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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?

I spent a couple of hours trying to figure out how I would fit the tailpiece and here's how it all ended up. I can see now that this picture is a bit dark, but I can explain...

The strap lug is fitted and a bolt is poking through that into the bottom of the  tailpiece. It's a tight fit, but it's close enough for me to string it all back up and everything to line up as it should. I'm not over the moon about it, but this is a vast improvement on what I had before.

And here's the other end of the strap attached to a lug closer to the neck.

It's a great feeling to be able to hold it with a strap and play it. One thing that I will say though is that the balance isn't quite as I'd like it. The instrument is slightly neck heavy which means that it falls down if I let go of it.

I'm not sure what I can do about this. But bear in mind... I still have to finish off the neck, so maybe I'm worrying about nothing?

Time to reveal my disaster... 

Look at this hole I drilled for the strap lug. Have you spotted what's wrong?

It's on the wrong side! Hey, I wonder if fitting the strap to this side would solve the balance problem? I should try that out.

What a pillock! I measured twice... three times... only I forgot to take into account that the body was upside down when I drilled the hole. Dur!

I hope I can laugh about it some time in the future. For now, it is there to remind me how easy it is to screw things up. Whatever happens,I reckon I'll leave the hole there as a reminder to myself - a little detail that only you and I know the meaning of. ;-)

Update: I just tried the strap on the "wrong" side and it only went and fixed the balance issue. I guess it's the new "right" side from here on in! Ha ha!

I've still got a bloody hole where I don't want one though! Damn, damn, damn!

And that's where I leave the build today. What a long, frustrating session. I'm desperate to varnish the banjo, but I've still got a couple of things I need to do first.

Before I shoot off, I want to show you this fantastic video from +James Morris where he shows us a technique he's trialling for making banjo heads out of recycled plastic. In this instance he's repurposing an old soda bottle, but as he explains, there are all sorts of old packages that could be used.

James calls these PETE heads after the PETE #1  recycling symbol that can be found on the plastic bottle. Plastic bearing this symbol is considered safe for reuse and looking at the video above, I think that James has found a pretty clever use for it!

There may be practical limits to the size of the head you could make this way, but it's certainly an idea worth exploring sometime. Well done James!

I left you with a song about Mona this morning and now I'll leave you with a song about darling Cora. I'm spotting hints of Ralph Stanley in this wonderful little tune by Clifton Hicks and I love that mountain banjo... It looks and sounds great!

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