Assembly

Home Up

ASSEMBLING THE BANJO  AKA SET-UP

With some down time on my hands waiting for the neck and resonator finish to cure out about a week before I do another wet sanding and continue with the last build up coats of lacquer, I decided to get the banjo "pot" assembly together.  It is very easy to understand why Gibson had a FON (Factory Order Number) system followed by the lot number for their banjos since after all the parts are pre-fitted prior to applying the stain, color and finish; e.g. tone ring, wood rim, neck and flange, it would be nearly impossible to keep the parts together matching even with the number stamped on the wood rim, resonator and neck heel since it is to my understanding there were never any FON's on tone rings. 

With our current advancement in CNC machines and other robotic processes, many manufacturing facilities have a production line of simply picking a part from a bin and all the parts will fit together with accurate precision.  It was Eli Whitney in 1798 who was probably the first one that invented a way to manufacture muskets by machine so that the parts were interchangeable.  Ironically, it was the manufacturer of muskets that Whitney finally became rich and not from his Cotton Gin invention....well, I strayed from the banjo assembly....grin if you must!

POT ASSEMBLY

While assembling the banjo pot assembly you need to protect the parts by using some means such as a piece of carpet, cloth or towel over your work bench and with working space at a premium, I used a corner of my router table as a working station which I know is Rube Goldberg for sure.  I later regrouped to my multi-purpose saw table with a bar stool for a little more comfort.  The Great Depression Era tube and plate flange banjos, most of the tubes would stay attached to the wood rim when you removed the L brackets, plate, etc.  and would literally snap into the groove machined into the wood rim and not because the tube was out of round either.  The wood rim that I had Jimmy Cox manufacture for me would do the same thing after the finish was applied and the satin finish on the wood rim reminded me of the pre-war ones.  Out of habit, I gave the wood rim a thump from a middle finger knuckle to see if it still gave a clear bright pitch after the finish of which it still did and I felt good about that since I have knuckled some wood rims that were more or less muted giving a very dull type "thud" sound and a fair indicator that the completed banjo would not be a corker!  A few pixs below:

The Kulesh Gibson USA flathead tone ring serial number 7236 which came out of a Gibson banjo of which my friend stated that it sounded better than the new high dollar tone ring the owner had him install  was placed on the wood rim first and aligned the neck hanger bolt hole up with the 3/16 inch diameter hole drilled in the wood rim and it was a perfect match and used the drive pin punch to align it.  The tone ring fit just a little tad tighter than I like due to the thin build up of finish on the side of the wood rim but I don't think it will be too tight to cause a problem.  My ideal tone ring fit is one that you can remove with your hands but when the wood rim and tone ring are inverted, the tone ring will not fall off the wood rim by gravity alone!  The tube portion of the flange snapped into place as evidenced by the first picture and that brought a little smile too my face since most of the pre-war ones did the same thing.   The medium crown Remo head  was centered onto the tone ring and the notched tension hoop was placed on the head and trying to keep the notched portion where the neck heel fits against centered between the wood rim neck hanger bolt holes (east/west orientation) of which I had to make two attempts to get it right.  The special Porter Flaming Claw flange was also aligned with the hook holes of the tube and tension hoop and each hook was inserted and the nut installed only finger tight.   I used a set of pre-war replica nuts that I had Waverly Musical Products manufacture for me when they were in New York long before Stewart MacDonald bought them out and believe I was the first mail order company in the early 1970s to offer those exact reproduction pre-war nuts to the banjo community.

With all the hook and nuts finger tight, the pot assembly was turned upside down and this is where the fun begins to get the head brought up to the proper tension with the tension hoop being the same height above the head all around the perimeter of the tone ring and the tension hoop neck notch flush with the top of the head.  There have been volumes of articles published on how to install the head and tune it along with special tuning aids and devices to sequence the tightening which will get you in the ball park.  I don't profess to be an expert and I haven't installed and tuned a head from "scratch" since around 1978 but I do have some friends that I can call upon who will get it set-up professionally if I am not satisfied with my own set-up.  Each banjo has it's own unique voice and takes time and effort to find out what particular set-up will get the most out of your banjo that meets with your approval.  Some are winners and some are not; it can go either way, especially on a new banjo being brought to life for the first time without the benefit of the cells in the wood rim to crystallize brought about by mother nature; (time) and usage! 

