December instruments

December started off with two 12″ walnut in-stock banjos, 130 and 131.  131 is shown on the Banjos page, 130 doesn’t appear there because a customer asked for first refusal on my next walnut 12″, so I made two and posted the one he didn’t buy.

My next project was a rim and neck to be shipped incomplete, so the customer could do the inlay, fretting, finishing, and such.  This was my first time working on a banjo that is open back but has a flathead tone ring like a bluegrass banjo.  Here is a picture of what it looked like when I sent it out.


Then came banjo #132, which had two firsts for me.  One was the black stained pot, I asked for advice on Banjo Hangout and used Fiebing’s Leather Dye to color the ash rim black.  It is very easy stuff to work with and the Tru Oil finish went on over it easily.  The second first was aging the brass hardware.  The customer read online about how to use coffee grounds to age brass, and sent me a link about it.  I followed the directions but it didn’t have any effect on the test pieces of brass, other than to make them smell faintly like coffee.  Then the customer ordered a bottle of brass ager and had it sent to me, and that aged the brass very thoroughly in 2 minutes of soaking.  It was an interesting banjo to work on, and I got to learn two useful new skills, so that was nice.


Banjo #133 is a slot head, shown on the Banjos page.

My last projects for December didn’t get completed till a few days into January.  Guitar #8 is my first in stock parlor guitar and my first experiment with a new-to-me kind of neck stripe, and fiddle #24 is my first curly maple chicken head fiddle.  They are shown on the Guitars and Fiddles pages, respectively.

My January 2020 projects include 5 banjos that I am working on now, and I hope to have time to squeeze in a dulcimer or two, as I am now out of stock of them.

November banjos and a fiddle

This month has been busy in the shop, but for the first time in a while I haven’t had any custom instruments to build, so I’ve had a chance to make some instruments to restock.  Banjos 125-128 are shown on the Banjos page, and fiddle #23 is on the Fiddles page.  Banjo #129 is the prize in a free drawing on which started today and is running through sometime in late December, as I understand it.


Right now I am making a rim and a tension hoop for someone, and a tone ring for someone else.  My next planned projects are to make another 12″ walnut banjo, a curly maple parlor guitar (similar to the one I made in October but right-handed) and a curly maple chicken head fiddle.

October instruments

At the beginning of October I put the finishing touches on a couple of mandolins that I was building to have in stock.  They are now on the Mandolins page.

Banjo #124 is my first longneck banjo, and the first with a bracket band.  It also has a Whyte Laydie type tone ring so it is quite heavy by my standards, somewhat over 8 pounds.  It was a custom job for someone in Ireland.  Unfortunately the shipping was delayed for a few days due to an outage on the USPS site that affected international shipping labels, but the customer was very nice about it.  I made a short video demo of this banjo:


While I was building #124 I was also working on a mountain banjo-baritone uke hybrid with a minstrel style peghead.   This was my first real mountain banjo pot, and I put the first skin on too tight and had to try again, but that time it seemed to be about the right tension.  This instrument was shipped to the customer for finishing, it’s cherry but the color doesn’t show up a lot in the pictures.  I tried to do a coffee stain on the first (failed) head and a tea stain on the second, shown in the picture, but neither came out very dark.


My last project for October was to build a left handed parlor guitar.  This was my first curly maple guitar and the first to be ordered with no binding on the body.  I accidentally put the side dots in the wrong side of the neck but the customer pointed out the error and now it has dots in both sides, unfortunately.  The soundboard is torrefied spruce, and the rest of the wood is persimmon.


On the 30th I began work on another cherry chicken head fiddle, and I have plans to build a batch of four banjos early in November too.  I don’t have any custom jobs lined up for November.  This is the first time in a long while that I have caught up, as it were.  I don’t mind as I have a couple of months worth of work making stock instruments that I have been putting off, but I’ll be happy to do custom jobs too if any come along.

One of the banjos will be a curly maple C scale (according to my current plan, but it might change) which will be the prize in a free drawing on the home page of BanjoHangout starting in late November if all goes according to plan.



