Inlay Patterns

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This is another catchall page that has various drawings and notes from my early banjo research and development era and will update as materials surface that might be of interest.

 

          "Flying Eagle"                     "Hearts & Flowers"                      "Style 6"                          "Florentine Special"

            "Bella Voce"                               "Wreath"

Scan of actual H&F inlays under glass.

NOTE:  Gibson USA takes a firm and aggressive stance against all makers of counterfeit instruments and their distribution channels, therefore I would caution anyone against making a complete Mastertone aka Masterclone of their instrument using the Gibson logo on the headstock although the early inlay patterns sans the Gibson logo are subject to public domain. 

Click on the above thumbnails for a larger view.  For a full scale printing, you might need to "tweak" the image size.  The above patterns were used for inlaying and cutting mother of pearl and were true to scale when cut and printed.  Xerox copy machines were about the best we had in the 1970's long before the personal computer.   The older machines did not reproduce at a one to one ratio but were actually reproduced 2 percent increase due to their design.  I remember Frank Neat supplying me with an excellent Xerox copy of a Florentine Special fingerboard and peghead of which I cut a master pattern from.  Above patterns were offset printed and far better than most of the inlay patterns used by individuals cutting and selling mother of pearl reproduction inlays back in the late 1960's and 1970's.  I hauled off reams of the above printed patterns to the landfill about 20 years ago needing the extra room and do not have printed patterns available.  My original patterns that are mounted under glass are a minute smaller in size than the above printed patterns due to the difficulty of getting them scanned and offset printed with the ever present glare off the scans.  Not bad for older technology.  I personally cut each inlay above except for the small dots, slotted squares and shield inlays on the Bella Voce pattern of which I cut the shield shapes on a pantograph type machine for a master pattern only.

When reproducing the "Hearts and Flowers" inlay pattern, a saw cut back into the heart near the shoulder is required, whereas on the style 6 inlay pattern there is not a cut back into the inlay piece and it looks like the traditional spade.  There is a big difference between the heart and the spade and many cut the hearts and they look like a spade instead.  They are two distinct pieces although Gibson at times have switched the patterns and some of the pre-war pearl cutters omitted the saw cut back into the heart because you have to cut into the heart a small amount and then backed out and go back into the cut you just made with the back of the jewelers saw blade bottoming out in the cut you just made and then come out to finish cutting the design.  My tracing of the inlay pieces does not reveal the true cut back or back cutting detail but I knew to make the cut back into the material.  I used a single spade aka heart cut piece of mother of pearl to trace the pattern from and used the same spade aka heart to layout the pattern with also.  As I have mentioned elsewhere, I would have plenty of cut patterns on hand and able to fit a piece into the hole cut out into the fingerboard and peghead with a high degree of precision and not able to do so with a single pattern cut due to the natural variations of the cutting.  Pix of some style 6 inlays that I cut and Jim Yarboro of Gun Barrel City, Texas inlaid back in the late 1970s or early 1980s:

Jim hand made all the checkerboard binding for the style 6 neck above.  Photos by Chris Cioffi.

Also, a large #6 jewelers saw blade was used on most of the Gibson pre-war inlays although a #4 blade was used many times on the script Gibson logo.  The size #6 blade left a very visible and distinct blade width on the inlays that required the saw blade cut back into the design.  Post -war pearl cutters used blades too small in width which allowed them to simply make a turn in and out of the design without "back cutting" which is necessary to capture the true detail and spirit of the design.  Jewelers saw blades today are not tempered as good as they were in the 1960s and 1970s and I have cut as many as eleven (11) script Gibson names with a single Vigor brand  #4 blade, however that was the exception to the rule.  Anywhere between two to five script Gibson names could be cut with one single blade which was about normal.  I viewed some old time study cards and my average cutting time for a script Gibson was five (5) minutes.  I doubt one script name would be possible with a single blade manufactured today running at a high rate of speed!

When I have video capability, I will add a video clip of Gibson's old style method of cutting and inlaying.  That style of inlaying doesn't work on my box calls since the actual inlaying part,  you can't cut through the sides or lid of a box call to effect the design without ruining the part!  On second thoughts, I doubt I will ever do one simply because of other interests!

