I started a mountain banjo last week and I'm just waiting on the finish to dry completely so I can install the head and set it up. I made a tone ring out of a duct cap and it seems like it should work, but it took me much longer than I wanted to make it.
I used a piece of tape to mark the height on the sides and used tin snips to cut vertical cuts to the tape line. After that I used pliers to bend those slots down, and then I sanded the whole ring until the creases were sanded through. The height of the ring is fairly consistent, but for how much effort it took I would've liked better results.
So, those of you who use stove pipes or coffee tins for tone rings, what's the secret to getting a cleanly cut, consistent height ring?
For the times I've used a coffee can (using the top or bottom cut out since they have a lip already), I marked a line with a sharpie of the full circumference for the height I needed and either cut them out with a hacksaw or tin snips. The latter is obviously easier to control. I just tried to get them close for consistency, though sometimes they varied. If there were variances in height from the cut, I just filed them to the line, and sanded the edge to remove any burrs or sharpness left. A disc sander or belt sander that's wide enough would help with getting things square.
Edited by - Noah Cline on 08/07/2022 17:52:32
I've been thinking about making a mountain banjo. Rather than stovepipe or coffee can, my idea for the tone ring is to use a Keller (or Nordic) wooden drum shell.
I made a MusicMakers Mountain Banjo some time ago, which has an internal tone ring made of birch ply.
I wanted to change it to get a brighter sound. It is made, but I have not installed it into the banjo yet.
Along the way, I found a place that makes brass lamp bases and hardware. The picture shows the result.
There are various sizes of these, mine was 8" dia, 1" deep. They have many sizes of bases.
I'm pretty sure it was from this place...
I cut the lower edge with a Dremel Oscillating Multi-Tool. You might not need to do this if you don't want to mount it to a wooden ring.
The center circle was cut with one of these...
Well, here's the banjo, overall I'm pretty happy with it. I made the center hole too big for the tone ring, so next time I change the head I'll make a new one. Also I think the next one I'll make the "tab" on the back longer than the top, so I can get a nicely shaped heel without the neck getting too thin there.
Regardless, I'm happy with how it sounds, a little quiet but very clear and quite good sounding. I just strung it up, and I'm going to give it a few days before lowering the nut and finishing the bridge.
Edited by - Sam_B on 08/09/2022 19:15:35
'Burlile Tone Ring' 46 min
'Cosmic Crisp Apple' 3 hrs
'Scientific Retractions' 8 hrs