My goal at this point is to equally tighten all the nuts and the keep the head tension about a G pitch and let it settle in.  I tightened the nuts by feel only and used the tips of my thumb and fingers while turning the nut wrench not to overly tighten them.  A good rule of the thumb is to turn each nut only about 1/6 a turn when you have them finger tight, otherwise you will end up with unequal tension when you work your way through the 24 nuts to tighten with a tension hoop not parallel to the head. 

Each component you add to the pot assembly such as neck, bridge, tailpiece, strings, etc. will have an effect on the tone, volume and timbre and I plan to go down the "middle of the road" using those components that are known producers,  whereas price and name brand endorsements are not the determining factor!  Heck, Earl Scruggs could make a Kay or Harmony banjo sound like Earl Scruggs, yet I would sound like dung on his or any other pre-war flathead Granada......grin if you must!

 

Today is November 2, 2010 and had some down time from hunting and decided to mess with the banjo a little bit this evening after doing my Patriotic duty of voting.  I installed the resonator L brackets a couple days ago and will insert some pixs.  On the hard maple wood rim, it is best to pre-drill the screw holes for the L brackets and I normally measure the body portion of the screw and then take a reading of the overall diameter including the screw threads and will drill the pilot hole to the smaller body portion of the screw and that is more than enough to hold the L brackets in place.  Gibson placed the L brackets on the Mastertones centered on the third (3rd) tone hole from the neck heel and also the same from the tailpiece which placed them in quadrants about equally spaced and I followed suit as well.  I taped the drill bit the length of the screw of which there is plenty of room on the wood rim not to drill through but you never know; it certainly is possible if you go "brain dead" while drilling and you have more than 3/4 inch drill bit extending from the drill chuck....grin if you must!

CLEANING THE FINGERBOARD

I removed the masking tape from the fingerboard and scraped the lacquer that had leaked under the tape and I left a small portion of the fingerboard exposed to the finish to prevent and lacquer chipping from the binding which can happen when removing the masking tape.  It is best to use a good automotive pin stripping tape since the regular "Wally World" Elcheapo tape leaves a mess from the adhesive used on the tape.  Naturally, I used the Elcheapo tape and there was a little extra effort to remove it from the fingerboard.  There is no rocket science in cleaning/scraping the fingerboard and I used a small utility knife and 0000 steel wool.  The fret board was level and fret ends didn't need any additional work, however if the fret board needs leveling, now is the time to do it followed by crowning and dressing the frets.  Stewart MacDonald has an assortment of excellent tools specially designed for this purpose.  Pixs below:

 

5TH STRING NUT INSTALLATION

I have drilled many 5th string nut holes totally freehand by eye without a fixture and don't recall having a problem but that was way back when and my woodworking skills were very fine tuned and had good eye hand coordination.  However, I decided to make a simple jig for drilling the 5th string nut and found a piece of 3 inch by 8 inch x 1/4 inch thick channel angle iron that was once part of some type of fixture for my tree stand manufacturing and only had to drill a hole and saw a couple connecting slots in one side of the angle.  The angle was then placed in a small vise and the neck aligned under the slot where the hole will be drilled next to the 5th fret.  You could go a little high tech and install a drill bushing and a couple locator stops if you were on production.  Pixs below:

 

