March banjos and a fiddle, and a new situation

This past month has been unusual.  We have not yet been directly affected by the COVID-19 pandemic but it is changing how we do a lot of things.  I work alone when building instruments, and the workshop is here at the farm where I live, so my ability to work has not been affected by the closure of non-essential businesses.  I have enough hardware and wood to keep building instruments for several months, and as long as the mail continues to run I will be happy to send out instruments.  I normally am happy to have visitors come to try out instruments in person, but I will not be able to do this until the social distancing orders are lifted.  I know this is a very difficult time for a lot of people, and I hope that we will come out of it soon.

The first project I completed in March was a fiddle made from salvaged wood from a gym floor.  The customer likes to apply the finishes himself, so I sent him the fiddle “in the white”.  It has an Adirondack spruce soundboard and jatoba fingerboard, chinrest and tailpiece. OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

I completed a batch of four banjos at the end of the month.  #141 was a walnut 12″ with aged brass hardware, Rocklite Ebano trim and a John Balch head.  The customer ordered a charming pendant depicting a frog playing a banjo from an Etsy seller, and I inlaid it into the peghead.



#142 was an 11″ walnut left handed banjo, with aged brass hardware and a rosewood fretboard. OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

#143 was a 12″ cherry banjo.  It was originally going to be a stock banjo, but when I was partway through the build a customer wrote who wanted a banjo like #136, which this one was built to replace, only with a brass tone hoop and two extra fretboard dots.  Both of those were changes I could still make to this banjo, so it became a semi-custom build.


Banjo #144 is a walnut C scale and is shown on the Banjos page.   In April I have two stock banjos, a custom banjo and a custom guitar to build.

2 thoughts on “March banjos and a fiddle, and a new situation

  1. George Wilson says:

    Loved the write up! Quick question… should I invest in a drum dial for the head tension? I watched a couple videos by Banjo Ben Clark discussing this topic. Thanks

    ~George Wilson, Jr.



    • hoytbanjos says:

      Thank you very much. I personally have never used a drum dial, but I know some people like them a lot. I’ve always just tightened the head till it seems tight, which is pretty subjective. On your banjo I left the head a bit on the slack side, since it was a skin head and I didn’t know what kind of humidity conditions it would be traveling through in the mail. With skin heads I am always a little bit afraid of the head shrinking too much and splitting. I’ve never had it happen but I have heard of it happening to other folks occasionally.


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