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Sep 23, 2021 - 6:42:33 PM
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484 posts since 10/18/2020

This is for those thinking about building a Gourd Banjo

I recently completed the build of my first gourd banjo but after completing i started having issues with part of the head not staying tight, i do know there is inherent issues with natural skin heads like goat skin loosing tension and then reversing to tight again, which is what i was dealing with on my gourd banjo, which in Arizona you would think would not be the case with as hot and dry as it is, the loosening would happen just at the area where the neck is attached about a 4-5 inch section would literally start bubbling up when it would sit in my house where i keep the temperature at around 70-72 degrees, i could take it outside where it was hot and it would literally tighten back up, I do know the issue is because of the way I built it, the first head install i tacked the head down at the first couple of inches where the neck attaches, I built the neck so it literally bolts onto the gourd I installed threaded counter sunk nuts into the neck the heal of the neck and also installed a 3/8 inch oak dowel into the heal between the two counter sunk nuts the way I did it you had to start the head install at the first couple of inches in the neck area then you attached the neck then completed the head installation, I thought because of the way I built the neck this was the only way I would be able to install the head, the dowel that goes through the gourd can be installed last because it slide onto the 3/8 dowel installed between the two threaded counter sunk nuts, I figured out after the build was complete I could use a long 3/8 drive extension I could remove the bolts holding the neck onto the gourd pot by going through the hole for the center dowel that runs through the gourd.
So i re did the complete head install, at first i did not think i would be able to re use the same head but i did
I came up with a tool for installing an stretching the head on the gourd pot which is what this post is really about a tool of sorts to make it easy to do the head installation on gourd banjos

I had been thinking about a way to make a pre mounted head for my gourd banjo builds but found it to work great as a tool to help with the stretching of the head on gourd banjos.
here is a photo of what i used, it is made using a piece of 6 gauge half round brass
which is very easy to bend around a gourd to get the size you need, i then spiral wrapped it with some leather 1/16-1/8 string it can be adjusted to what ever size you need

I was able to lay the skin over the gourd and then take the hoop i made working it down over the skin and gourd and it literally stretched the skin as i pushed it down over the top edge of the gourd, it worked fantastic


 

Edited by - Don Smith1959 on 09/23/2021 18:47:27

Sep 23, 2021 - 11:23:01 PM

560 posts since 2/5/2014

Post a song when the gourd banjo is done, I would like to hear it.

Sep 24, 2021 - 2:53:26 AM

484 posts since 10/18/2020

quote:
Originally posted by talljoey

Post a song when the gourd banjo is done, I would like to hear it.


Well I have a hard enough time posting up photos and, I have no clue how to do a video or sound clip and you will never see my fat butt on a video maybe I can find someone that plays a little better than myself to play it and post up a video we shall see, I would never call what I do playing more like doodling for my wife

best i can do is tell you it has a vary deep dark old time sound to me, that was with Labella classic 17 strings, I just strung it up with a new set of Aquila Reds and they are in the process of settling in so I have no clue what it will sound like now   

Sep 24, 2021 - 7:48:01 AM
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633 posts since 7/10/2012

As a lifelong tinkerer, one of the things I try to convey to my kids/protégé's is the great value of using what you have at hand to solve ad hoc problems as they arise. I think your "grabber" is brilliant, thanks for sharing! I have four gourds sitting in my shop for me to ponder on the process and your post clarified both a problem to prepare for and a very practical solution at the same time. Much obliged!

David
Lindale Banjos

Sep 24, 2021 - 12:13:24 PM

484 posts since 10/18/2020

I also have four more gourds I will be turning into gourd banjos for my son, daughter and two grandkids so I was trying to find an easier way to stretch the head and it worked like I said it was an experiment that actually worked
The reason for the spiral wrap with leather is it actually helped with gripping the skin you are stretching the bare half round brass just slipped on it where the leather wrap helped to grabbed the vet skin

Edited by - Don Smith1959 on 09/24/2021 12:15:48

Sep 25, 2021 - 10:59:50 PM
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58225 posts since 12/14/2005

Member Search shows over   fifty OutHangers in Arizona, who admit to being "PURDY GOOD" and  listed wanting to HELP as part of their profile.

https://www.banjohangout.org/myhangout/default.asp?method=adv&str=Advanced&username=&firstname=&lastname=&city=&state=AZ&country=&experience=3&interesthelp=true&submit=Search

If you post a topic "Need someone near COOLIDGE, ARIZONA to demonstrate and post a video of my gourd banjo", any one of them might be glad to help get 'r done.

