I noticed a couple of archived discussions about Jan Bloom's banjos. I liked the sound of the JB Special I played at an event, bought a Hornbeam Special a few years back, and liked it so much I bought a second one. I keep them in different tunings, though the specific tunings get changed around... I think the Hop Hornbeam tone ring gives them their distinctive sound. They're wonderful banjos! Other musicians, not just banjo players, have commented on how nice they sound.
Jan is now teaching lutherie to someone, I don't know who. He might be thinking of retiring, but he's passing the craft along to the next generation, which is important.
Yes I own a Hornbeam Special and feel very lucky to have it. Produces a very rich timbre, with a unique depth to get lost in. The 11-1/2 inch rim also gives it a delightful "just right" voice between 11 and 12 inch pots. The workmanship is all one could ask for, beautifully striped tiger maple.
@pklonowski how would you compare the tone of your JB Special to the Hornbeam?
Also if I may ask, what type of head(s) are you running on your Hornbeams?
I don't have a JB Special, but played a couple of them when I was looking around. They're quite fine instruments. At the time, I also played several different modern banjos, including Pisgah, Deering, Reiter and others, almost all of which are also very nice. I also played several vintage banjos, mostly whatever Elderly and Hogeye had in stock.
Jan gets his Tiger Maple from a sawmill he knows, somewhere in northern Michigan, has worked with him for decades... when the sawyer finds a good tree, he calls Jan!
To me, the hornbeam tone ring gives the banjo a deeper, richer tone than any other I've played. Other musicians, including other banjo players, have commented how good it sounds. I can stuff t-shirts in them for "inside voice," and take them out for "outside voice," and they always sound great!
One of the heads is not marked, the other is a Remo. They're not "Fiberskyn" or anything like that, that I can tell, but I'm no expert. I could ask Jan.
'Fret Claw Banjo Capo' 23 min
'Tenor ID ?' 32 min
'Plectrum ID help?' 1 hr
'Opinions' 2 hrs
'Huber HR-30 Tone Ring' 3 hrs