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Aug 8, 2022 - 7:57:31 AM
224 posts since 5/3/2004

I am bored and looking for something to do with my banjo (besides playing it). It is a high quality instrument and I don't mention the name because I don't want to infuriate the maker, but has anyone ever sanded down the finish (lacquer I assume) on the inside and bottom of a rim? I'm wondering if it would bring out a more 'woody' tone if done.
Probably a waste of time because I suspect no discernable change would be heard but I thought I'd ask.
Thanks.

Aug 8, 2022 - 8:59:35 AM
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210 posts since 4/3/2009

quote:
Originally posted by Possum Fat

I am bored...

It is a high quality instrument...

Probably a waste of time...


I suspect that sanding the rim will do far less to improve the tone than it will to devalue a "high quality instrument".  My opinion.

Aug 8, 2022 - 10:10:34 AM
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10009 posts since 8/28/2013
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Do not sand. There is no reason to destroy the finish on a high quality instrument.

A finish is there to protect the wood, not influence the tone.

Aug 8, 2022 - 10:40:10 AM

5521 posts since 5/9/2007

quote:
Originally posted by Possum Fat

... I'm wondering if it would bring out a more 'woody' tone if done.
...


Hey Possum

Try reducing your head tension a bit or 

... try a more massive and/or softer (walnut for example) bridge.

Easy cheap and reversible changes.

Good luck ... have fun.

Aug 8, 2022 - 11:32:58 AM
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leehar

USA

139 posts since 2/18/2018

I would think a bare wood surface would be far less dimensionally stable due to humidity changes. If the wood starts soaking up moisture and swelling it may have an adverse effect on the fit of tone ring, flange, etc. I’d try the reversible variables; bridge, head, tailpiece, strings and most important, the picker’s technique.

Aug 8, 2022 - 11:53:49 AM
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13585 posts since 6/2/2008

I don't believe I've ever read that lacquer on a rim affects a banjo's sound. And if I ever did read it, I probably wouldn't believe it.

Aug 8, 2022 - 12:11:40 PM

224 posts since 5/3/2004

Thanks all, about what I thought. And to clarify, I wasn't talking about sanding into the wood so that the finish is gone, just sanding down some so that the remaining finish is thinner.

Aug 8, 2022 - 12:34:32 PM

1969 posts since 5/19/2018

If you want to ruin the value of the instrument for resale, go ahead.

If you intend to never sell the instrument, go ahead and sand away. Just be aware that if you ever want to sell the instrument, that small personal “improvement” will certainly affect how a potential buyer views the instrument.

As for an improvement in tone, or to make it sound more “woody” very doubtful it would make any change in sound you could perceive.

I would avoid doing so and try and get the sound you are looking for by doing the typical changes to the head, bridge and strings.

Aug 8, 2022 - 5:40:54 PM

14863 posts since 6/29/2005
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If you sprayed a thick coating of lacquer on the head it would affect the sound, but it won't cause problems on the rim. 

Aug 8, 2022 - 7:38:16 PM

13585 posts since 6/2/2008

quote:
Originally posted by Possum Fat

Thanks all, about what I thought. And to clarify, I wasn't talking about sanding into the wood so that the finish is gone, just sanding down some so that the remaining finish is thinner.


OK. Now I'm going to express a contrary view.

If you bought this banjo to be a musical instrument to play and not an investment to watch, if the finish is really thick, and if you can safely thin it a bit and polish out the resulting finish to the same gloss, then do what makes you happy.

I agree in concept that alterations can reduce resale value of otherwise original name maker instruments . But my responses to that are: (1) If one intends to own an instrument the rest of their life, then resale is an issue for their heirs. (2) I would like to see someone put a specific dollar loss of value in altering the finish of the banjo you own. Presumably it's an instrument of current manufacture, since the maker is still alive and able to be infuriated. So we're not dealing with a pre-war Gibson, made by no one who's still around to give a d*** what you do with it.

Thinning the finish on the rim will not produce any change in sound you can hear. But if a thinner finish will increase your enjoyment of the banjo, then why not?

Have fun.

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Aug 9, 2022 - 3:40:34 AM

4917 posts since 11/20/2004

I am of the opinion that a thick heavy coat of finish can affect a rims' sound. I sprayed a rim heavily once in earlier times in an effort to make it look more beautiful. I could never get it to sound as I felt it should. I eventually sanded it down, just trying to find the cause. What I found was, the more I sanded, the better it sounded. I finally sanded back to bare wood and did a Danish oil finish to seal without buildup. As I learned that rims vibrate, I started keeping finish thinner, rather than trying to look like glass.

