Apr 21, 2013

Banjo Boys, Chapter 17

Clint had completed nearly everything as we started today's work.

Today was going to be very special.  As we started the day at Hardee's in Meridianville, Clint and I anticipated the COMPLETION of his banjo.  All that remained for him to complete was finishing his nut (the bone at the top of the fretboard with grooves in it to control the string position), installing the fifth string tuner, a separate nut for the fifth string, and to install strings.  I could almost hear the music.

When we arrived at the shop, Clint started working on his nut.  He had to craft a small wedge-shaped piece of ebony to fit under the nut and glue that in place to create a straight surface to support the nut.  Then he crafted and carefully shaped the nut and glued it in place.  In the meantime, I was installing my fifth string tuner.  This tuner has a tapered shape that is pressed into a tapered recess in the side of the neck.

The tapered reamer

I first made a jig to hold the neck rigidly in place while I drilled a hole into the side of the neck.  Then I began reaming out the hole and enlarging it using a special tapered reamer.  After several trial-and-error test fittings, I felt that the hole was ready.  I then removed the knob from the tuning peg, placed a piece of wood over the tuner body, protected the neck with a soft rag, and used a screw clamp to carefully press the tuner into the recessed hole.  The pucker factor was high.  Did I have the hole large enough or too large?  Would I split the wood?  Was the hole in the right position?  The end result was just fine.

My fifth string tuner and nut (the little white spot)
I finished my tuning peg installation just in time for us to start on Clint's.  His installation also proceeded just fine.  We also drilled tiny holes to install the individual nut that positions the fifth string relative to the other, longer strings.  I had purchased a small white nut and Clint made his out of ebony.

We had lunch at Honey's Pool Hall and Diner in Fayetteville (home of the original slawburger).  Then began the next step in Clint's progress -- installing strings.  I showed Clint how to groove his nut for the strings and how to wind the strings on his tuners.  

I proceeded to work on the remaining brackets that are needed to complete my "pot."  As you may recall, Monty had made all his brackets out of brass stock and even gave me 8 finished brackets to get me started.  I had to drill and tap several of mine and also to polish them.  This is a tedious job.  To hold the bracket while polishing it, I made a handle with a long screw that cinches the raw brass bracket against the wood of the handle:

The polishing handle
Soon. I started to hear notes coming from upstairs, where Clint was installing strings. Then I heard the telltale "pop" of a breaking string!  And I had left our other sets of strings at my office.  Clint only broke one more before he decided to leave well enough alone.

So here's our status:  Monty and I are waiting for clear plastic heads for our banjos.  Estimated delivery is sometime in May.  Clint has a three-string banjo.  Our plan is to visit a banjo player this week to discuss nut design and breaking strings and other setup issues.  I will continue to work on my brackets and associated attachment hardware during the coming weeks.  We're close!

No comments: