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Dec 8, 2021 - 12:49:33 PM
11 posts since 12/8/2021

Hi guys,
Just saying Hi to everyone from a banjo newbie here and directing a few questions to you experts if I may.

Back story.
From my late teens I was a full time pro touring singe- guitarist for 14 years but retired many years ago due to being on the road up to 40 weeks a year/up to 250 gigs per year and after getting what I wanted out of the business and hanging up my guitar I never touched a guitar for maybe 30 years but over the past three or four years I've slowly got back into playing the guitar again and have actually built up a nice collection of guitars, amps and a full compliment of home recording equipment.

I've already picked up a nice little tenor uke which plays great and the other day I picked up a used Vintage branded six string banjo which I believe is referred to as a banjitar. While it's not the best quality instrument, it's in very tidy condition with no major issues but clearly in need of a decent set up which should once set up, get me started.
Altogether I have 9 guitars and two bass guitars and I've given them a full set up including fret levelling, fret dressing and truss/relief adjustment where required etc so I am confident about setting up the banjo to get the most out of it.

While the 12" REMO head seems in very good condition, I will strip the banjo down to its component parts and reassemble it, setting everything accurately as I go.
The neck is very good but I want to make sure that there are no high frets and level/polish them if required which is quite a simple task especially with the neck off. I can also set the neck relief if required.
The action currently stands at I guess about 5/32" at the 12th fret which seems maybe a tiny bit high but then I like my guitar action very low and I've figured out how to raise and drop the action on the banjo by loosening/altering the coordinator rod ( I presume that's how it's done?)

The nut is in very good condition but I noticed a couple of strings slightly sticking in the nut when tuning so that will need attention. The bridge may have been messed with by a previous owner as it sounds slightly 'wooly' to me ( that's my description) but that could just be because I'm not used to a stringed musical instrument with a wooden bridge and drum head.

The worst it can mean is fitting a new bridge which won't break the bank but I'll see if I can rescue it first.

I also presume that the drum head will need to be set up correctly before the action can be correctly adjusted, is that correct as the head tension would I presume affect the string height?

I'm also interested in finding out if there are any benefits in fitting at some point a natural skin rather than such as REMO head which is currently fitted?

There are two further questions.
One is...can I get hold of a chrome strap link like the one next to the tailpiece ( are they available as the one for the top strap link is missing ) and the other question is with regard to stringing the banjo.

(Both shown in the photo below).

I notice that someone at some point has replaced the high E string with an actual guitar E string rather than a looped banjo string...can I actually use guitar strings on this type of tailpiece or is it frowned upon? Also can I get away with removing the ball end from a set of suitable guitar strings which I suspect are the same as banjo strings in any case?

Please forgive me if what I am asking is banjo heresy to the purists but my excuse is that I'm a novice and here to learn and I have loads of light and extra light sets of strings which will probably never get used plus I live 20+ miles from the nearest decent music shop so everything is mostly mail order so if I can use them then it will be less hassle.

Anyway thanks for reading through this rambling and if you can help I'd very much appreciate it.

Tony

Dec 8, 2021 - 1:18:04 PM

2113 posts since 2/4/2013

quote:
Originally posted by ey_tony


1. While the 12" REMO head seems in very good condition

2. The action currently stands at I guess about 5/32" at the 12th fret which seems maybe a tiny bit high but then I like my guitar action very low and I've figured out how to raise and drop the action on the banjo by loosening/altering the coordinator rod ( I presume that's how it's done?)


3. I'm also interested in finding out if there are any benefits in fitting at some point a natural skin rather than such as REMO head which is currently fitted?

4. One is...can I get hold of a chrome strap link like the one next to the tailpiece ( are they available as the one for the top strap link is missing ) and the other question is with regard to stringing the banjo.

5. I notice that someone at some point has replaced the high E string with an actual guitar E string rather than a looped banjo string...can I actually use guitar strings on this type of tailpiece or is it frowned upon?

 


1. The head will be 11 inches.

2. Typically 1/8th inch is the aim but personal preferance comes into it. You have cheap aluminium rim banjo guitar known as a bottlecap. This has one co-ordinator rod and a weak single neck connection with a screw in the heel. Even on banjos with decent neck connections and two co-ordinator rods only very slight adjustments are suggested. On yours be very careful adjusting this.

