Banjo Hangout Logo
Banjo Hangout Logo

Premier Sponsors

399
Banjo Lovers Online


Page:  First Page   Previous Page   1   2   3  4

Sep 19, 2021 - 1:28:43 AM
likes this

John Yerxa

Australia

28 posts since 9/13/2021

Dan Drabek Ken LeVan


Progress and questions

Ok here is where I am up to with my prototype.

I decided to go with a combination of Ken's and Dan's techniques, layering up with octagons and putting splines in. Initially started making the splines and realised their end grain would show in the finished product - ?better to cut them so the end grain faces the slots, leaving edge grain exposed? ?also stronger joint?

I also worried about getting the slots exactly in the center - my solution was to cut both slots with the same face on the fence. Thought later that I could have made two passes on each one, alternating sides, and maybe had a slightly thicker slot?

On our saw, and with the wood I'm using, the slots don't cut particularly clean inside, making fitting the splines pretty fiddly. Anyone have a suggestion for cleaning them up? I've tried my needle files, but they don't work very well

Second photo is how I set up to cut the slots, a suggestion from Roy the safety guy at our shed. Worked a treat, then I had a kickback when ripping a thin strip for splines, resulting in 5 stiches in my forearm! Live and learn




Sep 19, 2021 - 5:05:54 AM

14018 posts since 6/29/2005

quote:
Originally posted by John Yerxa

Dan Drabek Ken LeVan


Progress and questions

Ok here is where I am up to with my prototype.

I decided to go with a combination of Ken's and Dan's techniques, layering up with octagons and putting splines in. Initially started making the splines and realised their end grain would show in the finished product - ?better to cut them so the end grain faces the slots, leaving edge grain exposed? ?also stronger joint?

I also worried about getting the slots exactly in the center - my solution was to cut both slots with the same face on the fence. Thought later that I could have made two passes on each one, alternating sides, and maybe had a slightly thicker slot?

On our saw, and with the wood I'm using, the slots don't cut particularly clean inside, making fitting the splines pretty fiddly. Anyone have a suggestion for cleaning them up? I've tried my needle files, but they don't work very well

Second photo is how I set up to cut the slots, a suggestion from Roy the safety guy at our shed. Worked a treat, then I had a kickback when ripping a thin strip for splines, resulting in 5 stiches in my forearm! Live and learn


Tablesaws are dangerous for sure!

Do you have a planer at your shed?  I number all the blocks with a pencil and that side is always the "top". I would cut the spline slots in the wedges first—two saw kerfs would be sufficient, and with the numbers on top, the surface will always line up perfectly.

Then rip a long strip for the splines and plane it so that it fits in the slots. You don't want it to be too tight, or the glue will prevent the assembly from going together tightly—you have to have the splines be slightly shorter so that glue will squeeze out at the ends.  Obviously, the splines are wedge-shaped the same angle as the segment wedges.

Sep 24, 2021 - 9:37:59 PM

John Yerxa

Australia

28 posts since 9/13/2021

Ken LeVan Dan Drabek

Thanks Ken, all good tips. Yes we have a planer, still working on my technique for getting things truly flat. Kind of stuck at the above stage for the moment, although I have ripped the pieces for the neck and found some New Guinea Rosewood for the fingerboard.

Talking to one of the guys at the shed - we have a laser cutter there, and he is suggesting making a plastic template for rounding off the octagons on the router table - thoughts

Also, anyone have thoughts on optimum/minimum number of brackets for an 11'' pot? Does it make a difference if you plan for skin vs plastic head? My Stewarts both have 28, which seems like a lot (but both are small pots).

Also, what about raw brass vs plated hardware - I like the look of raw brass, any disadvantage?

Thanks in advance.

Sep 25, 2021 - 5:40:26 AM
likes this

14018 posts since 6/29/2005

quote:
Originally posted by John Yerxa

Ken LeVan Dan Drabek

Thanks Ken, all good tips. Yes we have a planer, still working on my technique for getting things truly flat. Kind of stuck at the above stage for the moment, although I have ripped the pieces for the neck and found some New Guinea Rosewood for the fingerboard.

