Thursday, June 2, 2011

Tim's Saphire Banjo (IW#006)

I got a very nice message from a friend in Maine asking me if I would make him a banjo.  I was happy to say "yes," but as I got deeper into this project one thing above all  others became painfully apparent:  there is a reason that people study for years to become luthiers.  An old chunk of lumber nailed to a cigar box is one thing, an actual working five string banjo is quite another.

As can be imagined, the hardest thing here was carving the neck and keeping the proportions right.  I learned a lot, was humbled a lot, and in the end came out with a reasonably serviceable banjo.  It is a little muted, I realised, because the oil can is closed.  I am not sure where to put a sound hole, though.  And the action is a little high as well, which has to do with the placement of the neck vis-a-vis the oil can.

The neck is carved out of long-leaf pine that has for the last hundred years held up the roof of a warehouse here in town.  When the building was gutted last year I got my hands on some of the beams and have been using the wood for a lot of projects.  I love the smell of it, and the feel of it too.  It has a lovely warm tone, and the smell is a hot old attic, nostalgic and comforting.
I had to do some serious trickery to use the guitar tuner for the fifth string.

 In the end IW #006 is fun to play, mostly because you can feel the rust scale under your hands as you play so that there is a tactile reminder of the fact that you are playing an oil can.  Which is a good thing for a number of reasons, not least because I feel that we all could stand to be reminded more regularly about how silly we are as humans.  What a fun project.  Thanks Tim!  I hope you enjoy it and play it with a smile on your face.

1 comment:

  1. Holy smokes! Your playing of that beautiful banjo is terrific. I don't know if I could nail down chords changes on a fretless, like this. Really cool stuff, Zeke.