3. I don't know if it's possible but I wouldn't be bothering on this type of banjo.

4. These strap links only come on the cheapest banjo. They are weak and the banjo may drop (happened to me on exactly this type of banjo guitar). Use the hooks that hold the head tight instead.

5 The tailpiece which isn't great is designed for either. There's no problem using ball end strings, there's no problem using ball end electric guitar strings.

Edited by - GrahamHawker on 12/08/2021 13:19:38

Dec 8, 2021 - 2:44:21 PM
like this

14425 posts since 10/30/2008

First, there was no photo.

A typical guitar E string would likely be heavier gauge than a banjo E string. Banjo E string is frequently 10 gauge (0.010"). Medium gauge guitar string is 13. No immediate harm, pbut robably not good permanently.

1/8" above the 12th fret is one of the most common string action height settings. Be careful cranking on coordinator rods. Cheap ones can strip out threads or bend, or warp your rim. The best advice is for coord. rods to be "neutral". Just tight enough so neither they nor the washers "buzz" or rattle.

As far as "benefit" of a real calfskin head, well, that is the classic old tone. Not so bright, more softer and more mellow. But calfskin heads often require a lot of adjustment based on humidity changes where you are playing. On a rainy day a skin head can sound "dumpy" and get so slack that it lowers your action enough to buzz on the frets. On a super dry day in winter you head can get so tight it splits. They are also VERY expensive. Remo heads are very nearly standard.

Some banjo strings come with ball ends instead of loops. If your tailpiece will hold a ball end string, there's no need to cut the ball out.

Fasten your strap to the tensioning hooks that tighten the head, not to the tailpiece. Weight of the banjo can pull the tailpiece and make you go out of tune.

You can probably find correct 6 string banjo string sets on the internet.

Dec 9, 2021 - 10:59 AM

4070 posts since 5/29/2011

One: Is the head really 12 inches, or 11 inches? If you have a banjo guitar with a 12 inch head it is rather unique.
Two: A calf skin head may or may not be a good choice in Great Britain. It rains a lot there which plays havoc with skin heads.
Three: A drum dial is a useful tool to set the tension on the head. I don't use one but lots of other people can't always be wrong.
Four: Don't fool with that little gizmo that is made for attaching a strap. That is an accident waiting to happen. Do like Dick said and attach the strap to the brackets.
Five: If the tailpiece can be used with ball end strings you may find they are much easier to change than loop ends. I use ball end strings on several of my banjos. Light gauge guitar strings will work in a pinch but you might want to check around online and see what gauges are recommended for your banjo. You don't have to buy sets, you can write down the gauges and buy single strings to make up your own sets.
I hope all that made sense.

BTW I just checked your home page and found the picture of your tail piece. Trust me, you want to use ball end strings. After you change a whole set you will understand why.

Edited by - Culloden on 12/09/2021 11:01:54

Dec 10, 2021 - 7:53:37 AM

4006 posts since 3/28/2008

quote:
Originally posted by The Old Timer

First, there was no photo.

A typical guitar E string would likely be heavier gauge than a banjo E string. Banjo E string is frequently 10 gauge (0.010"). Medium gauge guitar string is 13. No immediate harm, pbut robably not good permanently.

 


That's for acoustic guitar strings. For electric guitars, the high E can range from .013 (heavy) all the way down to .009, or even lighter. (I've heard that Billy Gibbons of ZZ Top uses .008.) For rock and country, a lot of players use .010 or .011.

Dec 10, 2021 - 9:33:26 AM
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1705 posts since 2/9/2007
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You've got a bottom-of-the-line instrument there. With basic setup, it will play easily enough and sound recognizably like a banjo, but any further add-ons or modifications aren't likely to improve it significantly. If you find you really dig the guitar-banjo, you'll do well to look for a better one.

Banjos generally use much lower-tension strings than do acoustic instruments with wood soundboards-- Extra-light gauge acoustic guitar strings are about as heavy as I'd use on a GB, and you might prefer an even lighter electric set.

