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Oct 18, 2021 - 9:07:47 AM

coreyowen

Canada

271 posts since 7/26/2006

Hi everyone,

I’ve been reading earlier posts that comment peripherally on this topic, but thought I’d ask directly. I’m generally a tubaphone/whyte laydie fan, but I played a Walnut Ome Wizard w/ an 11” pot once that really spoke to me (and I had a thick rim banjo w/ a cocobolo ring once, but sold). I’m craving a 12” banjo w/ a wood tone ring, and am wondering about everyone’s favourite configuration, since I won’t be able to try one. I have a 12” tubaphone with a deep pot and a skin head that I find quite magical, but I’m looking for something a little gentler as well. I’m also interested in configurations that might not have worked out so well.

I’m thinking of either a black walnut or black cherry pot and neck, a 3/8 or 1/2 inch pot, perhaps with a grenadillo tone ring, and a pot depth of 3” to 3.5”. I’d like to avoid a very muddy sound—I’d like some crispness, and depth. I look forward to any comments/suggestions/warnings!

Sincerely,
Corey

Oct 18, 2021 - 9:39:57 AM
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timacn

USA

581 posts since 7/30/2004

The Ode Jubilee is a good one. Favored by some professionals. Also some of the wood "tone ring" Nechvilles are highly regarded.

Oct 18, 2021 - 10:03:51 AM
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640 posts since 7/10/2012

This is a really interesting topic and Mark Hickler has taken it to the next level of experimentation.  

Check out Mark's website and specifically his analysis of different wood species combinations for rim and tone rings here: https://www.hicklerbanjo.com/Testing.html

I have no affiliation with Mark, but I really admire his efforts to nail down a way to express what he is hearing from different rims that he makes, as well as his generosity of time and knowledge to the banjo making (and buying!) community.  

Per my own experience, I have played a number of wooden tonering banjos including the 12" Ome model, and found most of the larger rim woodies to be less crisp than I prefer.  I do own and play a White Mountain 11" Sholo woodie, walnut with a granadillo tone ring and an internal resonator and a hide head, that I absolutely love, though.  The Sholo has a robust middle and high end with a mellow and resonant lower end.  I made a banjo modeled after the WM internal resonator with a removable resonator and believe the internal resonator added a little volume and perhaps some sustain as well.

David 

Edited by - dpgetman on 10/18/2021 10:13:29

Oct 18, 2021 - 10:13:29 AM
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mbanza

USA

2403 posts since 9/16/2007

My preference is for a block constructed rim 2 1/2" deep with 3/4 inch sidewall, integral wood bracket band, and integral black locust tone ring. Strung with rectified nylon 0.024, 0.029, 0.034, 0.026w, 0.024 and a bridge weighing 0.6 to0.8 grams. My experience has been that nylon gives better note separation due to its quicker decay.

Oct 18, 2021 - 1:10:36 PM
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jacot23

USA

246 posts since 12/13/2012

Call Steve Gerritsen at Stone Banjo and get a 12" Black Cherry Block Rim and neck. 25.5" scale, 1 3/8" nut. Tell him you want Jason's patented "Keep it Simple" tone ring(means tone ring and rim are made from the same wood); kind of an inside joke, haha.


I'm a little partial of course, but mine is one of the best sounding I've ever played(I've played Omes and Reiters that were very good too)

stonebanjo.com/custom-gallery/21045x

Edited by - jacot23 on 10/18/2021 13:12:23

Oct 18, 2021 - 1:28:10 PM
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28 posts since 3/29/2021

I too like a block constructed rim, ideally from Lo Gordon when he would make one and Honduran Rosewood when he could source it.

Oct 18, 2021 - 2:58:55 PM
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Bill H

USA

1763 posts since 11/7/2010

I recently got a Nechville Moonshine which is available with a cocobolo tone ring. I am a Tubaphone fan and the Moonshine has the complexity of a Tubaphone, but the warmth of wood.

