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26 April 2015

Highwayman Banjo: Terminado!

I've finished! The build is done! Woohoo!

I had one last job to do last night before fitting it all back together...

Raise your glasses to the Highwayman Banjo! 

25 April 2015

Highwayman Banjo: Varnish and be done!

I'm drawing to the end of my Highwayman Banjo build! I've been at this for at least a year now and I'm almost done. I can't quite believe it. Today I set out to do the final shaping of the neck. It took a while, but I got it done with time to spare...

I don't have any shaping pictures for you. Here's me having cleaned the neck down with white spirit. The wood looks quite dark due to it still being a little damp. This was the first hint of how the wood was going to turn out with varnish on. Looking good! I had high hopes.

I didn't plan to do any banjo building today, but was forced into it when I realised that  I was starting to mark the wood by playing it unfinished.

The mahogany sanded down a treat. It really does make a difference to the feel of the banjo knowing that I'm not going to spike myself with a splinter

19 April 2015

Highwayman Banjo: Wish I'd reflected a bit longer

This morning I did an update on the Highwayman Banjo build not thinking that I'd get to do any more on it today. Oh, how I wish I'd waited until next weekend to take the project forward. Let me explain...

It is important when beginning to do something that cannot be undone, that you measure twice, cross your fingers and toes, and generally take every precaution you can think of to make sure that you don't bugger it up.

 Listen to my wise words... You'd think that I knew what I was doing wouldn't you?

Highwayman Banjo: A Time to Reflect

I seem to have drifted into a bit of a lull with the Highwayman Banjo building. Time has been short and I've been spinning a number of different plates. Even so, I reckon I can scrape together a bit of an update for you.

I was trying to figure out the best way to attach the tailpiece to the body when I made the mistake of searching for broken drums and drum parts on eBay. What took my eye was a particularly grubby-looking lot for metal parts salvaged from a 12 inch tom tom.

I didn't really want the hoops. It might seem odd, but these don't lend themselves to banjo making due to their tall rims: you can't get the strings close to the skin without some pretty major surgery.

What had piqued my interest were the lugs. They're bigger than banjo lugs and look great into the bargain. Perhaps I could use one to hold the tail in place? Unfortunately, I've since found out that these lugs are too big for the Highwayman so they're going into a box until I can find a use for them,

12 April 2015

How to make a banjolele bridge

This post is a poke in the eye to all the conventional bridge-makers out there. I'm pioneering a return to grass-roots banjo-building and it starts right now with the bridge!

A short while ago I made a Pete Seeger-style bridge for my Highwayman Banjo. As lovely as that fancy bridge is, it has sparked in me an interest in single-foot bridges which just won't go away.

Today I'm going to share with you my first foray into banjolele bridge-making. Let me explain...

Although these bridges mark the start of a new era in luthiery history, I'm starting with quite a conventional first step. Here I am gluing a thin veneer of ebony to a thicker block of maple.

Highwayman Banjo - Buffalo Soldier

Time for a quick update on the Highwayman Banjo build. I was going to promise to try to keep on-topic, but I won't make promises I can't keep...

Isn't this picture great! I've swiped it from the Trapper Creek Bluegrass Festival page on Facebook. The festival is on the 22 May at Trapper Creek in Alaska. I'm sending our very own Ukulele Blog correspondent, Ukulele Russ along to check the gig out. In fact, I think he might even be playing a set for all the local bluegrass trappers. Brilliant!

4 April 2015

How to make a Pete Seeger banjo bridge - Part 2

If you're interested in knowing how I got to where I did today, then you'd probably be best jumping back to Part 1 in my quest to build a Pete Seeger style bridge.

I did a l little more work on the bridge and got it playable. There's a short sound-check below for you to get a feel for how it's all gone.

Let me start with a close-up of the bridge as it looks fitted to my Highwayman Banjo. I've trimmed off the arm tabs that were poking through the bridge and rounded off most edges. I keep listening for a gunshot sound as it collapses under the weight of the strings, but so far it is looking like it is up to the job!


3 April 2015

Highwayman Banjo - Over the (Bad) Moon

I've been doing hand-springs around the house and carrying Mrs Uke about on my shoulders. What a day! I've spent most of it holed up in the garage, furiously working on my Highwayman Banjo. I've done so much and the end result has surpassed all my expectations. It doesn't happen all that often, so I'm savouring it while I can! Ha ha. Let's relive a little of what I've been up to...

This morning is was all about shaping the banjo neck. I did it in two phases: Phase 1 was to get the depth right; Phase two was to round off the neck. I have gone for the same depth as my Windsor Whirle which is 7/8" at the nut and 1" at the 12th fret. All of the rounding has been done by eye so far and I have no intention of digging out any templates. I'll just keep working it until it feels good to my hands.

See the lump I've left on the neck for where I'm going to fit the 5th string tuner. At this point of the day, I had no idea what I was going to do here, so I left plenty of wood to give me options.

2 April 2015

How to make a Pete Seeger banjo bridge

The title of this post offers a lot of promise. I got all excited yesterday as I convinced myself that I could perhaps make myself a banjo bridge like Pete Seeger's. The idea had never crossed my mind before, and now that it has, I just have to give it a go.

In case you're wondering what bridge I'm talking about... cast your eyes over this picture. It's from the video below. What an unusual bridge with its two arms curling forwards. I posted on google+ asking for hints on how to make one and the feedback was brilliant.

1 April 2015

Highwayman Banjo - How to fit a banjo neck

Sorry for my first aborted attempt at this morning's post. Damn a slow internet connection and damn Google for sticking Close buttons on top of the Publish button. You can guess the rest.

I don't have a great deal to reveal in terms of action, but I do have a lot of thinking going on. Time to reveal what I've been thinking about...

I'd promised that I wouldn't do any more work on my Highwayman Banjo build yesterday and I just couldn't help myself. I guess that makes me a big fat liar!


The short video above shows you that I've temporarily strung the banjo to get a little tune out of it. Wahay! What I was really interested in though, was knowing whether I'd got that bloody neck fitted right. Read on, because I think I'm making progress here.

(In case you don't recognise the tuning, I only ever play "Dead Hand" on the banjo.)