You can make VERY minor action adjustments with the rim rod, but what you're doing there is distorting the rim, which is not good for the tone or the integrity of the banjo. What you want is for the neck to be at the correct angle when the heel is clamped tightly to the rim, but the tail end of the rod is neither pushing nor pulling on the opposite end. The angle should be adjusted by shimming and/or reshaping the heel's surface which bears on the rim. You can use the rim rod to tweak the rim into symmetry if it's a bit out of round.

The material and design of a banjo's bridge has a huge influence on the instrument's tone, and the original bridges I've seen on ones like yours are nearly always awful. You'd do well to try a new one, and maybe more than one. Good bridges for a GB aren't as easy to find as ones for 4- and 5- stringers. Others on the Hangout could probably steer you to a source. It isn't all that tricky to make your own, and there's lots of info on that around here.

welcome!

Dec 10, 2021 - 12:58:50 PM

11 posts since 12/8/2021

Thanks for the replies guys.

Most of my questions have been answered and I've taken note of the comments regarding the strap loop, strings etc.. 

The string issue is easily resolved. I generally only use 9 gauge strings on my guitars although I do have several sets of heavier and also lighter gauge strings in my string drawer so when the time comes I will start by fitting one of the sets of extra light 8s that I have in the drawer to see how they feel. They should get me in the ballpark of where I want to be.

When I bought the banjo I was under no illusion that it was anything more than an entry level instrument especially for the price I paid. I do however know the brand (Vintage)  from my experience with guitars. They make very good value for money instruments which are one of the better budget/lower-mid priced brands around.

I do have guitars with Gretsch, Fender, Gibson and Epiphone on the headstock which I suppose are mostly more up-market brands but I'm not remotely a gear snob and I've found that just about any guitar, even a budget model can play very well indeed if set up correctly.,

I  have one Vintage brand guitar which emulates a Gibson SG  that I've had for some years. I bought it used and after doing some work on the frets etc to get a near perfect action, it's now my go-to guitar if I want to play up around the 12th and 15th-17th frets. The guitar holds up remarkably well, in fact just as good as my expensive guitars and is well intonated and makes life much easier when playing from the 12th fret up.

Vintage guitars are very decent entry level instruments, they are well made and play extremely well when set up correctly. The hardware they fit is also quite decent which is why I chose the banjo but it's still just a budget/entry level banjo though I'm sure it will serve my purpose as I will only use it occasionally to add a bit of flavour to my recordings.

As you can see from the images, I have disassembled the instrument into its component parts. So far nothing seems amiss with everything pretty much working as it should though while it's stripped I have adjusted the neck relief using a knotched guitar straight edge which fortunately also fits the banjo's scaling and I'm about to embark on dressing, leveling and polishing the frets though they were quite reasonable as they stood but it won't do any harm to get them absolutely spot on.

I think the main issue was that the head wasn't adjusted correctly, with perhaps too little and uneven tension across the head and I felt it was better to remove it and start again from scratch rather than try and work the original tensions.

The bridge to my eye looks like it could have sagged slightly due to lack of head tension. I'll look at it with a view to reconditioning/re-dressing the bridge if possible but if not, then I'll either make a new one or purchase one if necessary. 

Intonation was very easy to achieve via bridge adjustment and the machine heads are fine which means the strings stay in tune so the only thing that I really need advice on is the actual slope angle of the strings behind the bridge to the tailpiece.

Is there a preferred slope angle or is it largely irrelevant? Normally the stringed instruments I've worked with are fixed where the strings are connected the tailpiece but in effect the tailpiece is floating on this banjo. 

Does it have an impact on the sound/playability as to how steep/shallow the angle is?

 

 

Neck ready for fret leveling and dressing.

 

   

Dec 10, 2021 - 1:44:18 PM

1705 posts since 2/9/2007
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I see (but not quite clearly enough) washers on those tension hooks ... if they are split-ring (lock) washers, get rid of them. Flat washers are good. Wipe a little oil on the threads before reassembling.

You might want to shim the neck back enough to suit a taller ( at least 5/8") bridge. That should have some positive effect on the tone.