Oct 18, 2021 - 4:39:30 PM
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4189 posts since 10/13/2005

There are quite a few makers of wood tone ring banjos. Pisgah, Stone Banjo, Ome, Enoch and others. Sure would like to hear a side by side comparison of these banjos. I am intrigued by the sound of Ome's Tupelo/Minstrel but on UTube they sound quite different so I don't know what is due to the banjo and what is due to the recording quality/manipulation. I currently have a Stone banjo and I am surprised how bright and ringy it is, not so woody as one might expect. Nowhere to try any out around here and festivals are kaput. Now who do we volunteer to run around the country with the same recording equipment? Probably only cost $50K....Sigh! banjered

Oct 19, 2021 - 6:29:12 AM
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14020 posts since 6/29/2005

I have made banjos with various kinds of metal tone rings. wooden tone rings, and even carbon fiber ones.

My observation is that with all-wood banjos, it's very hard to predict in a consistent way exactly how they will sound—TuBaPhones, Whyte Laydies, etc. are more predictable.  With all wood banjos, I think you have to judge them one at a time—each one has its own sound and they are not the same.

I believe that the development of metal tone rings over the past 125 years enabled builders to produce a certain distinctive sound for their banjos.

Oct 19, 2021 - 1:32:08 PM
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95 posts since 3/24/2020

Bamboo tone ring




 

Oct 19, 2021 - 2:01:25 PM

14020 posts since 6/29/2005

quote:
Originally posted by martyjoe

Bamboo tone ring


I like three things about what you have done:

(1) It's a separate tone ring and not the top tier of a three-tier block rim.

(2) It overlaps on the inside instead of trying to make a wooden (bamboo in your case) skirt

(3) It's wide enough to add stiffness to the pot—very important in a woodie—most of them don't do that.  Making the rim thicker in order to stiffen a woodie rim just adds too much wood and can deaden the sound. Making the tone ring be the stiffening member of the pot allows the rim to be thinner.

Great job!

Oct 19, 2021 - 5:58:35 PM
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Players Union Member

Helix

USA

14793 posts since 8/30/2006

This 12 is in Kansas


Edited by - Helix on 10/19/2021 17:59:43

Oct 19, 2021 - 6:31:56 PM
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PaulRF

Australia

3256 posts since 2/1/2012
Online Now

quote:
Originally posted by Ken LeVan

I have made banjos with various kinds of metal tone rings. wooden tone rings, and even carbon fiber ones.

My observation is that with all-wood banjos, it's very hard to predict in a consistent way exactly how they will sound—TuBaPhones, Whyte Laydies, etc. are more predictable.  With all wood banjos, I think you have to judge them one at a time—each one has its own sound and they are not the same.

I believe that the development of metal tone rings over the past 125 years enabled builders to produce a certain distinctive sound for their banjos.


We had a builder making carbon fiber tone rings ages ago but have not them being mentioned for quite a while so not sure if there is a great market for them.

Did you find there was a great difference between a woody, a carbon fiber and a metal tone ring in sound when used on the same rim?

Paul

Oct 19, 2021 - 9:58:40 PM
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Helix

USA

14793 posts since 8/30/2006

I found the carbon fibered replacement parts to have many of the same limitations as the older less technical wooden ancestors.
And the same with bridges, carbon rims and the Rainsongs and like I have had played by people close to me.

The best use  is in the carbon rods used under fingerboards.

My reasoning is that they aren't even lined up like real wooden guitars like yours, Paul. My acoustic is a '58 Kalamazoo Epiphone
Texan used by the New Mobile Strugglers just to break it in. I've had it since '64.

Bamboo is really lively in specific configurations.  Victrola Bamboo phonograph needles in 1952 cost  15 Cents for a package of three.

Saphire for 1 needle was 2 bits.  I was 7, the only musician in the family and one of my brothers was 17.

The Victrola was all we had and soon we had Gene Autrey singing...........................you know, Rudolph. 1952.  Play Ball.

 

I was hoping some one here would  get this little true story and start looking for some Gem dust.  It might not need bronze., it might be printable. It could be very lightweight and extremely rigid like Green Mars where they had coated styrofoam with diamond dust.  They do this already?  

The banjo field has shown more innovation, then Charlie Poole rescue, then 1945 Scruggs, then the proliferation of Bluegrass worldwide just like Jazz and gospel before.

