021 - 6:08:45 PM
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58246 posts since 12/14/2005
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But... I really LIKE my personal bias!

"I don't need facts! I'm an AMERICAN!"

-T. Smothers-

Sep 7, 2021 - 7:54:38 PM
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PaulRF

Australia

3236 posts since 2/1/2012

quote:
Originally posted by Helix

Don’t be fooled by opinion expressed as fact

Ask the pros how long it takes to make a lammy? 11days plus additional curing to be warranteed

Many imported lam rims are green, they warp and so on
We can discuss other types of rims in another place

I want to make sure the op gets a good look at what options exist without personal prejudice


It would be good for the OP to know exactly who you are referring to if you make this type of statement or else he will have no idea as who's opinion is fact and who's is not.

Paul

Edited by - PaulRF on 09/07/2021 20:09:18

Sep 8, 2021 - 3:04:16 AM
Players Union Member

Helix

USA

14588 posts since 8/30/2006

I'm referring to espousing the benefits of the laminated rim.

Sep 8, 2021 - 6:02:59 AM

13943 posts since 6/29/2005

To be honest about it, laminated rims are very difficult to make properly, and I wouldn't recommend it to a first-timer—I mentioned earlier that block rims are easier to make and much more appropriate for hobby builders and beginners.

To make a good laminated rim, you need to make a steam chamber and have some kind of steam generator, you need a form, a bunch of clamps and curved cauls, plus to do it right, you have to have a source of straight grain wood with the right grain orientation and moisture content.

Then you need to have a table saw to rip the slats and a planer to thickness them.  You need to have a way to make scarf joints. You need to use laminating glue which has a short life, has to be stored in a cool dry place away from the steamer, and the powder is hazardous.  You need a heat lamp setup to cure the glue.

It took me several years to develop the ability to make good laminated rims, it requires some skill and experience, and I built four different steamers during the course of the learning process, plus I have a sawmill to cut slats and a ready supply of red maple, cherry, birch and beech logs.

Not counting the time it takes to saw the slats, dimension and plane them, it takes me 3 days to do the lamination because I cure the glue for 12 hours.  If I break a slat, add another day.  Beyond that, there is turning them to dimension and a couple other proprietary things I do,  so it takes 4-6 days to make a laminated rim, and I can make two at once by having two forms and enough clamps and cauls.

I could make a block rim (several of them) in one day, and be ready to turn them down the next morning—it's a much much easier process.

Sep 8, 2021 - 7:03:31 AM
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1642 posts since 7/2/2007

One of these days someone will collect a set of rims made by different methods mentioned here, same species, same dimensions,... and set up a simple deflection test of rims to maintain roundness under stress, maintain diameter in extreme humidity changes and finally a compression test to failure.

I don't remember anyone here ever doing that and it wouldn't be that hard to do.

A rim strength and stability shoot-out.

Until then, I see mostly opinions and some of the ones tossed around as fact are someones best guess and often biased by a builders chosen construction method.

I'm betting some will be stiffer, some will be more durable, and some will be more dimensionally stable. I'm also betting no single construction method will hit a home run on all counts but that they all sound just like banjos.

Till then?

Sep 8, 2021 - 7:07:51 AM
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YellowSkyBlueSun

Virgin Islands (U.S.)

416 posts since 5/11/2021

PaulRF Well, obviously it's just a continuation of the perpetual argument between Mr. Hill and Mr. LeVan as to the merits of their designs. They've gotten quite good at being vague enough in their posts so their personal spat goes undetected by people that aren't already familiar with it. I do appreciate the detail of some of the posts, because they're often educational. But some of the other posts can be quite esoteric and almost philosophical to the point of non-sequitur, which is less useful.


There's a lot of truth to what RBuddy says. At the end of the day, unless you're talking to another banjo player, most people cannot hear the difference between various banjo types. I've gone from playing a $200 PacRim import to a $4000 Huber, and I honestly don't think anyone beyond me even noticed the difference other than the nicer look of the Huber. Everyone just says, "yup, that sounds like a banjo".

Edited by - YellowSkyBlueSun on 09/08/2021 07:12:52

Sep 8, 2021 - 7:44:21 AM
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8989 posts since 8/28/2013

quote:
Originally posted by YellowSkyBlueSun

PaulRF Well, obviously it's just a continuation of the perpetual argument between Mr. Hill and Mr. LeVan as to the merits of their designs. They've gotten quite good at being vague enough in their posts so their personal spat goes undetected by people that aren't already familiar with it. I do appreciate the detail of some of the posts, because they're often educational. But some of the other posts can be quite esoteric and almost philosophical to the point of non-sequitur, which is less useful.


There's a lot of truth to what RBuddy says. At the end of the day, unless you're talking to another banjo player, most people cannot hear the difference between various banjo types. I've gone from playing a $200 PacRim import to a $4000 Huber, and I honestly don't think anyone beyond me even noticed the difference other than the nicer look of the Huber. Everyone just says, "yup, that sounds like a banjo".


I don't think Ken's latest remarks are at all biased. He mentions the difficulties of making a laminated rim, which is certainly an argument against his own "preference" for that rim type.  In those remarks, he doesn't appear to be advocating for or against either rim type.

As far as any "spat" is concerned, that seems a bit irrelevant, and a quite obvious personal attack. Both these members have their preferences, and they are bound to be stated, just as some people argue strongly for their preferences about compensated bridges, head tensioning methods, shims vs. coordinator rod adjustments, and any other banjo idea they happen to support or criticize.  