The screw sticking out of the tailpiece is supposed to adjust the downward pressure of the strings on the bridge (which is a useful tone tweak), but on a lightweight sheet metal tailpiece like yours, it usually just bends the tailpiece. One thing you should do is put a piece of felt, leather, or sheet rubber between the strings and the bridge end of the tailpiece to stop sympathetic ringing in the "after length" of the strings, and also in the tailpiece.

Dec 10, 2021 - 5:08:19 PM

11 posts since 12/8/2021

quote:
Originally posted by Dan Gellert

I see (but not quite clearly enough) washers on those tension hooks ... if they are split-ring (lock) washers, get rid of them. Flat washers are good. Wipe a little oil on the threads before reassembling.

You might want to shim the neck back enough to suit a taller ( at least 5/8") bridge. That should have some positive effect on the tone.

The screw sticking out of the tailpiece is supposed to adjust the downward pressure of the strings on the bridge (which is a useful tone tweak), but on a lightweight sheet metal tailpiece like yours, it usually just bends the tailpiece. One thing you should do is put a piece of felt, leather, or sheet rubber between the strings and the bridge end of the tailpiece to stop sympathetic ringing in the "after length" of the strings, and also in the tailpiece.


Thanks for that!

Yes the washers are tiny brass(?) locking washers which I suspect are OEM. I presume that replacing them with suitable flat washers will be more conducive to tone?

I usually use Vaseline for thread lube in such situations but a light wipe of oil will do the same job.

The felt under the strings at the tailpiece sounds good advice and quite logical too. I'm looking to produce a somewhat flatter sounding banjo tone rather than ringing tones. It will only be used in my home studio so volume is of no consequence as it will be recorded with a couple of Shure SM57 mics.

With regard to the tailpiece itself, I tested the efficacy of the tailpiece myself as although I'd not had anything to do with banjos, the thought had occurred to me that it might flex so I loosened and tightened the strings several times, at the same time tightening a slackening the screw and I didn't see any evidence of flexing which I presume would manifest itself as losing pitch. However, I would think that too much downward pressure from the top plate might induce flexing so maybe moderate down pressure would be the sensible optimal choice to be on the safe side. Once the strings have settled I can experiment a little to see how tailpiece adjustments can affect tone/tuning. 

I've successfully shimmed the necks of guitars to improve the action so I suppose I could apply my knowledge to the banjo too but to be honest I'd prefer not to shim the banjo neck as it only has a single coordinator rod but if it is necessary to improve tone then I'll probably go down that avenue. 

I'll see how I get on with the existing bridge or its replacement. I want to keep the action very low which I should be able to achieve with the frets dressed and neck adjusted.

Dec 10, 2021 - 8:36:12 PM

1705 posts since 2/9/2007
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The reason I say to lose the lock washers (and to lube the threads) is to minimize friction, so that even torque on the nuts will indicate something close to even pull on the hooks. I like to use a t-shaped banjo wrench and for final adjusting hold the crossbar gently between thumb and index finger so as to feel the torque. That generally will get the tension even enough for me, but if I want to get extra fussy about it, I use a Drum Dial (which actually measures the tension on the head), and NOT a torque wrench.

The one nut on the big bolt that sticks out of the heel holds the neck onto the pot quite well enough. A second rod is more about stiffening the rim than holding the neck on tighter. You understand the idea of shimming to adjust the neck angle from bolt-on electrics, but of course the curved joint surface complicates things a bit on the banjo. Like on a guitar, ideally you want a tapered shim which covers the whole surface, and as full contact between body and neck as possible, but you can usually get by well enough with a strip of veneer or plastic across the top edge of the face which contacts the pot (not against the tension hoop)

Dec 11, 2021 - 1:31:45 AM
Players Union Member

Helix

USA

15023 posts since 8/30/2006

Welcome to the hangout. I like it when you are not afraid to jump in there. The instrument you have with the skills you possess will sound as good as those can sound.
Later keep the neck and replace the tempered aluminum with a wooden rim.
The lock washers are someone's personal fear of things vibrating loose.
On tour in Germany, I thought I would check my tailpiece nut and it was just ready to fall off, so that saved the whole performance.
Otherwise, enjoy the ride.