Talking to one of the guys at the shed - we have a laser cutter there, and he is suggesting making a plastic template for rounding off the octagons on the router table - thoughts

That sounds like a good idea, kind of like Dan's method of using the tone ring—he can offer more insight on that than I, inasmuch as he has used a router to round off a lot of rims

Also, anyone have thoughts on optimum/minimum number of brackets for an 11'' pot? Does it make a difference if you plan for skin vs plastic head? My Stewarts both have 28, which seems like a lot (but both are small pots).

I always use 24—why?  Because that's been the tradition for many many years ever since Gibson standardized it—Vega later went from 28 to 24. That spacing looks "right" to me. I tighten all heads with a drum dial while making a every pot, and you can get discrepancies between one hook and the next even with 24. It would be harder to do with less hooks. 

It takes a finite amount of force to tighten a head to the proper tension, and the less hooks, the more of the stress each one has to bear.

You will no doubt hear a lot of disagreement on this, and the idea that 8 less hooks and brackets will reduce the weight of the banjo does have some validity—one bracket, bolt, hook & nut combo weighs 21g, so going from 24 to 16 would reduce the weight by 168g or 6 oz., hardly significant. In the mean time, less brackets always looks (to me) as if the person building the banjo was too cheap to buy enough brackets, and at the risk of ruffling some feathers, that's probably the most honest assumption— the least expensive banjos on the market have less brackets, not to reduce the weight.

Apropos of your next question, if you are going to use real brass instead of plated steel for the hooks, you will be better off with the proper number rather than less.

Also, what about raw brass vs plated hardware - I like the look of raw brass, any disadvantage?

I have always liked the character of brass alloys, and in the years I have been making banjos, I have made very few that were plated—none anymore. I really like the effect of different metals together—more interesting to me than everything being silver colored.  These days, a lot of brass players in orchestras / jazz etc. prefer raw brass because of the sound, but it has a no-nonsense appearance.

The disadvantage is that brass will darken over time and require polishing to get it back to bright again. You can patina it and create an oxide which will protect it to a great extent, but it will darken, no question. Some people like the aging, some don't.

If you leave it raw, you can always get it plated down the road, but if you plate it, you can't reverse that.

Some examples of metal finishes on banjo pots:

My favorite brass finish at this time is a tumbled finish with ground walnut shells or corncobs, same as is used to polish brass cartridge casings—it's a nice lustrous satin, but not mirror.  I unfortunately don't have a good picture at the moment, but will post one in the future.

Thanks in advance.


Sep 27, 2021 - 4:20:06 PM
likes this

8007 posts since 1/7/2005

Hey Ken, I'd be hard pressed to pick a favorite among that group. Each one looks tasty enough to eat. You've really mastered the art of patination. It really works to pull together all the various materials. And it gives the impression of graceful aging.

DD

Sep 27, 2021 - 9:57:12 PM
likes this

John Yerxa

Australia

28 posts since 9/13/2021

Ken LeVan Dan Drabek

OK, I'll bite - "panination" is obviously giving something a patina, but how is it actually done? Is it something a person can do at home? "Tumbled finish with ground walnut shells" - is it done in something like a gemstone tumbler?

BTW, this exchange has been very helpful, so thanks guys. Got the blackwood for the neck and splines milled today, will be laying up my first octagon tomorrow.

John

Sep 28, 2021 - 11:22:46 AM

8007 posts since 1/7/2005

quote:
Originally posted by John Yerxa
OK, I'll bite - "panination" is obviously giving something a patina, but how is it actually done? Is it something a person can do at home? "Tumbled finish with ground walnut shells" - is it done in something like a gemstone tumbler?

BTW, this exchange has been very helpful, so thanks guys. Got the blackwood for the neck and splines milled today, will be laying up my first octagon tomorrow.

John
Patinating metal is most often accomplished chemically. There are dozens of various patinating chemicals to choose from, depending on what kind of metal is being tinted, and what kind of look you are after.  They can be had from vendors of gunsmithing supplies, jewelry making supplies, like Rio Grande, and various other home brews. Liver of sulfur is the most common traditional chemical used for darkening copper-based alloys, like brass and bronze. Steel and pot metal can be blued, or browned with products from Birchwood Casey and others. There are lots of products to choose from, if you do a bit of research on the net. Successful results are a combination of skill and artistry. 