With the 3 inch channel iron, there is plenty of room underneath to clamp the neck to the angle using cork padded guitar makers clamps.  The slot is large enough to allow you to see where the hole needs to be drilled and keeps the neck parallel and square to the drill bit.  The frets rest against the back of the channel iron, therefore it is not necessary to pad the fingerboard area.  I have a cheap milling vise but there was too much "slop" in the movement and didn't have the time to adjust it out so opted for the small vise.  It is a dawg to align and took several trial and errors to get it right....most people install the 5th string peg which can be from 1/8 to 5/32 or more in diameter and you can go elaborate with a stepped bullet shaped head which I have seen on some of THE GREAT DEPRESSION ERA banjos or just simply use a straight diameter 5th string peg.  I went the easy route and purchased a pre-manufactured 1/8 inch diameter x 1/4 inch length bleached bone 5th string nut and got a good chuckle while installing the 5th string nut.  After drilling the hole to 1/8 inch in diameter about 3/16 inch deep, I placed the bleached white 5th string nut down onto a solid white cutting board and when I came back to retrieve it, my State eye plan glasses could not locate said 5th string nut.  I figured it must have rolled off onto the floor and got down on all fours and could not find the little "bugger".  I dug out a piece of unbleached bone nut material and sawed a strip out of it and chucked it in the drill press and made one by rounding it with a file.  I left a slight step from the 1/8 inch diameter portion that is recessed into the fingerboard although it wasn't as pronounced as some of the pre-war ones.  After installing the 5th string nut, there was the original 5th string nut as plain as day on the white cutting board and I had a very good robust laugh to myself.  I glued the nut in with some Epoxy 330 colored with Mohawk black powder and will let it dry before proceeding any further.  I prefer the 5th string resting on the nut rather than the 5th fret.

Note:  On 11-12-10, I had the neck on the pot assembly and noticed the 5th string nut placed the 5th string way too close to the 4th string and had to grind it out of the fingerboard with a small carbide end mill and re-drilled the hole closer to the fingerboard binding and glued in place with Epoxy 330 with a black coloring powder and it was much better.   

INSTALLING THE GEARED PLANETARY TUNING MACHINES

There usually is a good build up of lacquer in the peghead tuner holes after the application of all the coats of finish and needs to be cleaned out with a reamer the appropriate size or use a standard round chain saw file which works very well.  Care must be taken when filing since the lacquer is very brittle and prone to chip on the opposite side of your filing if you get in a hurry and angle the file to hit the opposite side.  You can also remove the lacquer build up with the Dremel tool and router bit and/or sanding drum but it is easy to scratch the peghead finish if you use a router base and works better freehand if you are steady enough.  After the tuner holes were cleaned out, I installed a tuner in each hole and aligned the tuner where the small "locking post" that protrudes from the tuner housing was positioned toward in inside of the peghead and pressed into position to make a witness mark for drilling a relief hole about 1/16 inch in diameter and about 1/8 inch in depth.  Many simply install the tuning machines without pre-drilling a pilot hole in soft woods such as Mahogany but it is safer to pre-drill the pilot hole and mandatory for hard woods such as maple.   It is best to use a socket or nut driver to tighten the hex shaped threaded bushings to prevent marring the peghead finish as it is easy for a wrench to slip.  Do not overly tighten each tuner threaded bushing and make certain the washer is orientated with the flat surface down and the taper surface of the washer up.  I planned on installing a set of Schaller D tuners for the 2nd and 3rd strings but decided at the last moment I really didn't need them since I haven't played any in over 32 years on the ole 5-string and need to get some basic stuff down again and had to order a couple Stew Mac's 5 Star Planetary tuners.  Sometimes the addition of the heavier Schaller or Keith D tuners adds more mass to the weight of the neck and helps the banjo sound and it goes the other way sometimes as well!

5TH STRING GEARED PEG INSTALLATION

My first step was to ream the 5th string peg hole out using the tapered hand reamer.  All I wanted to do is remove the build up of lacquer since the tapered hole was already predrilled before finishing.

 

Instead of driving the 5th string peg in, I used the Shop Fox Parrot vise with my home made tapered padded (self aligning) jaw inserts and used a wooden block with a 3/16 inch diameter hole drilled in it to keep pressure on the geared 5th string peg main housing instead of directly onto the shaft/internal gears and simply turned the vise handle pressing into position the geared 5th string peg but you have to be careful of the pressure generated and know when to stop or "bottom out".   After installing the Schaller geared 5th peg, I noticed some lacquer did chip from around the pre-drilled tapered hole edges which was not very unsightly and fairly common as well.  You want to angle the 5th string post/housing  toward the 4th fret with the top of post top nearly level/flush with the fingerboard to prevent any interference and give the proper downward string angle from the 5th string nut to the 5th string peg post.