 

Edited by - Helix on 12/11/2021 01:32:33

Dec 11, 2021 - 2:17:28 AM

2113 posts since 2/4/2013

quote:
Originally posted by ey_tony

Vintage guitars are very decent entry level instruments, they are well made and play extremely well when set up correctly. The hardware they fit is also quite decent which is why I chose the banjo

 

This doesn't necessarily apply to the Vintage/Pilgrim banjos though. At this cheapest end they just order them from the cheap banjo factory with their name on the headstock and they are exactly the same as other banjos with names like Stagg on the headstock and the hardware is just the same.

Dec 11, 2021 - 2:31:29 AM

11 posts since 12/8/2021

quote:
Originally posted by Dan Gellert

The reason I say to lose the lock washers (and to lube the threads) is to minimize friction, so that even torque on the nuts will indicate something close to even pull on the hooks. I like to use a t-shaped banjo wrench and for final adjusting hold the crossbar gently between thumb and index finger so as to feel the torque. That generally will get the tension even enough for me, but if I want to get extra fussy about it, I use a Drum Dial (which actually measures the tension on the head), and NOT a torque wrench.

The one nut on the big bolt that sticks out of the heel holds the neck onto the pot quite well enough. A second rod is more about stiffening the rim than holding the neck on tighter. You understand the idea of shimming to adjust the neck angle from bolt-on electrics, but of course the curved joint surface complicates things a bit on the banjo. Like on a guitar, ideally you want a tapered shim which covers the whole surface, and as full contact between body and neck as possible, but you can usually get by well enough with a strip of veneer or plastic across the top edge of the face which contacts the pot (not against the tension hoop)


I get the idea of a tapered shim as I have made them for guitars in the past but as you say the mating faces are curved which adds to the problem. What I might do while I have the banjo stripped down is to partially reassemble it experiment by using paper/extremely thin card as experimental shims to see the effect of what shimming would have on the action if I attempt to have a go at shimming as I'm sure it won't end with me owning just one banjo if my guitar collecting is anything to go by and I can see at least one good quality 5 stringer hanging on my wall eventually.

Basically I'm looking at this banjo as an introduction to banjos in general. I actually enjoy setting up guitars almost as much as I do playing them as there's nothing more rewarding than taking a poor playing or unplayable guitar and turning it into a really good player and even if this banjo will never be a quality instrument, I'll attempt to get it to play as well as is possible.

I'll need to get hold of a T banjo wrench for future use as I haven't got one. However I do have a specialist lightweight 1/4" socket set which has a sliding T-bar which when combined with a short bar will give me a perfectly acceptable T shaped tensioning tool which will allow me to gently tighten the head with my finger and thumb.

I'm still trying to figure out the exact role of the screw in the heel other than to keep the single screw in place or whether it has some other function. I can see that it's possible to seat the neck badly onto the pot so that there is a twist between the neck and pot, that looks to be the most difficult part in reassembly. 

Dec 11, 2021 - 3:01:19 AM

2113 posts since 2/4/2013

quote:
Originally posted by ey_tony

I'm still trying to figure out the exact role of the screw in the heel other than to keep the single screw in place or whether it has some other function.


The screw in the heel holds the neck on. It goes through a hole in the end of the bit of the co-ordinator rod that comes out of the neck. When the co-ordinaor rod is tight it pulls against this screw to hold the neck tight. It's best not to touch this screw. The pressure of the co-oridinator rod can bend this screw. When I had banjos with this connection I learned about the dangers of messing wih this screw. On both occasions the screw snapped. This is the weakness of this type of neck connection.

Dec 11, 2021 - 3:44:31 AM

11 posts since 12/8/2021

quote:
Originally posted by GrahamHawker
quote:
Originally posted by ey_tony

Vintage guitars are very decent entry level instruments, they are well made and play extremely well when set up correctly. The hardware they fit is also quite decent which is why I chose the banjo

 

This doesn't necessarily apply to the Vintage/Pilgrim banjos though. At this cheapest end they just order them from the cheap banjo factory with their name on the headstock and they are exactly the same as other banjos with names like Stagg on the headstock and the hardware is just the same.


Not quite! Companies such as JHS which imports the Vintage banjos, like many other companies re-badging generic products, will have their own level of QC and specification. Basically it's all down to quality control and fittings made to a price point. Not all generic instruments are quite the same.

