Banjo Hangout Logo
Banjo Hangout Logo

Premier Sponsors

Banjo Lovers Online

Aug 12, 2022 - 5:55:52 PM
3 posts since 8/5/2015

Hi... I'm helping a friend replace the old (possibly original) split calfskin head on hid old Fairbanks Special #4 with a Remo Renaissance head. The rim appears to be a tad bigger than 11" as I tried (for sizing purposes) to slip an 11" Weatherking on the rim. Too tight to go! I had another old 11" Weatherking head I salvaged the flesh-hoop off of to see how that would fit after breaking the hoop joint. The old flesh hoop shown in the photo is snug up against the shell, and as can be also seen in the photo, the circumferential gap in the split hoop is open about 1/4". I think therefore, the closest I could do for a proper fit would be an 11-1/8" head.
Anyway, I'm just wondering if anyone else has encountered this or had opinions regarding this seemingly odd head diameter on the Fairbanks sp #4. I've seen 11", 10-5/8", 10-1/2" numbers bantered about on the internet, but this clearly none of these figures agree with this empirical evidence. Anybody out there have thoughts? Was there a 11-1/8" "standard"? Also, Not really sure if med or high crown would be best with the Renaissance.

Aug 12, 2022 - 7:51:36 PM
like this

10009 posts since 8/28/2013

As far as I know, Fairbanks, and later, Vega, didn't standardize much until WWI.

I would contact Bob Smakula about actual head sizes and accurate measurements

Have fun with this!

Aug 13, 2022 - 4:21:24 AM

Bill H


1971 posts since 11/7/2010

You need to measure the width of the rim at the top in several places. Few rims are perfectly round, so go with the largest measurement. Also measure the crownheight of the old head and match that as best you can. Heads are available in 1/16" diameter increments I believe and three crown heights--low, medium and high. Smakula Fretted Instruments or Elderly Instruments are a good source for finding the size and style you need.

Aug 13, 2022 - 4:33:39 AM

3072 posts since 4/7/2010

With vintage banjos the standards are often fluid. As it is no harder to install a 11-1/8" calf skin head as it is to to install an 11" calf skin head, a 1/8" difference was not a big deal 120 years ago. With modern premade plastic heads it is a different story. You need to have an accurate measurement.

From your experimentation the head you need is likely 11-1/16" or 11-1/8" I stock both of those diameters in many film types and crown heights. Measure the diameter of the rim and you'll know what you need.

For the crown height, measure the height of the tension hoop. Most Fairbanks and Vega products are high crown, but you can not count on consistency.

Bob Smakula

Aug 13, 2022 - 6:42:55 AM
likes this

3072 posts since 4/7/2010

Originally posted by Bill H


Also measure the crownheight of the old head and match that as best you can. 

I often find the crown height of old heads is overstretched and if you used that as your crown height measurment, it will likely be too tall.  Measuring the height of the tension hoop will give better information.


Bob  Smakula

Hide these ads: join the Players Union!

Hangout Network Help

View All Topics  |  View Categories