Dec 8, 2012

Banjo Boys, Chapter 2...

Monty Love and Clint Rankin -- 2 of the Banjo Boys -- Measure twice, cut once.
Back on November 22 I started the story of the Banjo Boys.  Today was our first official get-together to actually build anything.  Clint and Monty showed up right on time at 9:00 AM, ready to work.  I had already moved my table saw outside to minimize the amount of sawdust we would create inside the shop.  I also had my new band saw at the ready, along with my 6" belt sander.

Bob and Monty cutting a board
I had a 60-something inch long maple board that was 2 inches thick.  It was a clear gorgeous piece of hard rock maple that I have had for at least 20 years.  It needed no further seasoning.  It was about 6 inches wide, so if we cut it in half lengthwise and transversely, we'd have four perfect blanks for banjo necks.  We managed to get that far with all our digits still intact.
Clint setting up clamps
The next step was to determine how far we could angle the headstock (where the tuning pegs go) without running out of wood.  Most banjos seem to have about a 15-degree slope, and that worked out well with the thickness of wood we had to work with.  We then used my jointer (a tool I respect profoundly since it removed part of a finger a few years back) to ensure that the fretboard surface and peghead surfaces were both flat for gluing.  We also had to glue "wings on the headstock area to make it wide enough for the design we intend to use.  Each of us will end up with a slightly different banjo purely based on choices we'll make along the way -- design of the headstock, veneer material for the fretboard and peghead, mother-of-pearl inlay design, hardware choices, color of stain, etc.

We next applied the 1/4 inch thick fretboard veneer, gluing and clamping it carefully.  We amazed ourselves at how much glue can ooze out of a joint as it gets clamped, and how many ways there are to get that glue all over one's self.  After we glued the fretboard, we came in the house for a really fine lunch.  Mary Ann outdid herself with a wonderful hearty soup, Santa Fe soup, made with ground turkey, Rotel tomatoes and corn and chili seasoning.  We had that along with tortilla chips and salsa.  She followed this up with fresh (still warm) pumpkin bread for dessert.  Thanks, Mary Ann.  You helped make this a very special day. The food was perfect and the four of us also enjoyed Clint's wonderful stories about his genealogical research.

The walnut veneer on the headstock
After lunch we began on the veneer for the headstock.  Of course, every piece of wood we touched required two or three cuts and sandings,  We oozed a lot more glue as well.  Clint is using ebony that he acquired on eBay, whereas Monty and I decided upon a beautiful piece of walnut that I had saved many years ago.  I think it's going to look especially nice when the fretboard has some pearl inlay in it and is darkened by an oil finish.

We finished up and cleaned up the shop and were done by 5:00 PM.
The fruits of today's labor

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