Tuners for instance vary considerably from guitar to guitar. The Vintage guitar I have  has very good quality branded tuners as is the rest of the hardware. Many guitars and I'm sure it's the same with banjos will be made in the same Chinese or Far East factory. The company ordering the instruments will specify what they want and the instrument will be assembled accordingly.  They're all made to a price point. You'll probably find that many of the parts including such as necks used on expensive instruments are also made in the same factories where they produce parts for budget instruments.

I bought the banjo cheap locally from someone selling it on Facebook market place. Vintage/Pilgrim banjos are clearly budget entry level instruments, I knew this when I bought it but I suspect that the average person in the street or in an audience would be unable to tell whether a rendition or recording was actually made using a budget or top end instrument. 

 I have several up-market brand guitars as well as lesser known brands and I'll wager now that even most accomplished musicians wouldn't be able to tell/identify which guitar I was playing most of the time if they couldn't see me holding the guitar. 

While it's nice to own up-market instruments, from a personal perspective it doesn't bother me as to what's written on the headstock. It's all about the playability and the sound it produces. If the instrument is a budget model so what? If it  plays well, stays in tune and supplies a sound I'm looking for then it's good enough for me. Right now I doubt owning a better banjo would make me a better player. so getting the best out of the instrument is as far as I can go with it.

Dec 11, 2021 - 3:49:45 AM

11 posts since 12/8/2021

quote:
Originally posted by GrahamHawker
quote:
Originally posted by ey_tony

I'm still trying to figure out the exact role of the screw in the heel other than to keep the single screw in place or whether it has some other function.


The screw in the heel holds the neck on. It goes through a hole in the end of the bit of the co-ordinator rod that comes out of the neck. When the co-ordinaor rod is tight it pulls against this screw to hold the neck tight. It's best not to touch this screw. The pressure of the co-oridinator rod can bend this screw. When I had banjos with this connection I learned about the dangers of messing wih this screw. On both occasions the screw snapped. This is the weakness of this type of neck connection.


That's a very welcome piece of information.yes

I'm quite a cautious person with regard to fine adjustments as it's all to easy to break things if too heavy handed so that's helped me immensely! Cheers.

Dec 11, 2021 - 4:02:27 AM

11 posts since 12/8/2021

quote:
Originally posted by Helix

Welcome to the hangout. I like it when you are not afraid to jump in there. The instrument you have with the skills you possess will sound as good as those can sound.
Later keep the neck and replace the tempered aluminum with a wooden rim.
The lock washers are someone's personal fear of things vibrating loose.
On tour in Germany, I thought I would check my tailpiece nut and it was just ready to fall off, so that saved the whole performance.
Otherwise, enjoy the ride.


Thanks for the welcome.

Oh I'm afraid alright! laugh I just don't want to damage or break anything, hence all of the questions. I'm not afraid of taking it to pieces and dressing the neck etc as I've done it with guitars so although the construction is different, many of the principles are the same.

I'm actually enjoying learning about the instrument. I'm not expecting miracles but with a bit patience, technical application and information from experienced musicians like yourselves, I'm quite sure I'll get the best out of the banjo although I do realise it will never be equal to a quality instrument but then again I didn't pay a lot for it so it is what it is.

I'll ditch the lock washers for now as it won't be traveling so nothing is going to vibrate loose through transportation and I can check everything from time to time to make sure nothing has worked loose through playing. 

I'll get back to finishing off the neck and reassembliing today it as my OH is nagging that she needs the dining table free for visitors tomorrow so I'd best get a move on! wink

Dec 11, 2021 - 4:30:26 AM

2113 posts since 2/4/2013

quote:
Originally posted by ey_tony

Not quite! Companies such as JHS which imports the Vintage banjos, like many other companies re-badging generic products, will have their own level of QC and specification. Basically it's all down to quality control and fittings made to a price point. Not all generic instruments are quite the same.

 

The answer to that is yes and no. In the cheap banjo range they really are all the same. In the next level up with a different factory there are more options. I have three Pilgrim banjos. While similar to some by, for instance Ozark, they can actually specify neck shape, inlays and perhaps other things like tuners and heads and Paul Tebbut produced the specs for each banjo. None stray too far from the fcatory standard models though. They were reliant on the factory QC and Paul stated that QC was the biggest problem.