Debate is the nature of a forum, and sometimes it can be unfriendly. Sometimes, too, there is no real objective way to say what's right. As RBuddy says about rim comparisons,: "I'm also betting no single construction method will hit a home run on all counts..."

What does that leave? Perhaps "perpetual argument?'  Or maybe it's just a more complete picture of the merits and faults of the two rim designs.

Edited by - G Edward Porgie on 09/08/2021 07:51:23

Sep 8, 2021 - 8:23:51 AM

23 posts since 6/8/2017

Thank you so much everyone for the wonderful and informative insight! It is much more than I anticipated. Now I've got more research to do. I have built two mountain banjos in the past and plan on building a gourd banjo. The two banjos that I plan on building, in regards to my original question, will be one for clawhammer and another for Scruggs style. The clawhammer unit will likely stay in double C or sawmill tuning. Both will have truss rods. My current Deering Artisan Goodtime has no truss rod and I am scared to put heavy strings on it and I want heavy strings on my clawhammer banjo.

If any of you ever have a chance to meet Greg Deering at one of his talks at Music Stores be certain to take advantage of that opportunity. Very impressive person and his wife is super nice too and a big cog in what makes the Deering company and brand name click!

Sep 8, 2021 - 8:39:50 AM

13943 posts since 6/29/2005

quote:
Originally posted by RBuddy

One of these days someone will collect a set of rims made by different methods mentioned here, same species, same dimensions,... and set up a simple deflection test of rims to maintain roundness under stress, maintain diameter in extreme humidity changes and finally a compression test to failure.

I don't remember anyone here ever doing that and it wouldn't be that hard to do.

A rim strength and stability shoot-out.

Until then, I see mostly opinions and some of the ones tossed around as fact are someones best guess and often biased by a builders chosen construction method.

I'm betting some will be stiffer, some will be more durable, and some will be more dimensionally stable. I'm also betting no single construction method will hit a home run on all counts but that they all sound just like banjos.

Till then?


Dan Drabek and I talked about this on a thread a while back. The idea would be to take a laminated rim and a block rim and drop them both off a second story balcony onto a concrete slab, taking pictures or a video of it.  Kind of like "Mythbusters" where they would blow stuff up—it would be great fun.  The only thing I lack is a second story balcony—I think I have a block rim in the shop somewhere.  Maybe when I switch out the screens on my second story porch in October, I'll do it if I can remember.

Of course, as long as the rims don't come apart in normal use there isn't much need to subject them to abuse. In the case of this thread, I think it boils down to which one would be easier to make, and the block rim wins hands-down.

I made block rims back in 1975 and I thought I had invented it because I had never seen one. My only problem with them is an aesthetic one—I don't like the way they look, but they work just fine, and you can always cover one with a veneer, which several builders do.

Sep 8, 2021 - 10:34:24 AM

1642 posts since 7/2/2007

I remember that thread Ken and I think there were some exaggerated opinions thrown around there too.

I was thinking along the lines of standing a rim up on it's side and placing a reasonable weight on it in the 100-150 pound range bracketing string stress and measuring deflection before and after. Then measuring circumference in 25%-85% humidity, a range where banjos might find themselves in real life. Then maybe a drop from waist or chest height simulating a strap failure. Putting rims in a press and applying pressure till it fails would be more for fun than a test of concept in the real world.

Anything more than that would require a bunch of duplicate rims. But even a test of one of each kind of rim would be interesting.

Sep 8, 2021 - 11:53:01 AM

2572 posts since 6/19/2008

No one has mentioned sound quality and perhaps it's better not to, inasmuch as different builders/players want different sounds anyway unless they want a sound just like Earl's banjo. That said, in my limited experience, I noticed a definite improvement in both tone and volume when I switched from block-built to the "Helix" style of rim construction as built by Larry Hill and illustrated in his first post, above. I haven't done much laminate building but what I have done has proved the statements made by others on how difficult it is.

I have had success in steam bending single-ply rims for old fashioned "minstrel-style" banjos and I think they are simple to build (if you don't mind a small bit of irregularity) and sound good for the purpose.

Sep 8, 2021 - 12:24:16 PM
Players Union Member

Helix

USA

14588 posts since 8/30/2006

Linear thinkers need sequitur, ain't no argument, stop it. 
But but throwing good rims won’t make them sound better
Let the players decide

Mr Levan and I have been corresponding since 2008, we all wish to talk about banjos please 
Sorry for the drift

 I am leaning towards using the wooden octagon sandwich type of pot construction. I wanted to find out, though, if there was any difference in sound or durability in that construction type or if the bent lamination yields any better results.

The octagon in my opinion is very good for flat construction, very strong and durable and maintains that throughout proportional    Rim sizes.  They sound like banjos, easy to build

some of the 120+ yr old Columbias and Stewarts are latitudinal grain 2 tier block rims and are still playing round.

we saw great VEGA banjo rims @ 7 or 8 laminations.

differences in sound start splintering opinion because of tone ring types

my opinion is based on jamming and getting to listen to every approach from old time to bluegrass equipment 

Lammies are limited, even woodies clip frequencies but were easy to mass produce, my opinion

Sep 8, 2021 - 1:01:51 PM
Players Union Member

Helix

USA

14588 posts since 8/30/2006

When you build your bluegrass rim, plan ahead to bring the flange up over the bottom of the rim @ 10-3/4” diameter
Regardless of what type of rim you choose
I believe you may own a shoe and plate type offering
That allows a builder to make entry and intermediate rigs
Stelling’s mid ‘70’s for bluegrass with the pyramidal ledge taught me to make tube open backs with a flat open back heel cut

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