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May 25, 2022 - 9:52:09 AM
37 posts since 5/15/2022

Hey everyone! I just bought a tenor neck from the 30s and throwing it on a cheap 1883 Gretsch rim. I am doing this so I have an open-back for camping and outdoor Irish sessions that I do not want to bring my 100 year old Vega out to.

How would I go about this? I ordered the parts for the dowel, but curious how to fix the rim to take the new old neck.

05-D94068-EDA2-4-A86-B502-8-D589-EC68-FCA
FA6-C5540-30-B2-45-DC-B264-D0-B1139-C71-F3
6-EEE4-D6-D-9-D52-4-B3-C-AF32-F2759-EBAEEDA

Edited by - gavinbanjo on 05/25/2022 10:01:28

May 25, 2022 - 10:21:18 AM
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4408 posts since 5/29/2011
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Measure the width of the dowel closest to the neck. It will usually be somewhere between 5/8" and 7/8". You may want to glue tapered plugs into the rim rod holes on both ends of the rim.
Place the neck alongside the rim so you can see where the dowel will need to go through. Mark the spot at the center point of the dowel.
CAREFULLY drill a hole through the rim for the dowel. Make sure it is smaller than the dowel, then Dremel or file the hole square.
When you can get the dowel through the hole, set the neck at the angle you want and mark the hole for the end pin. CAREFULLY drill the hole. Then you can screw the tailpiece holder into the end of the dowel. The dowel may need to be shortened a little bit. DON"T CUT it off, file it or sand it off. Try to cut the dowel stick and it will end up too short every time. Don't ask me how I know this.
It is actually easier to do all this than it is to describe it. I hope it made sense.

May 25, 2022 - 11:04:06 AM
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37 posts since 5/15/2022

Culloden, thanks!!

I will literally read this word for word a bunch of times to ensure I do it right and am really grateful for the help!

I will post a photo when done. It’ll be a definite Frankanjo, but as long as it plays in tune and sounds like a banjo it’ll be all good!

Thanks again!

May 25, 2022 - 11:39:57 AM

4408 posts since 5/29/2011
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Gavin, the main thing is to make sure you get your holes perfectly centered before you do any drilling. A center punch is a good thing to have when preparing to drill.
The rim in your pictures looks a little thicker than many old banjo rims which may require the dowel to be shortened. Or it may not. You will know when you put it together.

May 25, 2022 - 4:55:20 PM
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RioStat

USA

5791 posts since 10/12/2009

Would it be easier to cut the dowel off the neck, slap a couple lag bolts into the heel of the neck, and use the co-rods that are there ?

I'm a lot more familiar with "Mastertone-style" construction, than I am with dowel stick, openback type neck connections, so my first instinct is to use the co-rods ! devil

May 25, 2022 - 5:01:44 PM

37 posts since 5/15/2022

Hm, can you walk through that for me simply? I need to make sure I can angle it right. The issue is the old neck with no truss rod in it. My old Vega I play all the time also does not have a truss rod and works perfectly and is not warped.

May 25, 2022 - 8:54:32 PM

9636 posts since 8/28/2013

I am thinking along the same lines as Scott Yates. If the neck heel doesn't match the curve of the rim or fits at the wrong angle for the desired action height, it would be much easier to reshape the heel without the dowelstick getting in the way. The alignment of holes should be about the same, maybe easier because you just need two round holes for co-ordinator rods instead of filing a square hole for the dowel. Two holes are not much more difficult to drill than one hole.

May 26, 2022 - 4:36:33 AM

1704 posts since 7/2/2007

I'd cut the dowel off to and fit the heel with hanger bolts to fit the rim rods. A much easier platform to work from.

But first I'd make sure the neck is serviceable. It looks like some serious cracks in the peghead running right through the tuner holes. So much so I'd question the stability and serviceability of the neck. So first I'd rehab the neck and then worry about fitting it to the pot.