Edited by - GrahamHawker on 12/11/2021 04:36:46

Dec 11, 2021 - 4:59:10 AM
Players Union Member

Helix

USA

15023 posts since 8/30/2006

I built my first banjo on the coffeetable, too.

Dec 11, 2021 - 5:27:11 AM

11 posts since 12/8/2021

quote:
Originally posted by Helix

I built my first banjo on the coffeetable, too.


I have a full woodwork workshop in my garage but it's so full of tools and machines that the only place I have free for working on my instruments is the dining table. I actually like working in there as it's nice and warm and I keep most of my tools which I use for working on my guitars in my music room so it saves me going in and out all of the time.

Dec 15, 2021 - 1:47:33 PM

11 posts since 12/8/2021

Well I finally got the banjo reassembled after stripping it completely down to the last nut and bolt. Dressing and levelling the frets was simple enough and other than a senior moment when I tried to re-fit the drum head to the wrong side of the pot which confused me as to why it was so tight until it dawned on me what I was doing wrong, everything was surprisingly easy. I was very careful to adjust the head incrementally and it seems fine.

I have to say it was a most enjoyable first time experience which was made simpler by your advice so thanks for that.

The only fly in the ointment is the bridge which I knew had issues when I bought the instrument. It appears a previous owner had bought a blank bridge and slotted the bridge themselves. The spacing was erratic and random to say the least with some of the slots greatly over-deepened. I'm sure that even Ray Charles would have done a better job than them. It absolutely ruined a perfectly set up action by introducing buzz because of the overly deep slots when I rebuilt the banjo.

Given how bad the bridge turned out to be I was just going to buy a new one but it appears that 6 string bridges are rarer than the proverbial right now and on order for a few weeks before delivery or sellers are charging extortionately high prices so I decided to have a go at reconditioning the old bridge by dressing out the old slots on some wet and dry placed on a piece of plate glass for accuracy which to be fair has left the ebony level but a bit on the thin side but so far it seems to be holding fine.

I was most annoyed the other day when I realised that a few weeks ago I had loaned someone my fret crowning tool and my own home made nut files which had not been returned and the person to whom I had loaned them is currently working away. It's not the first time that I've re-crowned the frets with just a fret file so that was ok but I had to make another set of nut slotting files to get the bridge job done.

I refuse to pay the ridiculous prices being asked for the various sets of nut slotting files and although I may be preaching to the already converted, I simply made myself another set of nut slotting files for the princely sum of £3.99 and they worked a treat.

All I did was pop to the local hardware store and purchase another set of feeler gauges and score the desired feelers with a small file to produce saw teeth and then round them over very slightly and they did the job very well albeit somewhat slowly, but far cheaper than an expensive set of files that other than real collectors and luthiers can justify buying as they are so rarely used.

After initially setting up the neck and action, had the bridge been good it would have been absolutely perfect. As it was I had to dress out the old slots and re-slot it again with what was left which means that the bridge isn't as high as it was and will need wooden shims gluing to the bridge feet to get it back to the optimum height again. Not really a problem.

I could alter the action to compensate but the bridge issue would still be there and I'd rather wait for a new bridge than set the action to the flawed bridge. I could  make a new bridge if it came to it so it's not a problem and even now with a full length softwood shim raising the bridge and the intonation only roughly set, the instrument plays far better that I'd ever imagined it would.

Once I find a suitable piece of hardwood in my workshop to make the bridge foot wedges the banjo's action will be as low as the action of my guitars which is very low.

Now all I need to find out is which is the best way to get the sound I'm looking for. I want it to sound like a banjo obviously but I don't want it sounding too 'chimey'/jangly. Not dead just not too ringing. I will be using it more as an accompanying instrument rather than lead instrument in a few recordings and I suspect I will have to resort to what drummers do and add a little deadening material to the pot/head to get the desired tone or effect.
Any advice on that would be very welcome.

This is what is left of the bridge after dressing it. As you can see there isn't much left of the ebony strip.

 

..and for those interested, a very cheap and simple solution to owning a set of nut files for the odd occasions when needed and the beauty is that they can still be used as feelers for setting the action etc..