FITTING THE NECK TO THE POT ASSEMBLY

I didn't take a step by step pix of fitting the neck to the pot assembly since I got all wrapped up in what I was doing...it was simply just too much fun and didn't want to break the rhythm....grin if you must!  The neck lag screws were inserted into the pot assembly and a flat washer next to the wood rim and both coordinator rods were tightened securely with the aid of a punch and small nail.   

I positioned the bridge on the head for the 26 3/16 inch length scale and placed a straight edge from the top of the bridge to the nut  to check the neck fit and see how close I was using a 11/16 inch height bridge and the neck set was about 3/16 inch high above the 12th fret and string of which I was opting for around 1/8 inch with zero tension on the wood rim from the coordinator rods although many individuals make minor adjustments to the action as Gibson advocated back in THE GREAT DEPRESSION ERA catalogues but I don't agree with it since some take the word minor meaning more than 1/16 inch.  I personally prefer no distortion of the wood rim whatsoever other than the stresses inherent by the normal interaction between the tone ring, wood rim and components necessary to keep tension on the head. 

It took several attempts to get the action lowered and had to trim just a little off the lower portion of the neck heel and adjust the slight taper of the upper portion of the neck heel and did so by using a small utility knife, wood chisel and a Dremel tool with a 3/4 inch diameter sanding drum with about an 80 grit abrasive sleeve and took my time and checked after each adjustment until it was close enough to start slotting the nut.  Most of the pre-war necks before the RB75, RB7, 12 and 18 had their adjustments done with wood chisels and the persons doing that element of production was definitely a Master fitter for sure....it is amazing how accurate those necks fit the wood rim.  This neck has a slight cant to it whereas the 3rd string is to the left of center line (axis) and will correct the heel axis fit a little later.  I will probably take out the hanger bolts and set up the heel sanding fixture and adjust the position of the neck onto the fixture for a proper 3rd string center line alignment.

NOTE:  I took the neck off the pot assembly on 11-20-10 and used a Dremel tool with a 1/2 inch diameter sanding drum/sleeve and took enough material off the right hand portion of the neck heel without removing the hanger bolts and corrected the neck axis to where it needed to be.  You can use the coordinator rods as a reference since the neck will be centered and in line with the coordinator rods when viewed from the rear of the pot assembly but the real "acid" test is how the 3rd string orientates down the neck especially from the 7th fret to the 22nd fret which should be centered of which the tailpiece is centered and the bridge in a natural static position; i.e. ( without having to slide the bridge east to west orientation to get the strings centered on the neck).  I have a slight space .010 inches between the end of the fingerboard to the tension hoop which should be nearly flush for better eye appeal (IMHO) with at least .001 clearance for maximum transfer of neck vibrations to the pot assembly but it doesn't seem to inhibit any volume at this point but this is not the ideal set-up for sure as far as eye appeal, although open for debate.  If I decide not to fine tune the heel fit to make the fingerboard flush, I could easily add a very thin .010 inch black plastic shim between the end of the fingerboard and the tension hoop but don't see a need at this point.   The ideal fit of the fingerboard to the tension hoop is having at least .001 clearance, whereas the tension hoop can be removed without loosening the coordinator rods.  Most of the pre-war Mastertones had the end of the fingerboard gently touching the tension hoop or just a minute clearance less than .003.  It is imperative that the neck heel fits completely flush with the wood rim with a little clearance around the flange; whether it is a two-piece or one piece flange and there is at least .001 clearance between the end of the fingerboard to the tension hoop.  If the end of the fingerboard is binding against the tension hoop and there is a gap in any part of the neck heel fitting to the wood rim, you do not have the optimum or maximum transfer of energy or vibrations which is a bad thing.  Again, the 3rd string should be centered between the 7th fret down the neck thru the 22nd fret, whereby the bridge will be naturally centered on the head without having to force the bridge either right or left of the true axis or center line.  The truss rod installation is not the true axis or center line of the neck in relationship to the pot assembly for a 5 string banjo but it is for a tenor or plectrum banjo. 