DD


Edited by - Dan Drabek on 09/28/2021 11:27:01

Sep 28, 2021 - 11:55:20 AM

14018 posts since 6/29/2005

quote:
Originally posted by Dan Drabek
quote:
Originally posted by John Yerxa
OK, I'll bite - "panination" is obviously giving something a patina, but how is it actually done? Is it something a person can do at home? "Tumbled finish with ground walnut shells" - is it done in something like a gemstone tumbler?

BTW, this exchange has been very helpful, so thanks guys. Got the blackwood for the neck and splines milled today, will be laying up my first octagon tomorrow.

John
Patinating metal is most often accomplished chemically. There are dozens of various patinating chemicals to choose from, depending on what kind of metal is being tinted, and what kind of look you are after.  They can be had from vendors of gunsmithing supplies, jewelry making supplies, like Rio Grande, and various other home brews. Liver of sulfur is the most common traditional chemical used for darkening copper-based alloys, like brass and bronze. Steel and pot metal can be blued, or browned with products from Birchwood Casey and others. There are lots of products to choose from, if you do a bit of research on the net. Successful results are a combination of skill and artistry. 

DD


 


As Dan says, patinas are chemicals that oxidize the metal by a chemical reaction with the metal, and usually leave some protective coating on it.  Any bronze sculpture you see in a park has had a patina put on it by the sculptor. Gun bluing, as Dan said is another familiar metal patina. Lots of brass plumbing fixtures and architectural hardware have patinas—think of it as staining and finishing wood.

I get my chemicals from a supplier who makes them for sculptors, and a wide variety of chemicals are available—some have to be applied hot, some cold, some work on one kind of metal, some on others. They range from slight darkening to nearly black, various shades of blue, green, and rainbow effects.

You can do it at home, but I wouldn't do it in the kitchen—in the basement, shop, or outdoors would be better places.  To be honest about it, you need some kind of a torch that can heat the parts—I use an acetylene torch,  and a tub of water, It's kind of a mess and the chemicals are most likely not good to drink.  Some, like Sparex copper pickle, can eat holes in your clothing if it gets splashed on, but you don't notice it right away—it takes a couple of days.

The tumbling process is just like polishing gemstones— done in either a vibratory tumbler or a rotational setup using various kinds of what they call "media". Different kinds are available ranging from aggressive stuff that can deburr and clean rust and grime off old nuts and bolts and car parts, to finer kinds that can impart a polish to irregularly shaped parts like exhaust manifolds and jewelry.  Sometimes you have to run the tumbler for 8-10 hours, especially with fine media. It's noisy and better done in another room—I usually do it at night.  It's not dangerous.

It's great for complex parts like the brazed bracket bands, resonator flanges, and top-tension parts I make, which are very hard to clean and polish. I just got some new ceramic media I'm about to try.

Edited by - Ken LeVan on 09/28/2021 12:04:03

Sep 28, 2021 - 1:00:55 PM
likes this

conic

England

921 posts since 2/15/2014

Really Interesting thread with some great knowledge and ideas.
May I ask why are you using splines? When I make these with clean edges and just glued up with no splines, they never break

Sep 28, 2021 - 2:08:28 PM
like this

14018 posts since 6/29/2005

quote:
Originally posted by conic

Really Interesting thread with some great knowledge and ideas.
May I ask why are you using splines? When I make these with clean edges and just glued up with no splines, they never break


The reason I have used splines on some of the very few block rims I have made is twofold:

(1) aesthetic - it's a decorative thing because I don't like the way block rims look all that much—draws your eyes away from the bricklike joints.

(2) constructional - they line the sections up so that you don't have to dress each tier very much when you glue them up.

Using vertical splines, you could make a rim out of 8 or 12 full-height sections and not use tiers at all. I used to do that with finger-jointed rims

Oct 23, 2021 - 6:42:26 PM
like this

John Yerxa

Australia

28 posts since 9/13/2021

Dan Drabek Ken LeVan

OK here's my progress and one main question.