 


 

Dec 15, 2021 - 3:18:28 PM
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Players Union Member

Helix

USA

15023 posts since 8/30/2006

Originally posted by ey_tony
I'm still trying to figure out the exact role of the screw in the heel other than to keep the single screw in place or whether it has some other function.

 Many of the screws in the heel are left-handed thread, that's why people break them.  The new Recording Kings have a logical right-handed screw for joining the neck to the body, The Large nut tightens it against the body.

Here's a photo of someone having tried to loosen right-handed.

You should be able to use a 14mm or 9/16" spanner or end wrench to adjust your action with the turnbuckle. You should be able to see it dial in. 

Always loosen the little nut at the end of the rim rod when adjusting the action.




Edited by - Helix on 12/15/2021 15:21:48

Dec 15, 2021 - 5:36:08 PM

11 posts since 12/8/2021

quote:
Originally posted by Helix

Originally posted by ey_tony
I'm still trying to figure out the exact role of the screw in the heel other than to keep the single screw in place or whether it has some other function.

 Many of the screws in the heel are left-handed thread, that's why people break them.  The new Recording Kings have a logical right-handed screw for joining the neck to the body, The Large nut tightens it against the body.

Here's a photo of someone having tried to loosen right-handed.

You should be able to use a 14mm or 9/16" spanner or end wrench to adjust your action with the turnbuckle. You should be able to see it dial in. 

Always loosen the little nut at the end of the rim rod when adjusting the action.


Thanks for that information regarding the threading. It's very useful to know.

I never messed with the screw itself as I have no previous experience with adjusting a banjo and I figured it's better for me not to tamper with such as that at the moment. 

I had worked out what the little nut at the end of the rod did and managed to get the action better than it was originally but I still left the heel screw alone. 

Dec 16, 2021 - 2:50:17 AM
Players Union Member

Helix

USA

15023 posts since 8/30/2006

the screw joins the neck only. It's good for you to know now rather than later, it's easy.
the turnbuckle adjusts the string height at the heel +/- 1/8".
Loosening the big nut allows you to move the neck up and down on the rim, then tighten in place.
If you don't need to remove the neck, let the screw alone.

Dec 16, 2021 - 11:11:13 AM

11 posts since 12/8/2021

quote:
Originally posted by banjo villain

playing a banjitar is the same as a guitar, it just has the drum sound

don't mess with rawhide or leather drums, it is old and silly like driving a Ford model-t to work every day.

Esoteric banjos are mostly a waste of time. Get a new gold tone with a 1/2 inch wood rim; all Gibson mastertone clones pretty much sound the same

Again, old banjos are mostly a big mistake, although exceptionally good ones do exists, but for huge money , over $2000 in most cases.

Old farts on this site talk endless nonsense, and others are practical

Like a mopar or big block Chevy website, most of what you see or read is pure crap

You can learn on a cheap Recording king that will be flawless from the factory, later on, get a heavy banjo in the 16-`17lb range, they make more volume.


In the world of the guitar there is a fair amount of gear elitism and snobbery and I suspect it's the same with all musical instrument sites no matter what the instrument but they're also a jolly good source of information for the likes of me who doesn't have any knowledge of a banjo in this instance.

I'm realistic, I'll never be able to play the likes of Foggy Mountain Breakdown so it's no use fooling myself as I'm first and foremost a guitar player but once the set of gauge 8 strings had settled on the banjo today enough for me try it, I had a go at playing jazz-or regular big band type guitar chords such as major 7ths, minor 9ths and minor 13ths etc all the way up to the 15/16th fret to test it out and they sounded very interesting, in fact quite pleasant. The neck scaling isn't too bad so it wasn't too tight a squeeze for my fingers high up on the fretboard.

I like to play a wide range of music so it was good to use the banjo to play a bit of country, country-rock, rockabilly/boogie-woogie and I'm looking forward to recording a bit Cajun/Zydeco with it as it was an instrument I was lacking, in fact I even managed a bit of Latin which is the very reason I wanted a 6 stringer. It means I can add a little more versatility to the genres of music I play and transfer my guitar playing skills to the banjo without having to re-learn.

 

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