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Jun 20, 2024 - 10:28:02 PM



252 posts since 1/23/2009

Howdy friends. I'm putting together a parts banjo: Ebay block rim; Gold Tone neck/tone ring; Price SL5; Prucha pot-metal flange ... a bit of a Frankenbanjo. I'm thinking of trying to get the tone ring cryogenically treated - does anyone know of anyone who offers this service for aftermarket parts?
Also, is it possible to do the same to a pot-metal flange or other metal components? If so, is it desirable? Thanks,

Jun 21, 2024 - 5:04:02 AM

10 posts since 6/19/2024

Forgive my ignorance, but why would you want to freeze a tone ring?

There's a company called nitrofreeze who seem to freeze whatever you want with a minimum charge of $95, I can't imagine a tone ring would be more than that.

Jun 21, 2024 - 6:03 AM
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327 posts since 12/12/2021

My understanding is that cryo is done to prevent future breakage, but may cause that break to occur during cryo? There's a company called Accurate Cryo in Chattanooga Tennessee that I was planning on using to treat some parts of my transmission output shaft for my Cummins conversion. I really doubt you want to cryo any of that.

Jun 21, 2024 - 6:06:05 AM
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17571 posts since 8/30/2006

All of the metals, pot to cast have molecules that are just there, there is no alignment to the grain of each molecule like with wooden product.
Thus I am very curious about different technologies being adapted to our little niche.

(Aside, tongue in cheek: a thread went by where different methods of installing capo spikes were discussed, Then someone offered the opinion that freezing the spikes first and letting them expand into the pre-drilled hole would eliminate glue, and pounding with a jeweler's hammer and so on.
The spikes are too small and they warm up immediately out of the freezer, then dry ice, etc. It's a dream that can't come true. And the last thing you want is a broken frozen spike.

So let us less informed with more curiousity be better informed about the alignment of molecules to make better music.
Please let us know.

Jun 21, 2024 - 6:50:35 AM



252 posts since 1/23/2009

Heya Helix. I was reading up on the forums here about cryo strings a while back, and stumbled upon some threads re: tone rings. A few folks were saying they thought it improved the sound to their ear, don't know the purported explanation. I thought I'd price check it before doing a deep dive, see if it was even worth further investigation or if it was cost-prohibitive/ineffective in the first place.

Jun 21, 2024 - 7:58:56 AM
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5148 posts since 2/20/2016

"Cryogenic" appeared out of nowhere a few years ago. Maybe it has an effect, maybe not. If it does, is it positive or negative? I don't know. Since it's new, it has automatically attracted an "in" crowd. These sort of things come along every now and again. It's another example of marketing.

All I know is if it works, great. If it doesn't, or something goes wrong, you will have to buy a new tone ring.

Jun 21, 2024 - 9:18:42 AM

5470 posts since 11/20/2004

There was a lot of talk about it @ 15 years ago. Sullivan banjos sold their own cryo treated ring for a while. I looked into it, but never had one treated. I live near a lot of Nascar shops and supposedly, many of their parts are treated, adding to durability. The Sullivan ring was a good ring, but over time it seemed to pass like many other fads. Try it and let us know your results. Wear is no issue on a ring, but lining up the molecules could help?

Jun 21, 2024 - 9:30:20 AM
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327 posts since 12/12/2021

It won't help with a 'cast' part. Forged perhaps... waste of your money. Spend it on a better ring if needed.

Jun 21, 2024 - 9:44:26 AM
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23269 posts since 7/6/2005

I think cryogenics is more of a marketing gimmick than a valid beneficial process. I have a Sullivan Festival Deluxe with a Sullivan cryogenic tone ring that sounds terrific. Whether the cryo-treatment has enhanced the sound is neither measurable nor objective .

Jun 21, 2024 - 11:35:17 AM

3387 posts since 3/30/2008

"Cryo" is still a big marketing buzzword in the knife steel world. If you're planning on putting a bearing edge on your tone ring as sharp as a razor, it might just help.

Edited by - tdennis on 06/21/2024 11:35:43

Jun 21, 2024 - 11:36:33 AM
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3375 posts since 1/15/2014

Gibson didn't cryogenically treat their rings. What's the point of doing this if the goal is to replicate a prewar sound?

Jun 21, 2024 - 11:53:52 AM

15407 posts since 6/2/2008

I've been using GHS cryogenic strings for several years now. PF-190, Americana Series lights.

I realize I may be falling for hype, and I know this is all subjective perception, but to me newly installed cryogenic strings sound and feel better than the GHS standard stainless steel I was previously using. And they seem to last longer -- though that's also possibly a result of my playing less in total than in the past and splitting my playing mostly between two banjos. I bought multi-packs during MusiciansFriend's "Rocktober" sale two years in a row, so they cost me pretty much the same as untreated stainless steel.