The rim looks pretty good and worth a good neck.

May 26, 2022 - 5:39:46 AM
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14593 posts since 6/29/2005

I would definitely cut the dowel off . However, you are going to have the tenon still in there, would make an even worse place to screw in a lag than the regulr end-grain of the heel.

I would do one of two things: (1) drill a hole down through the heel and the remaining tenon, and put a round wood dowel in there (a square one if you have a mortising drill) so when you drill the holes for the lags, they are going through some side-grain,

or (2) put a metal (aluminum or brass) anchor in there, which you can thread so you can use lengths of threaded  rod instead of lag screws.  In the picture below, you can see where the dowel has been cut off

This is about 5X stronger than screwing lag screws into end grain around a tenon of unknown glue quality.

May 26, 2022 - 5:59:03 AM
Players Union Member

Helix

USA

15594 posts since 8/30/2006

I also suggest using the old rim rods.

This is a travel/outdoor banjo. I don't like removing wood to replace it with other wood.

Take a look at your peghead cover or top cap. Things look Very dry, maybe the cracks don't go all the way through.

I never could get next to cutting a square hole in a perfectly good rim.

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May 26, 2022 - 6:17:36 AM

PaulRF

Australia

3329 posts since 2/1/2012

quote:
Originally posted by Ken LeVan

I would definitely cut the dowel off . However, you are going to have the tenon still in there, would make an even worse place to screw in a lag than the regulr end-grain of the heel.

I would do one of two things: (1) drill a hole down through the heel and the remaining tenon, and put a round wood dowel in there (a square one if you have a mortising drill) so when you drill the holes for the lags, they are going through some side-grain,

or (2) put a metal (aluminum or brass) anchor in there, which you can thread so you can use lengths of threaded  rod instead of lag screws.  In the picture below, you can see where the dowel has been cut off

This is about 5X stronger than screwing lag screws into end grain around a tenon of unknown glue quality.


Another great post Ken.  Your years of experience shows when giving advice. Also, your quality photos are appreciated by many members here.

Paul

Edited by - PaulRF on 05/26/2022 06:19:00

May 26, 2022 - 6:32:53 AM

1704 posts since 7/2/2007

Suggestions should be made commensurate with the OP's capabilities. Tens of thousands of banjos have been made with hanger bolts (lags) and the vast majority hold up well and they are all threaded into end grain.

Ken's suggestion is fine if you have the means to cut a square hole but most people don't. Fixing a heel with a pulled lag is a whole lot easier than fixing a heel where a block of metal inserted down the center of the heel breaks free or fails. That big square hole does weaken the heel's natural strength and integrity. A failed attempt at the square hole would most likely render the neck useless where lag holes can be easily drilled out and re doweled until you get it right. All you need is a drill, a bit and a hardwood dowel.

Good luck Gaven and welcome to the hangout. You should find lots of potential solutions here, just pick one you can do with tools you have and are comfortable with. It is great you are taking this on yourself and it will be a learning experience.

May 26, 2022 - 6:48:25 AM

37 posts since 5/15/2022

Thanks for all of the great suggestions folks! I love trying new stuff for learning. Specifically, I reamed out my Little Wonder’s peg holes for new tuners and thought.. if I can do this.. I can learn anything!

Yes I will take my time and be careful. Neck arrives today. The dowel hardware (if I choose this) arrives today, as well.

I have a dremel, I have files, and I have all of you! I will report back with final product. I also welcome any more comments around ideas.

You all rock!

May 26, 2022 - 8:41:05 AM

14593 posts since 6/29/2005

quote:
Originally posted by RBuddy

Suggestions should be made commensurate with the OP's capabilities. Tens of thousands of banjos have been made with hanger bolts (lags) and the vast majority hold up well and they are all threaded into end grain.