Aug 9, 2022 - 4:14:05 AM

14863 posts since 6/29/2005
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Lots of professional orchestra and jazz musicians remove the lacquer from their trumpets, trombones,etc. because it has actually been proven that the lacquer diminishes the vibration of the brass and you can hear the difference.

This isn't the case with a banjo rim, but if you firmly believe that the rim is a sound producing element of a banjo as many people do, I would say, by all means, strip the lacquer—you will like it better and more power to you—if you sell the banjo,  you can undoubtedly find a buyer who has a similar belief.

If someone ordered a banjo from me and wanted no finish on the rim, I would gladly do it for them—It would definitely have a psychoacoustic value, and I don't think it would hurt the sound of the banjo. 

Aug 9, 2022 - 5:46:40 AM

224 posts since 5/3/2004

Good stuff. Thanks all. And, Lightguage has actually tried it! That's what I was looking for. I was aware of all the devaluing of the instrument cautions before I asked, so Old Hickory hit it on the button for my situation.
Interestingly, or maybe not, I still don't know whether to try it or not. Maybe I'll try it and then post glowing reviews here about how much it improved tone with strong support from some local experienced banjo players whom I will make up, no matter how it turns out.

Aug 9, 2022 - 6:14:02 AM
Players Union Member

Helix

USA

15841 posts since 8/30/2006

Psychoacoustic  was used recently by Dave Politzer and now picked up by decimal challenged Ken Levan and actually used in a sentence.

Please define your premise.


I remember people scrapping about "Pseudo-science."

I have previously mentioned a customer of mine who took a year to French Polish his rim and neck, send it back to me for assembly.

My customer seeks out mediocre instruments to French Polish and then re-sells them sounding fantastic.

French Polish makes banjo parts sound better, it's right there in your ears.  Rim and neck 

Another customer last year had sprayed rubber coating on the inside of a name rim to no avail.  Maple rims make great music, but some people have found them to need "care" with dynamics.  Harder to play softly.  Many young men play and love too rough,  They have to mature to play and love more skillfully.  That is why we are tolerant of ego-regimentation.  

I remember dickinnorwich did not finish the inside of his rims.  I'll contact him if needed, we can discuss issues.  

so this year, I finally had another customer request an unfinished Cherry rim on his changeout project.  He's off to French Polish .  No we are  not talking about two different countries,  parle vous banjeaux?  I'm surprised French Polish survived the French toast and fries with that.  

I hope this information helps you keep that keeper intact. 

Aug 9, 2022 - 6:48:51 AM
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14863 posts since 6/29/2005
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quote:
Originally posted by Helix

Psychoacoustic  was used recently by Dave Politzer and now picked up by decimal challenged Ken Levan and actually used in a sentence.

Please define your premise.


I remember people scrapping about "Pseudo-science."

I have previously mentioned a customer of mine who took a year to French Polish his rim and neck, send it back to me for assembly.

My customer seeks out mediocre instruments to French Polish and then re-sells them sounding fantastic.

French Polish makes banjo parts sound better, it's right there in your ears.  Rim and neck 

Another customer last year had sprayed rubber coating on the inside of a name rim to no avail.  Maple rims make great music, but some people have found them to need "care" with dynamics.  Harder to play softly.  Many young men play and love too rough,  They have to mature to play and love more skillfully.  That is why we are tolerant of ego-regimentation.  

I remember dickinnorwich did not finish the inside of his rims.  I'll contact him if needed, we can discuss issues.  

so this year, I finally had another customer request an unfinished Cherry rim on his changeout project.  He's off to French Polish .  No we are  not talking about two different countries,  parle vous banjeaux?  I'm surprised French Polish survived the French toast and fries with that.  

I hope this information helps you keep that keeper intact. 

 


John Calkin, of the American Guild of Luthiers, published a paper referring to himself as a "tonewood heretic", arguing that most of the conventional wisdom about wood is nonsense, something I share with him.

He refers to psychoacousics, and here's an excerpt from his paper:

"Psychoacoustics plays such a large role in this matter that it's difficult to discuss tone objectively. ( I think that it's called psychoacoustics because trying to figure out stringed instruments will make you psycho.) We hear what we expect to hear, what we have been taught to hear, what we want to hear, and often what we hope to hear. Many luthiers and musicians alike spend hundreds of hours and thousands of dollars collecting information and recordings and they have come to have a stake in the sanctity of its rightness. They need the vast body of instrument mythology to be correct, and strongly oppose the possibility that it may be bogus.

I couldn't agree with him more.

Edited by - Ken LeVan on 08/09/2022 06:50:09

Aug 9, 2022 - 7:23:38 AM
Players Union Member

Helix

USA

15841 posts since 8/30/2006

Your opinion is alive and well, I respect the mental process that got you there.

I refuse to be cynical about people's disrespect for the gen pop and the cheap banjos they leave in dumpsters.

I don't know what psychoacousics are, but I want to see a picture of it on an Oscilloscope or Audacity or some other frequency measuring device.

Otherwise that level of scholastic cynicism is just what keeps people from exploring the "real science" that is real, but is constantly presented here as "papers",

The scientists have been unable to bridge the gap between their science and the general public.  Learn how to talk to people.  

If the rim makes no difference in the sound, let them build papier mache' or rope or other psychoacousic stuff to show us how stupid we all are.

I disrespect that approach.

It is not representative of the institutions paying them money.

 

Try some French polish on the psychoacousics and see if it makes a difference.

 

The living playing banjos are so much more than the finish applied, or wood used, or hardware type.

And Ken, copying my whole entry for just the first word in the sentence is wasting time and electrons in my opinion.  

We are greater than the sum of our thoughts, the banjo is greater than the sum of its parts.  Hell, that's just my opinion based on some chatoyance problem I keep experiencing. 

Happy accidents and revelation always keep pace with the scientific advancements, that's the process throughout history.

A scientific world without "Eureka", you know, Archimedes, well that world always overpowers the dreamers while the dreamers are waking the nations. 

Cutting relief in a neck blank is innovation of existing technology, it's what happens after "industry" and "science" get in there and regiment us to a mastertone type tone ring which can't play by itself, plenum or not. 

Now science found all these plastic formulas to out gas out in the Oceans.  Imagine how hard it's going to be to get back away from floating garbage and dumpster banjos sold by big box?

There's a scientific project for you, How about re-purposed cardboard, a perfect paper signal.  I went for Bamboo and its acoustic properties. Bamboo fishing rods and other adaptations are way beyond "fiddle bench" mechanics who saw off perfectly good metric rim rods for SAE?

It's like bumblebees,  and yet they fly.  

Edited by - Helix on 08/09/2022 07:52:05

Aug 9, 2022 - 9:35:56 AM
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10009 posts since 8/28/2013
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quote:
Originally posted by Helix

Your opinion is alive and well, I respect the mental process that got you there.

I refuse to be cynical about people's disrespect for the gen pop and the cheap banjos they leave in dumpsters.

I don't know what psychoacousics are, but I want to see a picture of it on an Oscilloscope or Audacity or some other frequency measuring device.

Otherwise that level of scholastic cynicism is just what keeps people from exploring the "real science" that is real, but is constantly presented here as "papers",

The scientists have been unable to bridge the gap between their science and the general public.  Learn how to talk to people.  

If the rim makes no difference in the sound, let them build papier mache' or rope or other psychoacousic stuff to show us how stupid we all are.

I disrespect that approach.

It is not representative of the institutions paying them money.

 

Try some French polish on the psychoacousics and see if it makes a difference.

 

The living playing banjos are so much more than the finish applied, or wood used, or hardware type.

And Ken, copying my whole entry for just the first word in the sentence is wasting time and electrons in my opinion.  

We are greater than the sum of our thoughts, the banjo is greater than the sum of its parts.  Hell, that's just my opinion based on some chatoyance problem I keep experiencing. 

Happy accidents and revelation always keep pace with the scientific advancements, that's the process throughout history.

A scientific world without "Eureka", you know, Archimedes, well that world always overpowers the dreamers while the dreamers are waking the nations. 

Cutting relief in a neck blank is innovation of existing technology, it's what happens after "industry" and "science" get in there and regiment us to a mastertone type tone ring which can't play by itself, plenum or not. 

Now science found all these plastic formulas to out gas out in the Oceans.  Imagine how hard it's going to be to get back away from floating garbage and dumpster banjos sold by big box?

There's a scientific project for you, How about re-purposed cardboard, a perfect paper signal.  I went for Bamboo and its acoustic properties. Bamboo fishing rods and other adaptations are way beyond "fiddle bench" mechanics who saw off perfectly good metric rim rods for SAE?

It's like bumblebees,  and yet they fly.  


t's too bad that some people are critical of someone defining a term when he has been asked to do so. Answering one question or ten is NOT a waste of ink. The other questions--if they;ve even been asked--can be answered later.

It should also be extremely obvious that some materials, such as paper mache will never work for banjo rims for various issues inherent in the material, such as lack of strength, poor workability,and an inability to apply a good finish, so that is a basic "straw man" argument. 

All I will add is "Hooey." I'd debate this more, but I'd probably use the wrong words and moderators would have fits.

Aug 9, 2022 - 6:55:01 PM
Players Union Member

Helix

USA

15841 posts since 8/30/2006

Go in peace, then.

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