January instruments

I started off the year with a couple of unusual (for me) custom jobs.  The first was a mandolin made from maple lumber salvaged from an old gym floor which had sentimental significance.  It was supplied unfinished. This was my first time working with Adirondack spruce, and my first time installing a pickguard and binding on a mandolin.


The other custom job for January was my first left handed fiddle, and also my first chicken head fiddle made from walnut.


Banjos 101 through 104 were all in-stock instruments and are shown on the Banjos page. I also made a curly maple dulcimer which is on the Dulcimers page, which is under the Other Instruments page.

December banjos

In December my first project was to build banjo #98 from a walnut board that was supplied by the customer.  It came from a tree that was planted by a neighbor of his and blew down in a storm. PC160004.jpgPC160006.jpg

My next job was to build a replacement for a broken vintage banjo neck.  This also involved salvaging a piece of bone inlay from the old peghead and putting it in the new.


Banjos #99 and 100 are stock banjos shown on the Banjos page.  2018 was a very good year in the workshop.  I built 40 banjos this year, more than ever before, along with a few necks and other parts, three fiddles, a resonator guitar, an acoustic guitar, a dulcimer and a couple of experimental bass projects.  I’m looking forward to seeing how 2019 goes.

November instruments

My first project in November was to build a cello banjo, #92.  It is shown on the Banjos page.  #93 was a custom walnut 10″ C scale banjo with an extra-thin D shaped neck.  I used a low profile truss rod to get an 18mm neck depth along the full length.  This banjo also has pearl dots instead of brass.


I also made a custom walnut 5 string neck with hickory trim for an old Vega pot:


I made another dulcimer since I have been out of stock of them for a few months, it’s shown on the Other Instruments page, on the Dulcimers page.

Banjos 94 through 97 are all stock instruments, shown on the Banjos page.  Doing custom work provides more variety but stock instruments are nice to make because I don’t have to figure out new measurements before I build them.   Also during November I got back banjo #62 and the chicken-head fiddle I had made for the exhibit at TAUNY last January.  Someone who had seen the exhibit came down to look at the banjo once the exhibit was over, and he ended up buying the other ash banjo I had in stock at the time.  Banjo #62 has a link on its page to a NCPR story with some high quality audio of the banjo being played by a very skilled musician.  The chicken head fiddle can be found on the Fiddles page now that it is available.

October banjos

Banjo #85 was a left handed cherry C scale that I began in late September for a customer and got it done in early October.





My next scheduled project was to make a mahogany neck to fit a vintage pot.


Then came #86, a walnut 12″ with Whyte Laydie type tone ring.  This was a stock banjo that was spoken for before I made it, so it didn’t end up on the Banjos page.


Banjo #87 is a cherry 12″ with a round brass tone hoop, and is my first time using pau ferro for a fretboard.  I really like how it looks, and it seems nice and hard.


Banjo #s 88 to 91 were all made in a batch, along with #87, and they all appear on the Banjos page.  I had not tried making a batch this size before and I think it did provide some extra efficiency in setting up machines and jigs, and getting tools out and putting them away, but I also had to be careful to keep track of which parts were for what banjo so they didn’t get mixed up.  I will be building a cello banjo soon to have in stock, and I have two banjos and a neck scheduled for custom builds in November.  I also hope to get a couple of dulcimers made soon, and perhaps another squareneck resonator guitar.



Summer banjos and such

I had been meaning to continue with monthly reports showing what I’ve been doing in the shop, but over the summer I let myself fall behind.  I’ll get back to doing things in a more timely way now that fall is here.

In June I started by building a custom fiddle with walnut ribs and neck and a curly maple back.


Then I made a neck and pot for someone who was building a tenor banjo and wanted the parts partially done so he could apply the finishing touches:


And a rim for another customer:


Early in July I completed banjo #79, one of my regular 12″ walnut banjos, shown on the Banjos page.

In mid-July I finished #80, an internal resonator walnut banjo similar to #66 that was made for the BHO giveaway.  This banjo has a John Balch goatskin head.  I had heard a lot of good things about Mr. Balch and his work and the head was even nicer than I had expected.


Later in July I made this washtub bass for a customer, based on the information on Dennis Havlena’s web page.  The customer wanted flush frets, so I used jatoba inserts on an ash fingerboard.  Most of the rest of the wood was cherry.  The height-adjustable toilet plunger foot was also an idea of the customer’s.