 

Anyway, brilliant idea to get that skin on.

Sep 26, 2021 - 12:33:09 AM
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484 posts since 10/18/2020

quote:
Originally posted by mike gregory

Member Search shows over   fifty OutHangers in Arizona, who admit to being "PURDY GOOD" and  listed wanting to HELP as part of their profile.

https://www.banjohangout.org/myhangout/default.asp?method=adv&str=Advanced&username=&firstname=&lastname=&city=&state=AZ&country=&experience=3&interesthelp=true&submit=Search

If you post a topic "Need someone near COOLIDGE, ARIZONA to demonstrate and post a video of my gourd banjo", any one of them might be glad to help get 'r done.

 

Anyway, brilliant idea to get that skin on.


Yes Sir Mr Gregory I do know a couple people and have one in mind to maybe play it and do a video

Myself I just do not feel I play well enough to actually do it justice like i said i am more of a noodler than a player, and no one wants to see a tall fat man pretending to play a banjo, I don't put myself out there any where   

Sep 26, 2021 - 5:18:37 AM

58225 posts since 12/14/2005

Like the cat who gargled with cheese and sat by the mouse hole, I wait with baited breath! cheeky

Sep 26, 2021 - 9:37:13 AM

84 posts since 2/7/2017

The top edge of the gourd should be flat all the way around, (and beveled so only the outer edge touches the skin). You seem to have a notch where the heel fits, that's probably the source of the problem.

You can flatten it by sanding against a board with course sandpaper spray-glued to it.

The dowel stick should also be affixed firmly to the neck before you cut the holes to fit the neck and the gourd together, that helps with getting the angles correct. The gourd shouldn't be part of the neck structure, it's not very strong, and it's doing enough holding the skin and downward string tension.

I do like your stretching jig, I'll have to try something like that. It can be hard to stretch the slippery wet skin by holding on with one hand while you put the tack in with the other. Kora makers stretch their skins with lots of cords tied around the back, almost like shoelaces. Then when it's all tight, they add the tacks, then cut off the excess.

Sep 26, 2021 - 10:50:07 PM

484 posts since 10/18/2020

quote:
Originally posted by OldTymeBanjo

The top edge of the gourd should be flat all the way around, (and beveled so only the outer edge touches the skin). You seem to have a notch where the heel fits, that's probably the source of the problem.

You can flatten it by sanding against a board with course sandpaper spray-glued to it.

The dowel stick should also be affixed firmly to the neck before you cut the holes to fit the neck and the gourd together, that helps with getting the angles correct. The gourd shouldn't be part of the neck structure, it's not very strong, and it's doing enough holding the skin and downward string tension.

I do like your stretching jig, I'll have to try something like that. It can be hard to stretch the slippery wet skin by holding on with one hand while you put the tack in with the other. Kora makers stretch their skins with lots of cords tied around the back, almost like shoelaces. Then when it's all tight, they add the tacks, then cut off the excess.


The neck attachment was the problem it is no longer an issue once I re did the head stretch with out the neck attached I have had no issues with the head loosening, There is a notch where the finger board meets the gourd but that is not what was causing the head to loosen, where I attached the neck i re enforced the gourd by making a wooden piece that followed the curve of the gourd inside and the width of the neck that was glued to the inside of the gourd, its hard to actually visualize the way i built it without seeing it,  the bolts then run through that wood piece and through the gourd allowing you to  tighten the neck against the gourd it did not crack at all when i tightened it up,I will say this and I am not being rude so I do hope you do not take it as me being rude but I dis agree with the statement that the dowel has to be tight with the neck and has to be to get the angles correct, I have a 3 degree angle on my neck once it is bolted to the gourd the way i built this one the strings cannot even exert any kind of force on the gourd simply because og the way i built it like i said without actually seeing it, it is really hard to visualize

had I installed the head using the method I used the second time i would have not even posted this post because the head would have stayed tight

Where you run into an issue building it the way i did is it does make it hard to aline the neck and dowel to the center of the gourd because of the dowel being a separate part from the neck but the way i built it does not seem to affect the way it plays, i do have a friend that is actually a pretty good banjo picker played it and really liked it a lot before I re did the head stretch I will try to get him to play it again and video him playing but I have not talked to him yet to see if he would be willing

Sep 27, 2021 - 8:34:50 AM
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84 posts since 2/7/2017

Sounds like a unique approach to building with gourds, but it works and that's the only thing that matters!
Cheers!

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