My experience with cryogenic strings does not interest me in the slightest in trying a cryogenic tone ring or having one of my rings irreversibly treated.

Jun 21, 2024 - 12:02:51 PM
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5148 posts since 2/20/2016

Well, temps get below zero just about every year in Kalamazoo. 

If Gibson's warehouse was unheated during the 1920's and 30's,  maybe that's the mysterious magical mythical X factor that everyone's been overlooking . . .   surprise  cheeky

And yes, I'm only kidding.

Edited by - rcc56 on 06/21/2024 12:18:03

Jun 22, 2024 - 8:09:35 AM
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34 posts since 4/19/2024


Chiming in on some metallurgy and “blacksmith” info. Metals, whether pure or alloys like bronze, can be thought of as “balls” as individual atoms that are packed together. Bronze as a general term is copper mixed with tin. The allow was developed historically as a preferable alternative to pure copper because it is not as brittle.

When viewed through atomic lenses the atoms swirl and flow as a liquid when melted mixing with diffusion. Like water ice crystals, the rate of cooling at various temperatures affects the size and orientation of the crystals. When metals are melted, the cooling rate changes the structure of the way the “spheres” of the metal atoms pack together with different crystal sizes and orientations. It is this set of orientations of crystals as well as the ratio of metals in the bronze that impacts the tone when sound waves bounce off the tone ring.

For the unique crystal orientations to occur one must first soften the metal with heat and then cool it to affect the crystal formation.

Cryogenic quenching is a fairly well understood method of creating fast formed tiny crystals in a recently forged, still hot metal as the atoms are just starting to come together.

For cryo to affect a tone ring, one would want to heat the metal first to a temperature above a phase that either provides a glass transition temperature (looks like generally in the range of 200-500 Celsius for a few hours depending on the composition and mass (heat index of metals depends on the mass of metal that you are trying to soften). Once the bronze has been softened it could be cryogenically quenched. The use of low temperature quenching is typically to produce fast, disordered crystals which makes the material harder but also less resistant to shattering.

I am unsure of the affect that the effect of the microcrystalline structure has on the tone.

It is definite that simply taking a piece of bronze already in a crystalline phase as a tone ring and cooling it to any low temperature from ice water to dry ice in acetone (a common low temp bath in distillations) to liquid nitrogen will not change the tone or crystal structure. Unless you take the temp above a glass transition for a length of time or melt the metal, the cryogenic treatment would be a waste.

You could, however, with home equipment take a pair of tone rings, place one in a conventional oven at somewhere above 250 c for several hours which will soften the metal. Then go to your local either university chemistry department or an industry that uses liquid nitrogen (even some Starbucks today have liquid N2 to supply their Nitro cold brew nitrogen) and fill an old styrofoam cooler. Be careful not to spill it on yourslef because it will cause frostbite over long periods of touch). The rapidly transfer the hot tone ring from the oven to the bubbling liquid nitrogen and it will spew but rapidly freeze your bronze tone ring. Then as you assemble the banjo, test the two tone rings and see if you have any subjective difference in tone. Would be a cool experiment.

Jun 23, 2024 - 1:45:37 AM

143 posts since 12/16/2014

Treating or dipping a tone ring in liquid nitrogen is about as dumb as dumb can be. Your taking ambient temperature metal and freezing it to -320.4 degrees F….the sudden temp swing and cold migration to the metal results in the metal being brittle and will crack and or break.

Jun 23, 2024 - 2:15:41 PM



12398 posts since 2/7/2008

"What would Earl do"?

Was Earl's tone ring cryogenically treated?

If I were building a bluegrass banjo and needed to buy a new tone ring, I would just buy a Sullivan flathead ring. They sound great and are price competitive.

There are many other things that will help a banjo sound good. The rim construction, the tone ring fit, head tightness, bridge, depth of the pot in the resonator to start.

Edited by - Fathand on 06/23/2024 14:16:12

Jun 23, 2024 - 4:11:57 PM

111 posts since 4/14/2024

Here's a thought...get your banjo all put together and then record a dozen or so songs. Then take the tone ring out, do the cryo thing, put it back in and then record the same dozen songs. Then post it here for everybody to hear..sounds like an interesting experiment!

Jun 24, 2024 - 6:55:11 PM

4182 posts since 5/1/2003

I had Bill Sullivan cryo treat my ball bearing ring some time between 2003 and when he passed. They were selling the cryo ring at the time and I asked him if he thought it would help my ‘26. He said he didn’t know but for $50 I thought it was worth a try. I thought at the time that it helped but there were other variables too.
I’ve been using amb strings for years. I’m convinced they last longer and the prices haven’t escalated like other brands.

Jun 25, 2024 - 8:58:35 AM



3955 posts since 10/23/2004

I had a Tenn20 treated back in 2007 by First Quality.

Not sure if they still offer it though .

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