Mar 25, 2013

Banjo Boys, Chapter 15

Today started out kind of dreary, with intermittent rain and even some talk of snow.  Monty decided he had other commitments that prevented his participation in today's festivities.  In fact, Monty has been working on his banjo during the past week, and had sent reports and pictures.  He has now mounted all his brackets, made his own hardware to lock the neck to the rim and installed it, and he has applied his first coat of tung oil finish to the neck.  His banjo is complete to the point of installing the head and setting it up.

Here is the neck tensioning fitting that Monty made from an aluminum billet: 

And this picture shows it installed.

The banjo assembled with the tension hoop and neck is really beautiful.

Monty's banjo is about ready
to receive its head and start being played!
Remember, you can click on any of these images to see them full-size.

So Clint and I were playing catch-up to some extent today to finish as many details as we could.  I cooked up some eggs and Mary Ann prepared bacon and sweet potato biscuits.  After a hearty Banjo Boy Breakfast, we headed to the shop.

Clint started out working on his newly-acquired hardware.  He spent about an hour polishing it prior to installation.  In the meantime, I was attempting to polish my rim.  I used progressively finer sandpaper and emery paper until I reached 1000-grade emery paper.  Then I began polishing, first by hand, then using a buffing wheel mounted in the drill press.  I'm really pleased with the results:

The polished rim turned out better than I expected!
Meanwhile, Clint had turned his attention to bending his tension hoop to get it just right.  We initially formed brass stock into circles by rolling them in a rolling mill at Dan Shady's shop.  The result is a hoop that overlaps itself as shown here:

These hoops are close to circular, but not perfect.  So they have to be tweaked using a round "anvil" made from an old piece of pipe and a rubber mallet.  It's tedious and frustrating to get the hoops exactly right.  And of course, the ends must be cut off where they overlap.  On the tension ring, which will be silver soldered, the ends are cut on an angle to provide a greater surface area in the soldered joint for strength.  Here's our high-tech anvil, on loan from the Shady Boys:

One of the unpleasant discoveries I made while examining the tension hoop material and my assembled banjo is that I didn't create a large enough gap between my fretboard and the rim to accommodate the flesh hoop and the tension hoop.  I'm going to have to enlarge this opening using a chisel or some other mechanism.  This is one of those mistakes that would have been extremely easy to avoid and is going to be an enormous pain to fix...
The groove that's too small for the hoop!

Clint had installed his steel pin that is inserted in a hole drilled through the heel cap and through the dowel rod where it extends into the neck.  This pin provides extra security to prevent the dowel rod from ever pulling loose from the neck.  He wanted to cover up the hole where this pin had been installed.  On eBay, he had acquired a tiny hat pin that looked like a bird in flight encircled by a gold rim.  This tiny jewelry item was about a quarter inch in diameter -- Just about perfect to inlay into the heel cap.  Clint plugged the hole with black-dyed epoxy, let it harden, then inlaid the tiny bird-in-flight.  Here is the result:

Sticking to his "bird" theme throughout, Clint had also acquired a brass-finished bird skull drawer pull from a craftsman on Etsy.  He fastened it to his newly-arrived dowel rod ferrule, where it shall maintain a guard over the banjo.  There's no doubt it will ward off evil spirits:

Clint sent a picture of his banjo after he got home and finished installing the hardware.  He has installed the hooks in the brackets and needs only to finish his tension hoop to be ready to make the head.  

Monty is at about the same stage, but his tension hoop is finished.  Monty still has to make his hooks from some vintage spoons that Dinah acquired for him.  And I need to finish making my brackets and get them installed, shape my tension hoop to get it silver soldered, make my hooks from the navy spoons I got on eBay, and make a head.

The Banjo Boys won't be getting together next week because I'll be away.

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