ATTACHING THE TAILPIECE 

I am using a post-war Presto tailpiece which seems to be the right balance between mass and function and is attached to the tailpiece bracket from the lower coordinator rod using a bolt and nut.  Normally, the tailpiece is sitting on the tension hoop or slightly above and held in place basically by string tension only.  The adjustment screw was removed from the tailpiece and the height adjusted so as to "float" with about a 3/16 inch gap between the front of the tailpiece from the heat...might be a little more.  Since I am using the two piece flange instead of the one piece flange, the tailpiece bracket is of a shorter length but on this particular reproduction tailpiece bracket, it was too short and had to drill an extra hole toward the outer surface to allow the tailpiece to properly align.  I will replace the tailpiece bracket at a later date or make another one out of stainless steel flat stock.  

SLOTTING THE NUT

As I stated earlier, I did not want to use the Schaller D tuners, therefore I basically only fitted the 3rd string which more or less is centered down the fingerboard from the 7th fret through the 22nd fret and at this stage wanted only to get the neck action in the ball park and I will use the light GHS J.D. Crowe PF140 signature set strings which are .0095, .011, .012, .020 and .0095 to start with and might go to the PF135 if necessary.

I roughed in the string slots in the nut using the .010 small gauged saw  from Steward MacDonald and the nut width with binding installed was right at 1.250 inches and the spacing was about .157 from the outer binding for the 1st and 4th string and the 2nd and 3rd string equal spacing of about .312 inches.  The initial nut slotting left the strings very high off the 1st fret and when my other tuners arrive will get them around 1/32 to .020 inch or less off the 1st fret with the action of which will be on the high side.  Some set-up persons check the nut/string action by depressing a string at the 2nd fret and observe how much clearance between the bottom of the string depressed at the 1st fret and there should be just enough clearance to see daylight between the top of the fret and the bottom of the string.  It takes time to fine tune the depth of the string slots but not easy to correct if filed too low and usually requires the installation of a new nut and certainly don't want to do that!  Seems like way back when I used jewelers saw blades which were pretty close to the width of the strings when slotting the nut and this time around used the .010 thick gauged saw from Stew Mac of which 1/2 of a thousand overage shouldn't make that much difference in the string slot in the nut and did purchase a couple other nut files and they had one that was .020 inch in width which will be perfect for the 4th string and will have to "wallow" out the 2nd and 3rd string nut slot for a proper fit.  I only installed the 2nd and 3rd regular 5 Star planetary tuners to check the action along with the 5th string.  Back before Stewart MacDonald offered gauged saws, some of the old time musical supply companies that supplied violin parts and some of the German companies offered Luthier tools and supplies of which I purchased what was available and made the balance that was not available.  

NOTE:  Most of the prewar nuts were only 1/8 inch in width whereas most modern builders and factories utilize a 3/16 inch width nut.  The nut on this banjo tapers from the leading edge abutting the fingerboard approximately the same angle of the peghead and imperative that you taper the string slots in the same relationship and avoid the string riding high in the slot away from the leading edge of the nut, otherwise the intonation will be off from the first fret to the nut. 

When the tuners arrive, I will take a few pixs slotting and filing each string slot to the proper depth.  At the moment the slots are not deep enough and will have to trim the top of the nut down once the proper string action is reached where a little over 1/2 of the string diameter is resting in the nut slot.  To me it has more eye appeal than a lot of nut exposed above the strings.  