1. Clamping up the shell
2. Rough rounding
3. Steep learning curve on the lathe!
4. Pretty good (I love how the grain patterns surprise you)
5. and 6. Gluing up 4th octagon out of thinner Blackwood for a bottom edge cap

Here's my dilemma for today. I don't know whether I'm going to try to put any kind of tonering in or not. If I do, it will be a simple brass rod - does that need to be fitted to a groove? If I don't, do I round off the top edge? If I need to put the rim back on the lathe I'll need to use the same holes as before. If I glue the cap to the other edge (making it the bottom), I won't be able to use the lathe to shape or groove the top edge, since the cap will be facing out.

Thanks in advance, I sure appreciate the help.








Oct 24, 2021 - 5:09:12 AM
likes this

14018 posts since 6/29/2005

Very good work!  It looks great.

In answer to your question, I would use some kind of metal tone ring or head bearing on top of the rim.  You don't absolutely have to have a groove for that brass ring to sit in—the head will register it and keep it from moving around and it will work just fine.

Many people use a rectangular brass hoop that sits in a rabbet on the top outside edge of the rim which you can easily do with a router or on the lathe.

Stewmac sells them:

https://www.stewmac.com/parts-and-hardware/all-hardware-and-parts-by-instrument/banjo-parts/banjo-tone-rings/five-star-rolled-brass-banjo-tone-ring/

Edited by - Ken LeVan on 10/24/2021 05:09:48

Oct 24, 2021 - 9:41:44 AM
Players Union Member

Helix

USA

14787 posts since 8/30/2006

The rolled brass is joined flatbar with two contact surfaces, the back and the bottom. A router table and a fence is all that’s needed to prepare the rim, I prefer the lathe  
I find rolled brass and a lathe to be superior
The round stock just sits on top. They are inferior
You deserve the best out of that rim

I had good cabinetmaker mentors in a shop when I started out. Played banjo for them. I relearned turning from them
Lay the tool above the centerline and slowly lower and turn a tiny bit of blade into the turning stock. This  helps prevent gouging safely-old time 
I hand turned all of my first rims
You can adapt a 1/4” finish router to spin from a cross slide while turning the lathe at low rpm
I like your appreciation of the woods OZ has. Go forth


Edited by - Helix on 10/24/2021 09:47:59

Oct 25, 2021 - 3:52:31 AM

PaulRF

Australia

3256 posts since 2/1/2012

quote:
Originally posted by John Yerxa

Dan Drabek Ken LeVan

OK here's my progress and one main question.

1. Clamping up the shell
2. Rough rounding
3. Steep learning curve on the lathe!
4. Pretty good (I love how the grain patterns surprise you)
5. and 6. Gluing up 4th octagon out of thinner Blackwood for a bottom edge cap

Here's my dilemma for today. I don't know whether I'm going to try to put any kind of tonering in or not. If I do, it will be a simple brass rod - does that need to be fitted to a groove? If I don't, do I round off the top edge? If I need to put the rim back on the lathe I'll need to use the same holes as before. If I glue the cap to the other edge (making it the bottom), I won't be able to use the lathe to shape or groove the top edge, since the cap will be facing out.

Thanks in advance, I sure appreciate the help.


Really good looking rims.  I actually thought I was looking at one of Ken's rims for a second when I spotted the splines.  I hope you will be doing a few banjos in the future as we need more builders here.  Getting one from the states is way too expensive now with our dollar and import fees.  Alan Funk of White Swallow Banjos is/was an Adelaide builder although he may have retired a while ago.

Cheers, Paul

Oct 25, 2021 - 4:12:50 AM
likes this

John Yerxa

Australia

28 posts since 9/13/2021

quote:
Originally posted by PaulRF
quote:
Originally posted by John Yerxa

Dan Drabek Ken LeVan

OK here's my progress and one main question.

1. Clamping up the shell
2. Rough rounding
3. Steep learning curve on the lathe!
4. Pretty good (I love how the grain patterns surprise you)
5. and 6. Gluing up 4th octagon out of thinner Blackwood for a bottom edge cap

Here's my dilemma for today. I don't know whether I'm going to try to put any kind of tonering in or not. If I do, it will be a simple brass rod - does that need to be fitted to a groove? If I don't, do I round off the top edge? If I need to put the rim back on the lathe I'll need to use the same holes as before. If I glue the cap to the other edge (making it the bottom), I won't be able to use the lathe to shape or groove the top edge, since the cap will be facing out.

Thanks in advance, I sure appreciate the help.