Ken's suggestion is fine if you have the means to cut a square hole but most people don't. Fixing a heel with a pulled lag is a whole lot easier than fixing a heel where a block of metal inserted down the center of the heel breaks free or fails. That big square hole does weaken the heel's natural strength and integrity. A failed attempt at the square hole would most likely render the neck useless where lag holes can be easily drilled out and re doweled until you get it right. All you need is a drill, a bit and a hardwood dowel.

Good luck Gaven and welcome to the hangout. You should find lots of potential solutions here, just pick one you can do with tools you have and are comfortable with. It is great you are taking this on yourself and it will be a learning experience.


I appreciate your comment, but I can't see the point of deliberately making repair repair suggestions based on the assumption that the questioner has limited woodworking skill—how do you know that?

I saw nothing in the OP that suggested anything about their level of expertise.

Three quarters of what I recommend is never done—I know that, BUT this is supposed to be a builder's forum— "building, setup, and repair", so I think it's worthwhile to at least explain how it might be done by a professional in case that questioner wants to know that or get someone else to do it.

Sure, "Tens of thousands of banjos have been made with hanger bolts (lags) and the vast majority hold up well and they are all threaded into end grain." and we read about them pulling out all the time on this forum—it's a dumb way to do it, and Gibson used to put an L-bolt in the heel their better days.

I will continue to suggest whatever I consider to be the best way—what I suggested is how I do it, so I am practicing what I preach.

May 26, 2022 - 8:58:32 AM

37 posts since 5/15/2022

I just want to say to each of you how grateful I am that you share your knowledge!

May 26, 2022 - 9:56:48 AM

1704 posts since 7/2/2007

I’ve built with dowel sticks and coordinator rods and like both. I look at lag bolts as a safety valve. Some accident happens and pulls a lag, it’s an easy fix. BreakIng a neck or heel or a headstock is much much more a problem.

I hear someone post about a pulled lag occasionally hear but not very often for all the banjos so equipped. If it is dumb, I have a lot of company. Usually when lags fail it is operator error tightening things too tightly.

May 26, 2022 - 12:45:37 PM

37 posts since 5/15/2022

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Edited by - gavinbanjo on 05/26/2022 12:54:17

May 26, 2022 - 1:12:04 PM

9636 posts since 8/28/2013

quote:
Originally posted by RBuddy

I’ve built with dowel sticks and coordinator rods and like both. I look at lag bolts as a safety valve. Some accident happens and pulls a lag, it’s an easy fix. BreakIng a neck or heel or a headstock is much much more a problem.

I hear someone post about a pulled lag occasionally hear but not very often for all the banjos so equipped. If it is dumb, I have a lot of company. Usually when lags fail it is operator error tightening things too tightly.


Operator error my butt. It doesn't take overtightening to strip a lag out of a neck, and I resent the insinuation that I and others are a bunch of ham-fisted klutzes. Also, one doesn't absolutely need a square piece to screw into; the hole just needs to hold a dowel that has the grain oriented properly. I've redone lags with plugs rather than dowels, so that I don't have a lot of chewed up end-grain to deal with. 

I have repaired both lags and dowelsticks. Dowelsticks take longer and are far more difficult to get right. 

Maybe a heel breaks or an entire neck. i've seen lag screw mountings break as many times as I've seen other mounting systems break. I suspect most broken necks happen when a banjo is knocked off a stand, not because a metal anchor has split the neck heel. 

May 26, 2022 - 1:42:35 PM

37 posts since 5/15/2022

Edited by - gavinbanjo on 05/26/2022 13:47:22

May 26, 2022 - 2:06:36 PM
Players Union Member

Helix

USA

15594 posts since 8/30/2006

Well done, Gavin
With the rim rods and studs, you could be playing real soon

Also with rods, you can dial in easier

1926 Bacon and Day Silver Belle No 5 had rim rods

May 26, 2022 - 2:16:22 PM

37 posts since 5/15/2022

quote:
Originally posted by Helix

Well done, Gavin
With the rim rods and studs, you could be playing real soon

Also with rods, you can dial in easier

1926 Bacon and Day Silver Belle No 5 had rim rods


That neck from a Silver Belle?