I did notice that the tension hoop was not perfectly centered or the tube and flange but will leave as is to see what the thing sounds like.  I will probably have to do a little tweaking on the wood rim lag bolt holes since the neck is not perfectly level with the tension hoop although the tension hoop appears to be parallel to the tone ring, etc.  The head tap tones about a G note and will increase the tension to G# as most like that tension for a flat head tone ring.  I  also observed that the neck axis is off a little and thinking back when I made the Rube Goldberg heel radius sanding fixture, I forgot that the 3rd string should be aligned with the center of the fingerboard from the 7th thru the 22nd fret and aligned the neck onto the sanding fixture centered at both ends with the truss rod of which you have to split the difference between the truss rod center and the 3rd string location at the nut.  Oh, well, my bad on that one; that is why you pay good bucks for a neck made right the first time from someone like Frank Neat.  I moved the tail piece over enough to compensate for it but that is not fixing the problem and doesn't place your bride in the center of the head east to west.  Reshaping the heel by hand is a trial an error procedure and takes patience and good eye hand coordinator and I have already worked on it a couple times and it is getting closer but still a ways to go.  The bottom second pix is a fret and slotting saw with different thickness blades and about 40 years old made in West Germany and still going strong....that was back before StewMac started adding their specialty tools for sale.

NOTE:  Corrected the neck axis on 11-20-10.

I had a tremendous laugh this evening (11-09-10) while talking with my Sister in Reidsville, NC as I related to her that I only had two strings on the banjo waiting on my tuners to arrive and she stated, "Brother, that is a Redneck banjo for sure"....we nearly tore a gut out laughing.....grin if you must!  See the above pix on the right.

CUTTING THE RESONATOR NECK NOTCH

Some cut the neck notch before the finishing stage and others cut the neck notch after the resonator finish is applied.  I chose to mimic the ole Gibson resonator by cutting the neck notch later and I believe Gibson still does it that way today but could be totally wrong.  I guess the advantage with the notch already cut, you don't have to worry about the lacquer chipping from the cutting process and if many coats are applied and it is very brittle, chipping will occur.  I used about as low tech tools as there are being a jewelers saw blade of which the coping saw would be better, and a straight back saw.  I drilled a couple 1/8 inch diameter holes at the bottom corner of the notch and inserted the jewelers saw blade through one of the holes to make the bottom cut.  I used a wooden template to transfer the pattern and marked it in with a fine tipped black marker.  Score the line with a utility knife to help prevent the lacquer from excessive chipping.  I cleaned the saw marks up with a fine wood rasp and the only thing left to do is find me a piece of dark felt at least 1/16 inch or more in thickness for padding to help hide the raw wood edges from the saw cuts and protect the heel of the banjo.  You could make the notch on a table saw with a wide dado blade but you would have a parallel cut instead of a taper as is on most of the banjo necks and would require additional sanding/cutting.  Pixs below:

I rough freehand cut the felt for the neck notch and used Fletch-Tite to glue it in place and will trim the inside to exact fit when dry.

November 11, 2010 by Bill aka Mickey Porter.

INSTALLING THE RESONATOR WALL LUGS

I placed the banjo pot assembly onto the resonator and scribed a mark through each wood rim L bracket onto the resonator side wall to give me a vertical witness mark for the location of the resonator lugs.  Most Gibson style wall lugs are mounted about half the distance of the height of the inside sidewall measuring from the rabbit groove......some builders measure about 3/8 inch from the rabbit groove and have the top of the wall lug positioned at that distance.  If you want your resonator thumbscrews to be in a vertical orientation, your wall lugs will need to be in a perpendicular plane with the resonator outside wall instead of being flush mounted with the inside wall since it is tapered.  There is enough room in the wood rim L brackets to allow you to mount them either way.  The standard reproduction lugs have a diameter of .143 inches at the base of the screw threads and the overall outside diameter is .192 inches and used a .140 plus diameter drill bit taped off for the proper depth to keep from drilling through the resonator side wall.  After drilling the pilot hole, I used a 10-24 tap and hand started a few threads for the lug and used a socket wrench to screw them in place.  You can tap the threads in if you desire but it is easy to strip them out installing the lugs.  Pixs below:

INSTALLING THE TRUSS ROD COVER

Opps...I gave away the last small pre-war truss rod cover I had a few years ago and don't have one or any black plastic material to cut one from so will have to round one up!