Really good looking rims.  I actually thought I was looking at one of Ken's rims for a second when I spotted the splines.  I hope you will be doing a few banjos in the future as we need more builders here.  Getting one from the states is way too expensive now with our dollar and import fees.  Alan Funk of White Swallow Banjos is/was an Adelaide builder although he may have retired a while ago.

Cheers, Paul


Thanks Paul, nice compliment - and thanks to Ken for the splines concept. I'm pretty pleased with how this is turning out, being basically made out of scraps. I've learned a lot.

I hope to be doing several more, have a stock of Blackwood to work through. Working on sourcing parts -tone rings, brackets etc. here in Oz as everything is taking forever to get here from the US. Do you have any idea how many alloys of brass there are? I didn't until this morning.

Pretty sure Alan is no longer making banjos.

Cheers yourself

John

Oct 25, 2021 - 5:25 AM
likes this

14018 posts since 6/29/2005

quote:
Originally posted by John Yerxa
quote:
Originally posted by PaulRF
quote:
Originally posted by John Yerxa

Dan Drabek Ken LeVan

OK here's my progress and one main question.

1. Clamping up the shell
2. Rough rounding
3. Steep learning curve on the lathe!
4. Pretty good (I love how the grain patterns surprise you)
5. and 6. Gluing up 4th octagon out of thinner Blackwood for a bottom edge cap

Here's my dilemma for today. I don't know whether I'm going to try to put any kind of tonering in or not. If I do, it will be a simple brass rod - does that need to be fitted to a groove? If I don't, do I round off the top edge? If I need to put the rim back on the lathe I'll need to use the same holes as before. If I glue the cap to the other edge (making it the bottom), I won't be able to use the lathe to shape or groove the top edge, since the cap will be facing out.

Thanks in advance, I sure appreciate the help.


Really good looking rims.  I actually thought I was looking at one of Ken's rims for a second when I spotted the splines.  I hope you will be doing a few banjos in the future as we need more builders here.  Getting one from the states is way too expensive now with our dollar and import fees.  Alan Funk of White Swallow Banjos is/was an Adelaide builder although he may have retired a while ago.

Cheers, Paul


Thanks Paul, nice compliment - and thanks to Ken for the splines concept. I'm pretty pleased with how this is turning out, being basically made out of scraps. I've learned a lot.

I hope to be doing several more, have a stock of Blackwood to work through. Working on sourcing parts -tone rings, brackets etc. here in Oz as everything is taking forever to get here from the US. Do you have any idea how many alloys of brass there are? I didn't until this morning.

Pretty sure Alan is no longer making banjos.

Cheers yourself

John


The most common brass alloys for banjo making available here are:

260, AKA cartridge brass, which is good for making things like tailpieces, armrests and anything you would cut out of a sheet.

360 AKA free-machining brass, good for anything that you would cut threads in, like tension hooks, rim rods, nuts and bolts, easy to cut things like bracket shoes from, but it's also the most common alloy for bar stock and round stock you are contemplating making a tone ring from, and good for tension hoops

also, 385-M30 AKA architectural bronze, great for tone rings if you can get the right size

280 AKA Muntz metal a little stiffer and "golder" in color (also more expensive) than 260, great for resonator flange plates, tailpieces, anything cut from a sheet.

Many others including several bronze alloys and nickel silver.

Virtually any of these would work to make a simple tone ring, but 360 is the most commonly available in the sizes you want, and easy to work with—you can bend it without special equipment.

Oct 25, 2021 - 7:02:05 AM
Players Union Member

Helix

USA

14787 posts since 8/30/2006

John Yerxa: We all think supply is the next problem. As remarked, OZ has some of the best woods. Until your country stopped making autos, you had great metallurgy. OZ Industry has all the brass, non-ferrous and steel you would want to order.

You can make simple shoes and nuts out of 3/8" & 5/8" hex bar.
Flat bar can also be used to make fine unplated brass tension hoops.
Tailpieces and tailpiece brackets have lots of wiggle room for design. One man used a silver dinner fork for a tailpiece
There are fine platers for bumpers and auto parts, play banjo for them, they might help with nickel plating. Gold is fun.

And of course if you want to explore patina.....................then do it.

