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Apr 22, 2024 - 8:06:09 PM
63 posts since 5/28/2010

Let's get the controversial stuff out of the way first!

The purists among us recommend that banjos with high action NOT be retrofitted with a device that pushes the end of the dowel stick towards the head as a way to make the banjo playable. They say it's best to have the dowel stick removed, the old hole filled, and a new hole drilled that corrects the neck angle when the original dowel is glued back in.

OK, OK -- point taken.

This question is for those of us who aren't purists, or don't care, or are too cheap. (Sometimes the cost of having a repair done "properly" is more than the banjo is worth.)

Several old world banjo makers installed devices in their banjos that allowed the neck angle to be adjusted. Several still do. (The double coordinator-rod system for example.)

For banjos where the action ISN'T adjustable: has anyone ever made a commercially available device that you can attach to the dowel stick that allows one to adjust the neck angle? (By "commercially available" I'm not just referring to "name" manufacturers; I'm also not aware of anyone working out of their garage or basement ever having ever answered the call either.)

Looking online at hundreds of banjos over the years, I've seen many "do it yourself" neck-angle adjustors. Some are pretty basic "just get the job done" types; others are quite elegant and imaginative. (I've seen some that were worked in highly polished metal with a slot that allows the neck to move over a range of angle options.)

Since so many folks have run into this problem over the decades, I'm surprised no one (so far as I know) has built a device that answers this demand. (How many old banjos have you seen strung with steel strings that were originally built for gut? And the effect of that change was. . . ?)

Where are the entrepreneurs?!

Glenn Jones (a/k/a wileypickett)

Edited by - wileypickett on 04/22/2024 20:10:54

Apr 22, 2024 - 8:42:53 PM
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Bill Rogers (Moderator)


27999 posts since 6/25/2005

Not that I know of. ….I have shims between neck and rim on a coupla my banjos. Never had others that needed even that, and I have mostly dowelstick banjos.

Apr 22, 2024 - 8:57:28 PM
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1673 posts since 1/9/2012

How about 1895?

Cole made one. I don't own one, but I've seen them. I found this photo on the Web. The tail end of the dowel stick can be positioned a bit up or down by turning the screw that you see in the photo.

Apr 22, 2024 - 9:00:27 PM

63 posts since 5/28/2010

Shims are a common solution too, and they generally work (I have one on one of my banjos too).

But you couldn't make a semi-universal shim that would work on a plethora of banjos, since the neck / body joins vary so much, as well as the radii of the pots, and how much or how little you need to compensate for. A shim needs to be tailored to the particular banjo it's going in.

Apr 22, 2024 - 9:12:17 PM
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63 posts since 5/28/2010

Framus (out of Bavaria) made a similar thing:


Edited by - wileypickett on 04/22/2024 21:13:32

Apr 22, 2024 - 9:13:43 PM

63 posts since 5/28/2010

But I wasn't looking so much for examples of ones made historically (though that's interesting too).

Rather I was wondering if anyone knew of stand-alone devices for sale, the way people offer their own bridges, mutes, tailpieces, or armrests, etc.

Apr 22, 2024 - 10:12:34 PM
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Players Union Member



1403 posts since 11/8/2014

I don't know if this is a commercial item, and it takes modification of the dowel, but here is one installed on a Stewart American Princess.

Apr 23, 2024 - 2:58:52 AM
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John Yerxa


91 posts since 9/13/2021

I have an impression that the integrety (fit) of the heel/rim joint is pretty important to the sound of a banjo. Seems to me that changing the angle of the dowel stick would inevitably compromise that. We have a pretty wide range of action adjustment with bridge height. If the angle needs to be changed, seems to me that the best solution is to re-cut the heel. And yes, redrill for dowel stick if neccessary. Just IMHO.

Apr 23, 2024 - 4:20:20 AM
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3353 posts since 1/15/2014

The purist solution isn't to reset the dowel stick. It's to string the banjo properly, thus rendering the "unplayable" playable.

Apr 23, 2024 - 6:14:04 AM
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8262 posts since 9/21/2007

All of those period adjustors were very optimistic in what they did. Only really good for very SMALL adjustments based on weather and seasonal changes.

They all put a lot of stress on the rim and heel glue joint. So do shims, anything over the thickness of a thin banjo head is too much for a dowel stick banjo shim.

There are usually several contributing factors to overly high action, usually caused by the added tension of wire strings, though many overly thick sets of polyester (nylgut) strings have the same high tension.

Neck warp/bow. Heel joint slipping or "springing" as it was called in period publications. Rim distortion, very common in thin nickel wood lined rims.

Classic era banjos, or banjos made before the plectrum banjo become common, had the neck set flat with the head. That is correct for a 1/2" bridge with what would be considered high action to people using wire strings.

The problem is that people get these classic era banjos and are ignorant. So they set to trying to lower the action. This involves a few hack things, adding bits to the dowel rod end, drilling extra holes in the rim, or cramming huge shims between the heel and the rim-- all terrible ideas as they add stress and will just compound the problem.

If there is a real problem with the action, which there usually is not but people think there is based on wire string standards, then that issue needs to be addressed by a competent person.

With the adjustors, people will wire up banjos and put on a 5/8" bridge. The added tension with the too high bridge is unsuitable so they will max out the adjustors. In the case of the SSS adjuster that usually means a split heel.

The Kay neck wedge adjustor (or the modern version offered by Nechville) is really a great idea and should be used by more builders of rim rod construction.

That said, I've got an embarrassingly number of classic era banjos and only two have had the necks reset (one was attic stored and pretty much garbage when I got it and the other was the victim of the a hacks reset attempt that had to be reversed).

Apr 23, 2024 - 6:26:16 AM
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Bart Veerman


5708 posts since 1/5/2005

Nechville's flux capacitor does a good job.
Yup, the Framus gizmo works great (I forgot where I saved that pic, thanks for finding it for me)
A simple L-bracket on dowel sticks is about as easy as it gets. Why don't "they" do it? Take yer pick:

  • Earl's banjo didn't have one
  • too many extra steps/money
  • banjoeys don't deserve that
  • nobody ever complained about it
  • why bother
  • it's not traditional
  • they wouldn't know how to use it

Edited by - Bart Veerman on 04/23/2024 06:33:35

Apr 23, 2024 - 6:44:36 AM
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4180 posts since 5/1/2003

I priced Nechvilles “flux capacitor” once. As I remember it was $1000!

Apr 23, 2024 - 10:23:14 AM
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Players Union Member



1403 posts since 11/8/2014

Originally posted by Ks_5-picker

I priced Nechvilles “flux capacitor” once. As I remember it was $1000!

I bought one of these about 8 or so years ago, and it was not that much, somewhere under $200 if I remember correctly.  I make them myself out of wood, and they are not that difficult to make.  

Apr 23, 2024 - 1:23:54 PM
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13132 posts since 10/27/2006

Kay comes immediately to mind—1931 till the company went under in 1968. It was an older version of the SV Neck adjuster You can adjust the action anywhere from flat on the fretboard to a couple inches over the 12th fret—I am not exaggerating. The Nechville system is an updated version but the principal is the same.

ODE and others have had dowel stick adjusters—as has been pointed out, the range is quite limited.

Apr 23, 2024 - 6:43:02 PM
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168 posts since 3/8/2008

Here is a Cole at a different angle from davidppp's picture, and a Kraske 1897 with such a device.

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