In August I made two C scale banjos for people who had meant to buy the last stock one I had made.  #81 is mahogany and #82 is walnut.


#82 is set up with nylgut minstrel banjo strings and tuned in open G.  The customer sent the strings to be put on it and I was surprised by how well they worked on such a short scale banjo.

The rim I had made for a customer in June evolved into banjo #83, supplied unfinished.  I didn’t get it done till early September.


Banjo #84 is a cherry A scale with a 12″ pot.  This was my first time using Rocklite Sundari which is made to look like rosewood, it’s the fretboard and rim cap on this banjo.  I like how it works and looks and will continue to use it.


In mid-September my other project was to make a marimbula, which was a thing I hadn’t heard of till the customer asked about it.  This was made for the same folks who commissioned the washtub bass and several other instruments over the last year and a half.  I’ve had a lot of fun working for them and getting to try out new things.


Right now I am working on a left handed custom banjo and a stock 12″ walnut banjo which I hope to have done in the next ten days or so, along with a few sundry parts for other folks.  I will post a shorter update sooner next time.

Back at it again


I am back in the shop and making banjos (and other things) again.  My trip went well and for anyone who may be interested I’ve posted a trip report on the Adirondack Forum at the link below:


Here’s a link to a photo album on Flickr of some of the things I saw along the way:


I’ve got some custom jobs lined up through the end of November, but I’ll also be hoping to get some in-stock banjos made this fall, once I get caught up with things here on the farm.

I’ll be away August 22-28

I’ve not been keeping up with posting pictures of the things I’ve been building, but I will get back to it soon.  It’s been a busy summer at the farm, and I am leaving on the 22nd for my annual vacation, bicycle camping in the Adirondacks.  I’ll be out of cell service most of the time while I’m up there.  I’ll be back on the 28th and will reply as promptly as possible to all emails that have come in while I was gone.

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May banjos

I am very late in posting this, but I can still remember what happened in May so it’s not too late yet.  I’ve gotten involved in an unexpected roofing task which has been keeping me busier than normal this month in my ‘day job’ here at the farm.  May started out with #76, another banjo very much like #64 and built for the same owner:

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Next came #77, a custom walnut C scale:

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My custom job for the last 10 days of May cancelled so I had some spare time and made a C scale banjo from mahogany to have in stock, #78.  It’s shown on the Banjos page.  I’ll have more to post soon about June’s instruments.

April- a parlor guitar and a roundneck resonator

April was almost all guitars for some reason.  The first project (for the first half of April) was my 5th acoustic guitar, and first parlor guitar.  It was a custom ordered project, made from walnut with Stew-Mac torrefied spruce for the soundboard and braces, persimmon fretboard and curly maple binding.  I was surprised by how big the sound of this guitar was, it has as much volume as any I have built.  Here’s a link to a very short video clip of it:


During the construction of this guitar I also took a bit of time to set up banjo #75, which I had mostly built by the end of March.  It ss a stock walnut banjo and is shown on the Banjos page.

The second half of April mostly went into making my third resonator guitar.  It was also custom ordered, and was my first roundneck resonator(designed to be played like a regular guitar, not flat on the lap with a steel slide) and first guitar of any kind with a cutaway.  It was made from cherry with walnut binding and an ebony fretboard.  I didn’t make a video of it as I have not learned to play with a bottleneck slide, but when the customer picked it up he seemed to like the sound.  It had the same hardware as the two squareneck resonators I built before, using a Beard Original cone and Beard #14 spider, and since the cone and spider are what produce most of the sound it is pretty similar to them, I think.

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In May I have two custom banjos to build, and then some extra time due to a cancellation, which I may fill by making a chicken head fiddle and another C scale banjo to have in stock.

March instruments

I meant to make this post two weeks ago, but time slipped away.  In March I started with a custom banjo, #70, a 12″ walnut A scale.

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#71 was a walnut stock banjo, shown on the Banjos page

#72 was a custom ordered walnut 12″ with a Dobson heel and no dots


#s 73 and 74 were also walnut stock banjos, shown on the Banjos page.

I also had the chance to make a replacement copy of a badly broken and even more badly repaired banjo neck, the customer sent me the pot and the remains of the neck, which he had bought somewhere, and I copied the neck design fairly closely.


In non-banjo news I also had time to build another chicken head fiddle(fiddle #19), for a customer who was waiting for it.  This is similar to the previous chicken head fiddle I made in January except it has a jatoba fingerboard instead of hop-hornbeam.