September instruments

I didn’t post an August update because I didn’t complete any instruments in August this year.  I started a guitar-bodied walnut octave mandolin and a cherry A5 type mandolin then, but I only had them about halfway built at the end of the month.  I just put the last coat of finish on both of them today, and at the time of this writing on October 6 I hope to have them set up and listed on the Mandolins page of this site by the end of this week.

In September my first project was to build three banjos.  #119 was a custom 12″ cherry left handed banjo with a slotted peghead.


Banjo #120 was a stock curly maple banjo, it is shown on the Banjos page.

#121 was a custom 10″ A scale banjo made from walnut and with a calfskin head.  This is only the second or third skin head I have stretched myself, and I  still need to work on making the cut edge look neat, but the head seemed to be working when I shipped the banjo out and I haven’t heard yet that it has had a problem.


#s 122 and 123 are shown on the Banjos page.  I made them together, along with a 5+1 neck from walnut with a curly maple stripe and binding that I made to fit an old pot that a customer sent.



Back in the shop again…..

I got back from my trip Sunday afternoon and just got back into the shop for a bit tonight, but I’ll be back to my normal evening work schedule starting tomorrow.  I posted a trip report and pictures again on the Adirondack Forum website, if you’d like to see them please follow the link below.  I have an A5 mandolin and an octave mandolin that are coming together in the shop now, and a couple of banjo rims to also make before getting back to building custom instruments on the first of September.



I’ll be away August 19-25

I’m taking my annual vacation this week, bicycling to the Adirondacks, as I have been doing for 10 years now.  I will be out of reach of communication during most of my trip but I will reply to emails as soon as possible on my return. 29176461016_b363e36894_o (1)

July instruments

Banjo #117 was a custom ash 12″ with a Whyte Laydie type tone ring and a Dobson heel.


#118 was a stock banjo, it can be seen on the Banjos page.

My last two projects were in the works at once. Fiddle #22 is a cherry chicken head and is shown on the Fiddles page, and I made a custom ash neck for a vintage banjo pot that was mailed to me.


My plan for August is to build a cherry A5 style mandolin and a walnut guitar bodied octave mandolin, and a banjo or two if time permits, as I will be gone for a week in the latter part of August as usual.

June instruments

June was another low-production month since I spent a number of evenings working on the roof instead of in the shop, but now the roof job is done and I am back up to full speed, such as it is.  My first June job was a custom 5+1 neck fitted to a very unusual old pot for a customer.



My last custom job for June was an OM size guitar made from cherry and western red cedar with a jatoba fretboard.  It was made for a Banjo Hangout member who was kind enough to make a post about it on BHO, which I will link to below:


Later in June I made a neck for an old banjo pot I got at the flea market.  I didn’t list it here on my web site but it is for sale on the classified listings on BHO at the link below.

Banjos 115 and 116 were stock banjos, I began them in June but didn’t get them completed till early July, and they are both shown on the Banjos page.

May banjos

This May was not one of my more productive months in the workshop, but sometimes that’s how it goes.  My first project was banjo #113, a custom walnut short scale with a WL/Electric type tone ring.


My other completed project was banjo #114, which was a custom curly maple A scale with hickory accents and the same kind of tone ring.


I spent the last 10 days of May working on a banjo neck and starting a guitar, both of which will appear in the June update after they are done.  I had hoped to get the neck done in May before starting the guitar but I caught a cold and lost some time.

April instruments

I am very late writing this update, but I can still remember a lot of what happened in April.   My first project was banjo #111, which is another walnut C scale and can be seen on the Banjos page.

I made two squareneck resonator guitars back in 2014 or so, and the second one sold last summer.  I had been meaning to make another one for a while and I finally got it done in April.  This is my first walnut resonator and my first bound headstock.  It’s shown on the Guitars page.  I made a primitive go-bar press while I was building this resonator and used it for several of the steps, and I am very pleased with how much easier it makes the clamping of large assemblies.  I didn’t think to take any pictures of it in use but I’ll take one next time I use it.

I made two necks in April, the first was an asymmetrical slothead design.


The second neck was a shorter scale length for a uniquely designed mountain banjo pot and was supplied unfinished.


My last project completed in April was a walnut custom banjo (#112) with a fatter neck and a few other alterations from what I  normally build.