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Oct 15, 2021 - 12:07:51 PM
59 posts since 5/8/2020

I have a few action questions:

1) What the is highest recommended action for a Plectrum banjo?

2) Can you lower the action by filing down the bridge slots instead of the feet?

3) What is the disadvantage of lower action with a lower bridge instead of changing the neck?

4) How short can a bridge be without causing other issues (I am already using a 1/2" bridge")?

I have nut slot files, and I wondered if I wouldn't have better luck sanding the slots in on the bridge instead of sanding the feet. Also, I have an old dowel stick style banjo with no truss rod so adjusting the action myself is all but impossible. I'm told a luthier could shim it, but I'm not up to it myself.

My plan was to buy a cheap bridge and file in the slots as deep as I can get away with to see how low I can get the action.

My action at the 12th fret is currently about 0.1875" (3/16").

Oct 15, 2021 - 1:49:32 PM

Bart Veerman

Canada

5075 posts since 1/5/2005

2) yes
4) make a simple dummy bridge to see how low you can go, here's how:

https://banjobridge.com/sizingabridge.htm

Oct 15, 2021 - 2:26:41 PM

beegee

USA

22516 posts since 7/6/2005

what kind of banjo?

Oct 15, 2021 - 2:36:23 PM

9095 posts since 8/28/2013

2) you can deepen ths lots to a certain degree, but too much cutting could weaken the piece between the bridge legs.

3) the disadvantage is that cutting down the bridge lowers the clearance between the head and the strings, which can cause problems with strumming. You may find it difficult not to scrape the head with your pick. This is one of the "other issues" that can occur if you go too short.

The action on a plectrum banjo is generally about half of what you have now (3/32" instead of 3/8"), and you'll need to cut the bridge down by about 3/16ths to get there, although you could probably get by with 1/4" at the 12th fret. That would mean you'd still need to cut the bridge down to about two-thirds of it's current height. You're going to end up with a brdge barely more than 1/4" tall.

All in all, I think you'll find that you need either a neck re-set or at least some shims.

It could be that your dowelstick is loose already, which may be the cause of the high action.

Oct 15, 2021 - 3:09:16 PM

59 posts since 5/8/2020

quote:
Originally posted by beegee

what kind of banjo?


Ca. 1929 plectrum Kenmore Ludwig banjo, with the metal this is not the pot metal (all the metal is in really good shape).

Oct 15, 2021 - 3:27:47 PM

59 posts since 5/8/2020

quote:
Originally posted by G Edward Porgie



The action on a plectrum banjo is generally about half of what you have now (3/32" instead of 3/8"), and you'll need to cut the bridge down by about 3/16ths to get there, although you could probably get by with 1/4" at the 12th fret. That would mean you'd still need to cut the bridge down to about two-thirds of it's current height. You're going to end up with a brdge barely more than 1/4" tall.
 


Thanks for the really detailed reply, I just wanted to double check your figures.

My action is 0.1825" at the 12th fret, which is less that 0.25" (that 3/16" vs 4/16"). You mentioned up to 1/4" at the 12th fret is okay, which I am under.


Is it correct that 3/32 would be best, but that I am in an okay spot being between 3/32 and 1/4"?

Oct 15, 2021 - 5:42:01 PM
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rcc56

USA

3846 posts since 2/20/2016

For a plectrum or five string banjo with steel strings, 3/32" at the 12th fret can be considered to be about the low end of what is acceptable action for jazz, bluegrass, and bare finger styles.   For the aforementioned banjos and styles, an acceptable range is 3/32" to 1/8".  Some clawhammer players will require action that is considerably higher.

For a banjo to play well at 3/32", the nut must be correctly adjusted, the neck will have to be close to straight with only a small amount of relief [some might even say no relief], and the frets must be true and level. Heavy handed players may tend to buzz even the most well-serviced instrument at 3/32". They may require an action of 1/8".

Tenor banjos with short scales can be set slightly lower under ideal circumstances.

If you do need major adjustment and have to take material off the feet, you can stick a piece of sandpaper to a block of wood with double-stick tape, and rub the bridge back and forth on the sandpaper block. With reasonable care and not too heavy a grit, it's hard to mess up your bridge too badly.

For minor adjustments, I usually take material off the top.

Edited by - rcc56 on 10/15/2021 17:44:02

Oct 15, 2021 - 6:10:44 PM

9095 posts since 8/28/2013

quote:
Originally posted by bcubrich
quote:
Originally posted by G Edward Porgie



The action on a plectrum banjo is generally about half of what you have now (3/32" instead of 3/8"), and you'll need to cut the bridge down by about 3/16ths to get there, although you could probably get by with 1/4" at the 12th fret. That would mean you'd still need to cut the bridge down to about two-thirds of it's current height. You're going to end up with a brdge barely more than 1/4" tall.
 


Thanks for the really detailed reply, I just wanted to double check your figures.

My action is 0.1825" at the 12th fret, which is less that 0.25" (that 3/16" vs 4/16"). You mentioned up to 1/4" at the 12th fret is okay, which I am under.


Is it correct that 3/32 would be best, but that I am in an okay spot being between 3/32 and 1/4"?


I don't know how I made the mistake, but what I meant was not 1/4 at the 12th, but 1/8.

Oct 15, 2021 - 6:17:33 PM

9095 posts since 8/28/2013

quote:
Originally posted by rcc56

For a plectrum or five string banjo with steel strings, 3/32" at the 12th fret can be considered to be about the low end of what is acceptable action for jazz, bluegrass, and bare finger styles.   For the aforementioned banjos and styles, an acceptable range is 3/32" to 1/8".  Some clawhammer players will require action that is considerably higher.

For a banjo to play well at 3/32", the nut must be correctly adjusted, the neck will have to be close to straight with only a small amount of relief [some might even say no relief], and the frets must be true and level. Heavy handed players may tend to buzz even the most well-serviced instrument at 3/32". They may require an action of 1/8".

Tenor banjos with short scales can be set slightly lower under ideal circumstances.

If you do need major adjustment and have to take material off the feet, you can stick a piece of sandpaper to a block of wood with double-stick tape, and rub the bridge back and forth on the sandpaper block. With reasonable care and not too heavy a grit, it's hard to mess up your bridge too badly.

For minor adjustments, I usually take material off the top.


For what it's worth, I've been playing a plectrum banjo set at 3/32" for the past 50 years, and never had a fret buzz until I wore out the frets. Since re-fretting about 6 or 7 ago, I once again have no buzzes.

I've played a couple of other plectrum banjos also set at 3/32" with no issues.

I know that some -players are pretty heavy handed, so maybe 1/8 is best for them, but I find that the lower I can get the action, the better.

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