Jan 13, 2013

Banjo Boys, Chapter 5

Monty applying tape to his rose inlay

Today was a warm, drizzly day; a perfect day for working on Dynaflow banjos!  Monty and Clint came to the house a little before 9:00 AM.  Today was a day to complete the fixes to the fret slots begun last week, and to get started on the decorative inlay for the necks and pegheads.

These are going to be three very different and unique instruments.  Monty is decorating his in floral themes with a couple of beautiful and intricate roses.  His current plan is to use simple pearl dots as fret markers (specific frets are marked with single or double markers to help the player navigate).  Clint is making his neck with a couple of barn swallows rendered in pearl and abalone.  The remainder of the neck will be covered with various sized dots of pearl or brass with occasional 5-pointed stars.  The overall effect reminds me of the milky way in the night sky.  And my banjo has a strictly "Buick" theme, using stars and the letters B-U-I-C-K as the markers.

We started today with Monty laying out his pearl, Clint using the drill press and multiple-sized drill bits to lay out his Milky Way, and my starting to rout out the depression in which a Buick "trishield" medallion will reside on my peghead.

Clint's "Milky Way" pattern

One of the more interesting challenges arose around Monty's pearl assembly.  The pre-cut pearl from the vendor comes glued to a piece of stiff paper.  At first, we were unsure how to remove the paper without damaging the pearl, some of which is incredibly delicate.  I had gone to the pearl vendor's Web site and found a video describing his recommended process.  He sticks Scotch Tape© to the top surface of the pearl and then immerses the whole assembly - tape, pearl, and backing paper - into hot water.  The glue holding the pearl to the paper dissolves and the pearl comes free, held together by the tape!  Neither Monty nor I believed that the Scotch Tape would continue to adhere to the pearl after being immersed in water.  We did an experiment with some of my Buick letters, which were also backed up by stiff paper.  Lo and behold it worked.  The adhesive gets really gooey, but it continues to adhere to the pearl.  So by close of business, Monty had successfully gotten his fret grooves finished and had his rose fastened to his peghead.  That, too is an interesting process.

My peghead

To rout the depression where the pearl inlay is going, the craftsman needs a precise outline that matches the piece or pieces to be inlaid.  To accomplish this, the object to be inlaid is glued to the surface using Duco
 Household Cement.  Then, the builder carefully etches a line around the edge of the object using a sharp tool such as an Exacto knife.  Then a few drops of acetone are applied around the edge of the pearl.  This soaks into the glue and dissolves it, allowing the piece to be removed without breaking it.  A little chalk can be rubbed into the etched line to make it stand out, and the router is used to cut the depression inside the line.

Clint got most of his holes drilled and dots glued in place.  He also cut out the rough shape of his peghead.  I got my peghead decoration in place (though not yet glued) and my peghead shape cut out.  Mary Ann had the idea of shaping the peghead like one of the Buick shields.

And, of course, we had lunch again at Fayetteville's fabulous Chuck Wagon restaurant!

The fabulous Chuck Wagon Cafe

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