 

Also, I have rim rods. Can you specify (forgive my ignorance) what you mean by studs? 

May 26, 2022 - 3:05 PM
Players Union Member

Helix

USA

15594 posts since 8/30/2006

Studs or hanger bolts are half bolt and half woodscrew
The woodscrew goes into the neck
The bolt goes into your rim rod
Yours might be metric

May 26, 2022 - 3:14:04 PM
Players Union Member

Helix

USA

15594 posts since 8/30/2006

Also the rim rod itself can be used to thread the screw end into the neck
Use a drill bit in the hole

May 26, 2022 - 3:15:10 PM

1704 posts since 7/2/2007

Wow, I don't think I called anyone any names here, where is this anger coming from?

Just about everything in stringed instruments is a compromise of utility, weight and the variables in wood itself.

My main point was and is that there are pros and cons in every neck attachment system in banjos. I like the fact that a banjo falling over might pull a lag rather than break wood somewhere else. It can be an intentionally engineered weak point, the reason I am comfortable with them, and it is legitimate. Doesn't make it dumb. Proper use of co-rods is learned or taught.

I prefer dowel sticks for their looks and the challenge of doing them right but they aren't for everyone.

But I'm the first to admit there are problems with all of them. All we can do is select the method we like best and it does not make it better or worse than anyone else's method.

A builders section forum should be able to discuss pros and cons of design decisions without people taking it personally, and there are always pros and cons. These options are the decisions luthiers and customers make every day.

I've seen co-rods tightened so much the washer is crushed into the hardwood rim and I've fixed pulled lags because the owner didn't know how much to tighten and they told me so. They just didn't know how tight is tight enough, it isn't a car or a bike, but I never implied they were "ham-fisted klutzes". I didn't say metal anchors split necks either because they don't cause it, but if a heel breaks with one, the repair is considerably more difficult than a pulled lag, that's a fact.

Looks like banjo neck attachment systems can be as controversial as glue, finishes, bridges, wood species, or even tone rings.....in fact everything banjo can be controversial. Might as well get used to different people having different ideas. Can't we just describe the what and why we make the choices we do? No one here has all the right answers except for themselves.

Edited by - RBuddy on 05/26/2022 15:16:04

May 26, 2022 - 5:36:09 PM

9636 posts since 8/28/2013

RBuddy,I think you are reading things into peoples' comments that were not intended as put-downs. I can also see some evidence that you are the one who started the criticism with your idea that repair advice should be geared to a person's tools and experience. i am glad you have explained your views further, and agree that every attachment system has pros and cons. However, I still think you had no call to criticize Ken LeVan for his solutions, partly because you've made an assumption about the op's skill level and his available equipment, which you know nothing about, and partly because you yourself have posted a solution which may or may not suit the banjo and its player/repair person.

I think we all need to be a little more open-minded, and to realize that the more solutions offered, the more choices the Op will have as to picking the best method for him. Maybe he doesn't have tools, but might be prepared to buy them. Maybe he doesn't wish to have lags pull out of end grain. Maybe he simply wants to do the job as simply as possible. None of us knows about this, because the OP only asked for suggestions and did not mention permanence, his own skills/tools, how much work he wishes to do, etc. If he wants to use lag screws, fine. Plugs, fine. Reworking the dowelstick, fine. Being told one way is the best and only way, NOT fine.

May 26, 2022 - 6:00:15 PM
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37 posts since 5/15/2022

Hey everyone! Don’t want to be the cause of issues! All I want is my banjo to work in the environment I wan it to!

If it means dowel or rods.. just wanna hang with my friends and play tunes in the woods or at a streetside session that folks may be a little drunk or having too fun and the banjo may be knocked over or knicked by accident!

I appreciate the passion and we all love banjos!

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