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Sep 26, 2023 - 4:44:35 PM
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15668 posts since 6/29/2005

Sankofa Banjo

I haven’t shown any banjo build pictures for a while—this turned out to be one of my favorites of all the banjos I’ve ever built.  Everything just came together .  I must give credit to the client on this one, as she introduced me to the symbols used for the inlay and had a good sense of what she wanted with the banjo.

It’s a 12” top-tension openback —the wood  is black cherry from my property,  air dried for 12 years under metal roofing—the best black cherry there is comes from north central PA north of I-80  It’s a very stable wood,not overly heavy and darkens over time.

The inlays are based on Sankofa, which is a word in the Twi language of Ghana meaning “to retrieve" (literally "go back and get"), and is represented either by a stylized heart shape or by a bird with its head turned backwards while its feet face forward carrying a precious egg in its mouth. Sankofa is often associated with the proverb, "It is not wrong to go back for that which you have forgotten.
Taking from the past what is good and bringing it into the present in order to make positive progress, something I try to do as a banjo builder, and other things as well.

Here is the peghead—I represented the bird in copper and the egg in abalone. You can see a smaller version on the 14th fret, and the stylized heart is on the scoop and the 5th fret
My ”logo” is in a glyphic font called lithos, which resembles chiseled or carved characters.
The peghead veneer is walnut burl.

The peghead-neck joint is the dart V-groove connection.
A detail of my necks  is a 3-ply lamination with cross-banding beneath the fingerboard, which serves as side-markers.  This isn’t purfling in a channel, it goes all the way across under the fingerboard, reinforcing the neck in the horizontal plane like the center-stripe down the middle does in the vertical plane.

Here’s a picture of the pot showing the Rudy rod and secondary bolt which fastens the neck to the pot by means of an anchor set in to the heel.  
You can see the carbon fiber tone ring peeking out on top of the rim

Normally, I don’t use armrests on my top-tension banjos because they are no notches or lugs along the smooth top of the tension hoop, but I put one on this banjo at the customer’s request.  I also make wood ones.


Sep 26, 2023 - 5:46:05 PM

67 posts since 9/2/2021
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Beautiful work!

Sep 26, 2023 - 5:48:58 PM



3517 posts since 2/1/2012

Amazing. Great work Ken.


Sep 26, 2023 - 9:33:55 PM

6130 posts since 12/20/2005

Amazing banjo.

Sep 26, 2023 - 10:41:09 PM



409 posts since 3/24/2020


Sep 27, 2023 - 5:28:21 AM

2307 posts since 5/19/2018

Engineer/Artist - Beautiful.

Sep 27, 2023 - 6:07:20 AM

3317 posts since 9/5/2006

I like the tailpiece particularly. The banjo is beautiful as well.

Sep 27, 2023 - 6:24:38 AM
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15668 posts since 6/29/2005

Originally posted by Bob Buckingham

I like the tailpiece particularly. The banjo is beautiful as well.

Thanks, Bob,

That's my "Gothic" tailpiece, and I make it in several varieties

Sep 27, 2023 - 7:08:22 AM
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6130 posts since 12/20/2005

I have 2 of these tailpieces. They are a joy to use. And, they also look great.
When you factor the knowledge, the workmanship, the quality of each component that is hand made, the wood selection, I don’t know of any other builder, past and present, that makes a better banjo.
I’m addition, Ken devotes considerable time to sharing whatever he can hear on BHO.
You are much appreciated Ken.

Sep 27, 2023 - 7:52:59 AM

444 posts since 6/26/2011

I too noticed the Tailpiece, it is something of real beauty, and perfectly practical in design too. They should give you an award for something as wonderful as that.
Cheers from Bill.

Sep 27, 2023 - 10:19:14 AM
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10373 posts since 1/22/2003

Very pretty banjo!

Sep 28, 2023 - 4:41 AM



3517 posts since 2/1/2012

The Rudy rod looks great with the brass fittings and the center stripe and it compliments the rim. Now all that is needed is a sound file.


Sep 28, 2023 - 5:41 AM

15830 posts since 12/2/2005

As beautiful as always.

Sep 28, 2023 - 6:40:24 AM

1 posts since 11/24/2017

Wow! Stunning.

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