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Oct 19, 2021 - 5:28:19 PM

John Yerxa


28 posts since 9/13/2021

I've recently swithched to Nylgut on both my banjos, love the sound. The larger one (Stewart Special Thoroughbred with 24 5/8 scale) sounds great tuned up to A, but in jams I often want to change keys more quickly using a capo. It has a railroad spike, but I've been reluctant to try it, feeling like it would break Nylgut (and they only come in sets). Anyone have experience with that, or another solution? (besides the obvious "take both banjos", not always practical)

Oct 19, 2021 - 5:35:53 PM

747 posts since 5/22/2021

Hmm. Well, maybe you can just insert a few screws in your fingerboard, like Pete Seeger did? Those should allow it to not get caught and break, but you would have to be careful with that process.

Oct 19, 2021 - 6:20:20 PM

Bill H


1763 posts since 11/7/2010

I put a spike on my 1895 Bay State. I sanded and polished the underside of the head before tapping it in. Works great.

Oct 19, 2021 - 6:28:06 PM



254 posts since 7/7/2005

I don't trust a spike on my nylon strings, either. I use an "Earl's Suspender" with good results. I did have to bend the metal flange a little to make it work properly.

Oct 19, 2021 - 7:52:15 PM

1553 posts since 4/29/2013

Spikes work fine, and as Bill mentioned, having the bottom well sanded and polished (along with the end of the spike's head for any sharp edges), and adjusted to the right height so it doesn't pinch/kink the string.

If your spike isn't glued in, you could pull it up a few thousandths or so, but I doubt you'd want to adjust it after having it set for steel. 

Oct 19, 2021 - 10:23:59 PM

1223 posts since 1/9/2012

a second vote for "Earl's Suspender"

Oct 20, 2021 - 6:36:23 AM
Players Union Member



14796 posts since 8/30/2006
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Mr. Deering jams with a suspender? There are only so many frets available in this space with any banjo.
So how long does it take to reset any of these in what setting?
Sitting on the porch for private enjoyment, or moving back and forth in the dark on stage.

The spikes are cut out of a mild steel bar, and that material has taken thousands of hours of playing on many thousands of banjos. But spikes are rough cut.
Learning to dress spikes, to me, shows extreme care for detail while the locomotive is operating, understand my mixed metaphor.
I have seen spikes launch like a little bow and arrow, so I personally would not pull one up, for fear of losing it outside the shop setting. But I still use the tapered bit from StewMac from my stock of oh maybe 1k.

So now I learn that the new spikes from Stew are round, which changes things, much easier to install. I have to use a small screwdriver under the lip with my jeweler's hammer (HF) until I can get the feeler gage .014 under there and tap it to spec.
I don't like the pin vise for this, so I use my dremel to bore that hole in the deck.

That would be my new choice for nyls, a nice friendly surface, pointing down, using two fingers to set them in the dark or at the jam, I need both.

davidppp: I am always eager to learn from you, David, but please explain why you vote for the banjo mfr. that lives close to you?
In what setting do you use yours? The reason I ask is because I have seen every kind of Bic pen innovation and the like somehow get loose from the banjo or go into the shag rug. And friends, we all want what works. Jamming is worse because of frequent key changes.  And we get about ten seconds at the jam, where on stage, the songlist on the floor lets eveyone be ready to change.  Dead space can be tricky for restless ears. 

I had a banjo in the shop recently where the Shubb is installed for 7th and 9th frets only, but intentionally skipped ten and 12 which are available. It won't work for Bb which we call our Shelba spike because she always plays 1/2 step below C and nobody at the jam seems to keep up. (7,8,9,10,12,14 for me thanks.)

Someone tried rare earth magnets, but, duh, only metal strings.

Bill H, so that's why I like finishing the metal spikes, Steve Davis does it also, and the top, too so it can't go in your fingertip on the first song. Your solution is good for the whole community of stringed banjos that play people,

Edited by - Helix on 10/20/2021 07:02:14

Oct 20, 2021 - 11:19:38 AM

293 posts since 5/25/2015

The Strum Hollow (Reagan style) capo works ok with nylgut/nylon. I figure its safer to use the nylon screw rather than the brass one if you have both. I think the new ones only come with a nylon screw anyway.

Oct 20, 2021 - 1:38:04 PM

166 posts since 12/7/2007

I’ve had good success capoing the 5th string with Stu’s Banjo Capo, sold thru the BHO classifieds, by member “glowingturnip.” For me, it’s worked well with both Nylgut and metal strings.

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