April banjos and a guitar

Banjo #145 was my first completed instrument in April.  It is a C scale made from cherry with somewhat wavy grain, not tight enough to be called curly.


The other two April banjos are #146 and #147, both 12″, curly maple and cherry respectively.  They are both shown on the Banjos page.

My last project in April was a left handed guitar based on a Gibson L-0.  It has curly birch for the back and sides, Adirondack spruce for the soundboard, African mahogany for the neck, and walnut binding.


My plans for May are to build four or five banjos, depending on how the time goes.

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.

February banjos and guitars

February is a short month, and it was a busy one in the shop for me this year.  I worked on all 5 instruments concomitantly and put the finish on them all on the same day, while I had the wood stove going in the winter finishing room.

The first one I got set up was acoustic guitar #9, a walnut guitar with western red cedar soundboard and cherry binding.  The customer requested a few extra thing on this guitar, including a pre-made fancy rosette, snakewood bridge pins, and Waverly tuners with snakewood buttons.  This guitar is now on its way to England, and I hope the customer will like it once she receives it in a week or ten days.



The next instrument to be completed was a wood topped banjo, with a back like a guitar wold have.  I am not sure of the proper name for this instrument.  The customer has an antique instrument of this type and wanted to try having a new one made.  He did the inlay work and designed the instrument, and I put it together.  The rim (or side assembly) is made from a piece of Keller drum shell with a thick cherry veneer on the outside, and guitar style kerfed linings.   The soundboard is western red cedar, the back and neck are also cherry, and the fretboard is Rocklite Ebano.  The customer kindly sent me a picture of the new instrument and the old one together.  I was pleasantly surprised by how loud and resonant this instrument was, and I made a short video of it.



Banjo #139 was my other custom project for February, I left it till last because I knew it would take longest to set up.  A customer who has one of my much earlier banjos, from 2017, asked me if I could make a banjo with a removable resonator, and it took me a few hours to figure out how to make it work.  I had the general idea of attaching a bracket to the dowel stick, but I wanted to make it so that when the resonator and bracket are removed it looks just like a normal open back banjo.  This is what I ended up making, the bracket is made from Douglas fir so it won’t scratch the dowel stick when coming off and on.




On Friday I set up banjo #140 and resonator guitar #5, which are shown on the Banjos and Guitars pages.  I am hoping to build a C scale banjo in March, and perhaps a Mastertone style bluegrass banjo if time permits along with the 2 custom banjos and a fiddle that are on the calendar.

January banjos and dulcimers

My first job in January was to make a banjo pot and fit it to a neck I had made for someone last year.  He supplied the hardware and I made the rim and put it all together.


Then came a batch of 5 banjos.  Banjo #134 was a walnut 10″ A scale slot head.


Banjo #135 was a cherry 12″.  The customer inlaid a bird in the peghead overlay and sent it for me to install on the banjo.



Banjos #136, 137 and 138 are all stock instruments and are shown on the Banjos page.

Dulcimers #47 and 48 were the last projects in January.  They are both shown on the Dulcimers page, which is found on the Other Instruments page.

February’s work is going to be two banjos, a banjo hybrid, an OM size acoustic guitar and a squareneck resonator guitar.

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 BanjoHangout.org 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)