Peoples' guitars have changed very little.  The Helmholtz's the same, with a GIANT violin, a HOG FIDDLE, no change. One cannot get it under one's chin.

Banjos and banjo people are the best blend of form and content and are known (just kidding, nevermind.)
So a dust coated tone ring of maybe some new kind of configuration instead of wooden imitation mastertones.  

This ain't no joke, but it should be fun for everyone, let's make it better, differences are good.  


 

Edited by - Helix on 10/19/2021 22:02:16

Oct 20, 2021 - 7:05:17 AM
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14020 posts since 6/29/2005

quote:
Originally posted by PaulRF
quote:
Originally posted by Ken LeVan

I have made banjos with various kinds of metal tone rings. wooden tone rings, and even carbon fiber ones.

My observation is that with all-wood banjos, it's very hard to predict in a consistent way exactly how they will sound—TuBaPhones, Whyte Laydies, etc. are more predictable.  With all wood banjos, I think you have to judge them one at a time—each one has its own sound and they are not the same.

I believe that the development of metal tone rings over the past 125 years enabled builders to produce a certain distinctive sound for their banjos.


We had a builder making carbon fiber tone rings ages ago but have not them being mentioned for quite a while so not sure if there is a great market for them.

Did you find there was a great difference between a woody, a carbon fiber and a metal tone ring in sound when used on the same rim?

Paul


Carbon fiber tone rings are now the most popular kind I make, having eclipsed the much heavier brass ones and the SuperWoodies.

I don't find them to "have many of the same limitations as the older less technical wooden ancestors" as has been suggested earlier, and I'm not sure what that means, if anything, but I have spent a lot of time actually working on this kind of thing, and have posted numerous sound files of different banjo constructions so all could hear and form their opinions.

I started making my own tone rings in around 1975, and over the years made have a number of different metal ones from brass and bronze—here are some of the styles I made—each one has a different flavor", but of course, there is more to a banjo than just the tone ring.

In 2017 I perfected my style of laminated rims and could get the thickness down to whatever I want.  All the banjos I make have bracket bands, so I can control the amount of wood in the pot and vary the wood : metal ratio to what works for a given design.

I, 2017, I developed a wooden tone ring I call the "SuperWoodie". It has a brass or aluminum skirt and is considerably wider than the rim, which creates a stiffening flange.  I have made them from baked ipe, teak, amelanchier leavis, and black locust..  There is not a tremendous difference in the sound from species to species—it's the geometry and construction.

They're designed to be interchangeable with the metal ones I make.

These have been very successful, and I've made a lot of them.  in two instances customers who had metal tone rings switched from metal to SuperWoodies.  I have posted side by side sound files of a Super Woodie vs a brass tone ring on identical banjos several times.

Two years ago, I developed a carbon fiber tone ring with a 6061 aluminum skirt and tested the prototype on a banjo I had in the shop —the carbon fiber one is interchangeable with my brass tonerings and SuperWoodies, so it's possible to switch them around.

They weigh 11 oz, about 1/3 the weight of brass ones.

I took the prototype to North Carolina and showed it to a player down there who played it—his one word reaction was "wow", and I replaced his brass tone ring with one of these on the spot.

So now, these have become my no.1, having all the physical and geometrical attributes of the SuperWoodies, and I went through the tooling and make 12" ones—I am about to send out three 12" banjos with these tone rings within the next couple of weeks, and will surely post sound samples.

As I said earlier, I have made a LOT of sound files comparing different pots, but apropos of this thread, I managed to find two with very similar banjos and the same tune—SuperWoodie, one carbon fiber.


Edited by - Ken LeVan on 10/20/2021 07:06:04

Oct 20, 2021 - 7:23:58 AM
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Players Union Member

Helix

USA

14793 posts since 8/30/2006

Ken Levan, who was the Player in North Carolina, I would like to hear from them directly, because this might be the tidal wave to change the whole industry.

Thank you, Paul, this is what you really wanted, now you can repeat the whole thread to show us his photos again.

I truly don't mind, I hope someone can find some of this unique hardware in later days from now.

Carbon Fiber just ain't got no soul, they don't vintage, do they? The signal is sharp and can't be softened, they paddle canoes, very well, however.

Now these are just my opinions, but I jam frequently and often with all the major big boy brands
We see so few if any of Tony Pass or Levan banjos as the jam. I am very , very curious.

Oct 20, 2021 - 1:14:23 PM
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coreyowen

Canada

271 posts since 7/26/2006

Thanks for your responses, everyone! Lots to think about. I guess, as Tom suggested, the best solution would be to try as many as possible, but alas it’s just not possible.

Ken, I love the sound of the SuperWoodie—from what I hear through the recording, it sounds like my ideal banjo sound. I imagine it sounds even better live!

Sincerely,

Corey

Oct 20, 2021 - 6:42:38 PM
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PaulRF

Australia

3256 posts since 2/1/2012
Online Now

quote:
Originally posted by coreyowen

Thanks for your responses, everyone! Lots to think about. I guess, as Tom suggested, the best solution would be to try as many as possible, but alas it’s just not possible.

Ken, I love the sound of the SuperWoodie—from what I hear through the recording, it sounds like my ideal banjo sound. I imagine it sounds even better live!

Sincerely,

Corey


Might I suggest going to Tim Purcell's bridge website as he has many sound clips of his bridges which may also be a help towards the sound you are seeking.

Paul

Oct 21, 2021 - 5:21:44 AM
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14020 posts since 6/29/2005

quote:
Originally posted by coreyowen

Thanks for your responses, everyone! Lots to think about. I guess, as Tom suggested, the best solution would be to try as many as possible, but alas it’s just not possible.

Ken, I love the sound of the SuperWoodie—from what I hear through the recording, it sounds like my ideal banjo sound. I imagine it sounds even better live!

Sincerely,

Corey


Thanks, Corey

Since you are investigating configurations, I'll provide some info that may be helpful to you. As I said earlier, there's more to it than the tone ring.

Here's a comparison of two 11" banjos, identical except for the tone ring—one of which is brass, the other a SuperWoodie.

Both of these have the second stiffest rim I make, a yellow birch / beech lamination, which is slightly more than 1/2" thick under and below the bracket band, but retains stiffness at that thickness because of the yellow birch laminations. I really did that because of the brass tone ring, and I think the brass and very wide skirted woodie are probably similar in that respect.

The pots are fairly deep, 2 7/8" from the head to the bottom of the rim, but not overly deep±as David Politzer says, there should be a balance between "growl and sparkle" and a really deep rim can be "too much".

The bracket band adds mass to the center of the pot, so even with a wooden tone ring, there is a good ratio between wood and metal (as there would be also with the carbon fiber version).

The tone rings (in both cases) sit on the rim and are not part of the rim, allowing some isolation.

The walnut neck here is also having a large effect.


Edited by - Ken LeVan on 10/21/2021 05:23:24

Oct 21, 2021 - 12:23:31 PM
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919 posts since 3/23/2006

I recommend checking with Cedar Mountain Banjos. I have a wooden tone ring version that Lo Gordon made about 25 years ago. It is my go-to clawhammer banjo and always receives compliments from folks who play it. His son Tim is now operating the business and making great instruments, many wooden tone ring options.

Oct 21, 2021 - 1:23:56 PM
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PaulRF

Australia

3256 posts since 2/1/2012
Online Now

quote:
Originally posted by hweinberg

I recommend checking with Cedar Mountain Banjos. I have a wooden tone ring version that Lo Gordon made about 25 years ago. It is my go-to clawhammer banjo and always receives compliments from folks who play it. His son Tim is now operating the business and making great instruments, many wooden tone ring options.


On their site they have a page with sound files of different set ups which I will post here:  Great looking banjos.

https://soundcloud.com/coyoteridgeaudio/sets/cedar-mountain-banjo-sound

Oct 22, 2021 - 8:22:37 AM
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coreyowen

Canada

271 posts since 7/26/2006

Thanks for the sharing the info and sound clip, Ken—I love the tone of the SuperWoodie!

Thanks for the suggestion, Howard and Paul—I had the chance to try a used Cedar Mountain banjo that showed up at the Halifax Folklore Centre back in 2006. It was on offer for a very good price. I still kick for not having bought it—it sounded spectacular!

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