May 5, 2013

Banjo Boys, Chapter 18

My polished rim with polished brackets (Courtesy of Monty)

Last week there was no report on Banjo Boy activities.  The Meads made their annual pilgrimage to Merlefest.  This has been a part of Mead family music life for 24 years!  Coincidentally, it was Monty Love who first told me about this music festival celebrating the life of the late Eddie Merle Watson, son of the now-deceased Arthel "Doc" Watson.  Doc died last year at 89, the result of a fall at his home.  He was praised and remembered by all at this year's festival.  We can only hope that one day the three banjos that result from our Banjo Boy effort somehow make it to Merlefest.

Yesterday, Monty came up.  Clint, being the loyal son that he is, went to Cleveland, Tennessee, to visit his parents.  Our goals were simple: 1) Complete the installation of Monty's fifth string tuning peg, 2) Get his nut rough shaped and fitted, 3) Start the process of polishing Monty's rim, and 4) Get my brass brackets completed for the outside of the rim.
Monty's fifth string peg and hole for nut
It was already raining when Monty got here, so we didn't move the Plymouth outside.  We began by setting up the jig that Clint and I had used to drill and ream our fifth string peg holes.  After a brief discussion on exactly where to drill the guide hole, we clamped Monty's neck to the jig, positioned it under the 1/2" square-cut drill bit, and drilled into that beautifully finished maple.  It went just as planned.  After a few minutes of trial-and-error reaming, Monty asked if I thought he had gone deep enough.  It looked just right to me, so he set up our home made pressing jig and clamped the tuning peg firmly in its hole.  It looks perfect.  He then went on to drill the tiny hole that will hold the fifth string nut.  The results speak for themselves.

Polishing a bracket
I spent an hour or so tapping the threads in the mounting holes that attach the brackets to the rim.  This is tedious work, requiring that the tap be aligned precisely with the hole that has already been drilled.  Fortunately, I was able to tap all the threads without having to discard any of the blanks.  These brass brackets require a remarkable amount of labor to go from brass blank to polished finished product.  But when they are finished, they sure are pretty to look at, especially reflected against the aluminum rim.

We broke for lunch at Honey's Restaurant, "Home of the Slawburger," after which it was back to the shop.  Monty worked upstairs, sanding his rim with ever-finer grades of sandpaper, while I polished brass brackets downstairs, making a real mess of lint and polishing compound on my drill press and workbench.

Monty's nut and beautiful Peg Head
I spoke with Bob Smakula this week, the fellow from whom Monty and I are buying our clear plastic heads (We want everybody to be able to see the turbine blades in the Dynaflow rim).  It looks like they'll be here in a couple of weeks.  I still have to figure out how I'm going to configure my Navy spoons to make the 16 clamps that go around the perimeter of the rim.  And I also need to determine how to make my tailpiece from the meat serving fork that I bought on eBay.  Even so, the end is in sight...

More to follow.

Monty's rim, ready for final polishing

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