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Feb 22, 2024 - 9:56:23 AM
261 posts since 5/13/2009

I see tone ring designs with different radii at the top edge where the head contacts the tone ring. Some have a small radius with less contact with the head, and others a large radius with more contact. Does this make a difference in the sound?

Feb 22, 2024 - 10:04:06 AM

Alex Z

USA

5769 posts since 12/7/2006

That's an interesting question, if someone has done some experimentation.  (Likely plenty of anecdotal information.)

I've wondered what would happen if the interior side of the top edge came straight down.  So the head goes over the edge like a string on the nut, coming off cleanly -- ring is curved on the outside, then gets to the peak and comes straight off.  

Feb 22, 2024 - 10:20:43 AM

1881 posts since 4/13/2017

quote:
Originally posted by Alex Z

That's an interesting question, if someone has done some experimentation.  (Likely plenty of anecdotal information.)

I've wondered what would happen if the interior side of the top edge came straight down.  So the head goes over the edge like a string on the nut, coming off cleanly -- ring is curved on the outside, then gets to the peak and comes straight off.  


Tony Pass started doing this on a woodie design he called the "Almost Flathead". I have been doing this as well on some of the banjos I build. One of which is the two most recent videos I've posted, and the same banjo I currently have for sale.

Feb 22, 2024 - 10:40:31 AM

Alex Z

USA

5769 posts since 12/7/2006

Mr. Hunter, what are you hearing with this design, compared to a completely curved top edge of the tone ring?

Do you think this may be what gives an arch top ring a distinctive sound?  That is, the arch top design with the sharp inside edge is not just a flat head with a smaller diameter.

Edited by - Alex Z on 02/22/2024 10:43:25

Feb 22, 2024 - 10:52:44 AM
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1881 posts since 4/13/2017

quote:
Originally posted by Alex Z

Mr. Hunter, what are you hearing with this design, compared to a completely curved top edge of the tone ring?

Do you think this may be what gives an arch top ring a distinctive sound?  That is, the arch top design with the sharp inside edge is not just a flat head with a smaller diameter.


I'll try to find the PDF that goes into more detail, but here's what I found. https://banjonews.com/2011-06/tony_passs_almost_flathead_rim.html

I personally notice a lot more snap and crack with this design than a standard radiused flathead, as seems to be the consensus. Tony's logic on this was combining the snap of an archtop with the bass and depth of a flathead, and in my opinion, it achieves just that.

Feb 22, 2024 - 11:37:27 AM

KCJones

USA

2923 posts since 8/30/2012
Online Now

I had just recently read someone on BHO comment about this exact issue, in the context of Archtop and Flathead tone rings.

I'm paraphrasing from memory here, hopefully someone can chime in, but they said that the top edge profile of AT was different than FH, and that was actually where the main difference in tone came from. And that experiments with modifying those top profiles showed that you could make one style sound like the other simply by modifying that top edge.

I don't know much about it personally, but I read it on BHO so it's gotta be true, right?

Feb 22, 2024 - 12:35:12 PM
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13066 posts since 10/27/2006

quote:
Originally posted by SamCy

I see tone ring designs with different radii at the top edge where the head contacts the tone ring. Some have a small radius with less contact with the head, and others a large radius with more contact. Does this make a difference in the sound?


Yes, absolutely. There is no doubt at all

There have been many banjos available as both arched and flat tops. In addition, the Gibson 100 series, when equipped with the small diameter 1/4" round rod on the inside ledge of the rim, can be converted to a flat top by buying an 11" Five-Star Round Rod Banjo Tone Ring from StewMac and swapping it in and using a medium or high crown head (the head keeps the rod in place). Don't like it? Swap back. This 1962 Gibson RB-170 is an example that could be converted.

Sullivan Banjo offers a Archtop to Flathead conversion ring for some Gibson Mastertones that accomplishes the same thing.

Back in the day, you could buy contraptions made by Grover and others that mounted on your co-rod or dowel stick that, when pressed against the head, changed the practical diameter of the head. I can't find a picture online but I do have one in a box. I have to get into that box later today so I'll snap a picture of it when I'm there in case anyone wants to see it.

Feb 22, 2024 - 4:59:54 PM

martyjoe

Ireland

505 posts since 3/24/2020

Another factor, l’m not trying to complicate the issue because I agree totally that the break angle across the rim edge affects the tone. But if you convert an archtop to a flathead without any change to the neck, the ratio of the bridge to the rim changes. So the edge of the rim is moved further away from the bridge. This changes the tone as well which could be an even bigger factor.

Feb 23, 2024 - 10:32:03 AM

261 posts since 5/13/2009

Thanks much for all the responses. Obviously, there was originally a picture accompanying Tony's description of his design, but I don't see the picture in the link. What do I do to see the picture?

Feb 29, 2024 - 10:36:49 AM

261 posts since 5/13/2009

Had a look at StewMac's cross-section drawing of their version of a flathead. A lot of metal at the peak. Just wondering if you machinists could turn the sloped face at a slightly shallower angle, stopping at the highest point, and leaving a tiny vertical step, as described by Alex Z.

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