NOTE:  Frank Neat of Frank Neat & Sons Banjos provided me with several truss rod covers at no cost and very much appreciated.  Frank Neat is one Top Craftsman and a very genuine and giving person too!  No rocket science on installing the truss rod cover.  I found a couple screws that were from 1/4 to 3/16 inch in length and the right size diameter to fit the holes punched in the truss rod cover.  I checked the screw threads smallest diameter and needed a .070 drill to bore the pilot hole.  As usual, I marked the depth of the hole to drill with some tape on the drill bit but you have to be careful since the tape can move up the drill bit if you don't stop just shy of the tape.  I just "eye balled" the truss rod cover in position and drilled through the truss rod cover hole into the neck peghead and used the shorter length (3/16") screw for the nut area since there is not much material under the truss filler area and used the 1/4" length for the upper screw.  A few turns of the screwdriver and fini.  Pixs below:

INSTALLING THE ARMREST

Installing the armrest has to be the simplest and easiest aspect of banjo construction with one single bolt to install.  The rectangular mounting bar is positioned behind two of the hooks, whereas the armrest lower bracket has two notches formed to locate off the hook and the bolt which is 1/4 inch hex. goes through the bracket and screws into the rectangular bar and tightened enough to hold the armrest in position.   The armrest I am using is a copy of the old ones, however this "generic" one is made from .050 thickness brass which is way more flexible than The Great Depression Era armrest but I guess it will be ok.  Pix below:

  

INSTALLING THE MINIATURE RAILROAD SPIKES

The miniature railroad spikes I have are about 1/4 inch in length and .030 inches in diameter although not a true circle with one measurement being .034 inches.  The tools you will need are a micro hand push type drill and a bit measuring .030 inches in diameter, flush cutting pliers, curved hemostat, micrometer, feeler gauge .015, small hammer, masking tape, fret crowning tool and small fret end file for final dressing of the spikes. 

I  installed the spikes at the 7th and 9th fret and the edge of the inlay at the 7th fret was right where the spike needed to be so installed it toward the 7th fret instead of centered between the 6th and 7th fret.  I lightly drilled a witness mark underneath the 5th string behind the 7th and 9th fret, whereas you could mark the spot with a white lead pencil, etc.  String tension was removed from the 5th string and a piece of masking tape wrapped around the 5th string and the string was pulled out of the way and the taped to the side of the neck.  The micro drill bit had a piece of masking tape applied to mark the desired depth which was around 3/16 inch and both holes were drilled keeping the little micro hand drill in a vertical position.   I used a padded rifle rest (sandbag) to support the neck which was adequate for this job.  The length of the railroad spike was cut to around 3/16 inch and placed in the curved hemostat and locked into place.  The curved hemostats gives you a means to hold the miniature railroad spike while lightly hammering it into position.  A feeler gauge .015 to .020 inch in thickness was placed underneath the head of the spike and driven flush.  I went back and used the .015 feeler gauge to provide a little more clearance between the top of the 5th string at the 7th fret.  You can apply a drop of crazy glue to the tip of the spike if you desire but if your drill bit is the right size, there is no need but you might want the little extra bit of security due to fingerboard expansion and contraction due to the humidity.  The miniature railroad spikes will break, bend, etc. and are very hard to remove if you break one off in the fingerboard but there is enough room to install one close by if that happens.  You can cut shorten the head length of the miniature railroad spike if you desire since only a small portion of the head is actually in use and you need to dress the spike up either before or after the installation.  The spike at the 9th fret rotated from being perpendicular to the side of the neck but it didn't interfere with anything.  When dressing the top, sides and end of the spikes, you need to protect your fingerboard around each spike with masking tape.  Pixs below:

  

INSTALLING A BANJO STRAP

My brother-in-law Douglas Pettigrew of Reidsville, NC use to be into leather craft and will try and get him to make me a custom leather banjo strap after the upcoming seasonal Holidays.

PREVIOUS PAGE

NEXT PAGE 

BANJO CONSTRUCTION HOME PAGE