Making an armrest for banjo #44

In January I did a series of posts detailing the construction of banjo #44, which is to be the prize in a free drawing on BanjoHangout coming soon.  I got to thinking that I should make an armrest for it, so I did a little bit ago but didn’t get it posted till now.  This type of all-wood armrest was pioneered by Jason Romero of Romero Banjos, and the shape of mine is patterned loosely after the side view of the classic metal armrests that have been around for a century or so.  Step 1 was to find a suitable piece of wood, at least 1.5″ thick to make the side of the armrest and draw the outer curve on it using the handy template for 12″ banjos.


Once I cut the outside I drew a line about 1/4″ inside it, using my finger as a depth gauge to make a relatively uniform thickness.


Then I cut it off and sanded the inside smooth on the spindle sander, since it is less accessible once the top goes on.


Then I used the template again to draw the shape of the top on another piece of cherry.


I cut it out, sliced it to about 1/4″ thick and glued it onto the side.  When I came back the next day I sanded the outside of the assembly smooth, and then used the tomato paste can to draw the curves.  I then used a 1/4″ roundover bit in the router table to radius the edge where the top and side come together.  This makes me nervous so I do it very carefully.


Then I took it back to the bandsaw and cut off the bulk of the waste at the corners, using a block of wood to support the armrest.


Then I used the spindle sander to clean up the inside curves on the sides and the inner edge of the top and the disc sander to smooth out everything else.  I did a bit with a random orbit sander and then some hand sanding at the end to get everything smooth.  Then I drilled a hole 3/8″ up from the bottom edge and used a countersink to make it match the screw.  I took it out to the loft and applied the Tru Oil in 5 coats over the next 2 days.


Once the finishing was done I brought it back to the shop and made the bracket from 1/8″x1/2″ brass left over from making tension hoops.  I bent it to match the curve of the rim, made a notch in each end to fit over each hook with the belt sander, drilled a hole in the middle and tapped it for an 8-32 screw.  I cut the extra length off the screw and sanded the end smooth.


Then I mounted it on the banjo.  It takes an hour or so to do the work of making an armrest, spread out over a few days.