Here's a brass tension hoop that sandwiches the head between two identical pieces of brass, the tone ring and hoop, it's like having a double tone ring, see? You won't get that boon if you use roundstock. Also joining a flatbar tone ring is optional, the triangles used in orchestra and the cowboys' chuck wagon triangle are unjoined and they work fine. Tension hoops are all joined unless you find a "strap" hoop used by paltry import knock off specialists. Un joined must be hell to install on the assembly line!!
The brass hardware on the Grapefruit rim is Canadian Metallurgy.  And using scraps, re-purposed furniture and what is at hand is the finest luthier and banjo building tradition.  I've recently seen a man hand carve a Zebra wood banjo neck with a pocket knife.  

"When the twister came and took that cook into the rain, those flapjacks started fallin' and they piled up on the plains" 

Western Plains by Huddie Ledbetter.   We need good banjos, that's why we gather here. We all want what works. I look forward to your progress. 


Edited by - Helix on 10/25/2021 07:15:46

Oct 25, 2021 - 2:36:33 PM

QldPicker

Australia

375 posts since 4/17/2020

ALan Funk, luthier, (White Swallow Banjos) passed away on May of this year.

Oct 25, 2021 - 3:19:06 PM
Players Union Member

Helix

USA

14787 posts since 8/30/2006

I wish some if his Australian friends would start a thread showing more of his work

Oct 25, 2021 - 4:15:56 PM

PaulRF

Australia

3256 posts since 2/1/2012

quote:
Originally posted by QldPicker

ALan Funk, luthier, (White Swallow Banjos) passed away on May of this year.


Sorry to hear that. I had met him a few years ago at a jamboree and liked him.

Paul

Nov 10, 2021 - 5:07:33 PM
likes this

John Yerxa

Australia

28 posts since 9/13/2021

Ken LeVan Dan Drabek Helix PaulRF

OK, this has been an incredible journey with a logarithmic learning curve. I initially thought that if I could get a rim and neck together successfully that I would put a tack head, and some friction pegs on it, not spend a lot on something that might not work out. Well the rim came out much better than I expected, and my Brother in Law (who also makes banjos) encouraged me to make it into a regular banjo.

Then a friend here gave me a full set of bracket hardware, leaving the flesh hoop, tone ring and tension hoop the only major issues. I had the impression that "rolling" brass was a complex process. I visited some archived BHO threads on this, and found mention of a "Harbor Freight Ring Roller", put the terms "ring roller adelaide" into Duck Duck Go, and bingo. Machinery supplier an hour away had an equivalent, AU$129. I had already got 3 banjos worth of stock from a metal supplier. 20 minutes after I got it home I had the 3 rings made. OK, I need to re-do the tension hoop, but, learning curve.

So here's a photo of where I am at. Rim is rebated for 1/4" rod tone ring, and is sitting on the final octagon which today became the edge cap. Neck has slot cut for steel bar, and ears are ready to be glued on. I'm planning to make the fingerboard from the narrower strip of coachwood, and the peghead and heel covers from the wider bit (waiting for my fret saw from Stew Mac, mailed Oct 4).

I still need to figure out how to join the flesh and tension hoops. One of my shed-mates is pretty savvy with metal work and is going to help me with brazing them. I figure I'll leave the tone ring ends free, and fit it so the head pulls it tight to the rim.

Things I'm still anxious about - gluing steel bar to neck, cutting fret slots accurately, getting angle and fit of heel/rim joint right - I think I understand all the principles, just haven't done these things before.

Thanks again for all the helpful input - I'm having the time of my life with this. Have already started milling the timber for #2 - Blackwood rim and neck, Ebony or Rosewood fingerboard etc.

Paul RF - where are you?


 

Nov 10, 2021 - 5:58:31 PM

PaulRF

Australia

3256 posts since 2/1/2012

Adelaide smiley.  I'm a Victorian who moved to SA about 9 years ago and have been living here for the last 6 years. Would not move back now.  

Paul

Nov 10, 2021 - 9:54:46 PM
likes this

Bart Veerman

Canada

5068 posts since 1/5/2005

I hadn't read this thread until just now, truly amazing info and, thanks to all so much for it!

@Ken LeVan: take a bow, truly inspiring details!

Page:  First Page   Previous Page   1   2   3  4

Hangout Network Help

View All Topics  |  View Categories

0.265625