It should be noted that Gibson is a registered trademark and would highly recommend using your own name on your instrument unless it is a reproduction neck for an original Gibson instrument although the above inlay patterns sans the Gibson name are now subject to public domain!

My original mother of pearl inlay pattern for the Style 3 "Leaves and Bows" is mounted under glass and had very few calls for the style 3 anyway and did not print any master patterns for the style 3 but used photocopies instead.  The Hearts and Flowers and the Flying Eagle or Reno pattern as some call it were the main patterns most were building reproduction and/or 5 string necks for when I had my mail order business.   The early style 3 "Diamonds and Squares" were hardly ever reproduced.  Of course there many Wreath, Bella Voce and Florentine Special patterns completed also with the BV and FS the lesser.

As I stated earlier in the Biography page, the new CNC machine cut inlays emulating the pre-war Gibson patterns as far as the design itself is very cheesy and imitation looking to me without the square saw blade cut backs into the design.  On a positive note, the CNC inlays are inlaid and cut with great precision and that is how I feel and not alone by no means either!

I will be adding additional scans to this page as I have the time and uncover misplaced documents/drawings, etc.

Bill aka Mickey Porter 09-26-09. 

GIBSON PRE-WAR WOOD RIM BENDING MACHINE

The following are scans of a letter I received from George Hall  on 05-11-76 who worked at the Gibson factory from 1927 through 1933 detailing information concerning the method Gibson used for bending banjo 3-ply wood rims.  George didn't go into detail in this letter as to the exact protocol or a step by step play of the process and the information about cutting the wood pieces and the steaming prior to placing the individual pieces on the bending wheels was verbally discussed only.  The wood pieces were soaked several hours in a vat of water prior to being placed into a very large steam chamber and had to be quickly bent around the forming wheel.  I do have a copy of the factory cuts including the lap aka "scarf" taper for the one piece flange three ply wood rim from Gibson but did not obtain the info direct from Gibson and/or George Hall for the outer mortise and tongue for the two piece flange wood rim which required the additional material for the radius portion of the tube.  Gibson cut the mortise groove into the three ply outer lamination on a lathe.  Having personally steam bent wood, one has to work extremely fast before the wood cools down.  Steamed wood in combination with heated forming wheels/mold  works much better.  Their system was crude by today's technology but it was very effective when properly executed whereas the main problem was controlling the ply thickness and cutting the correct length and taper because if one is out of tolerance, the rest get further out in the sequence as evidenced by many of their wood rims .  Also, you will notice that George didn't sign the letter and he actually photocopied the letter that he sent to me.  George was very secretive for whatever reason or just being somewhat loyal to Gibson, I can't recall.  Click on the thumbnails pixs for a larger screen view:

George has a very cool personal logo or trademark !

You need a large quantity of different size bending wheels to effect high yield production.

Below is another letter I received from George Hall dated June 4, 1973 which I already have linked in the About Us page under George Hall which gives some additional information on their form for bending the wood rim components:

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George knew the short comings of the 3-ply wood rim method of construction since he was there and the main reason for his jellyroll wood rim concept even though he did not actually ever bend a jellyroll wood rim to my knowledge and whether or not he conceived the idea before meeting Dave Kennedy, I do not know!  To my knowledge, Davis aka Dave Kennedy was the first person to manufacture the jellyroll wood rim and supplied Gibson with 60 of his jellyroll wood rims in the early to mid 1970s.

Bill aka Mickey Porter 09-27-09.

Above is a Neck Radius Gauge that was taken from a Gibson pre-war 5-string neck that felt and played good and is typical of the Gibson pre-war shape.  The neck radius from the nut to the 5th fret has more of a D shape than from the 6th to the 12th fret radius gauge which is more of a half round as produced by a cutter.   Many including myself like this type of shape which can be modified to more of an egg, V or elliptical  shape to suit the individual preference which cannot normally be obtained on a production banjo.

  The Pre-War Gibson neck shape from the volute to the 5th fret looks similar to this ellipse shape for sure.

RB18 SN 744-1 Notes taken on 05-07-76 of the tone ring and neck/fingerboard measurements:

The tone ring was out of round and there was at least .005 thousands difference in the tone ring skirt also.  This tone ring did not have the prominent "bull nose" type radius cut on the inside as did some of the RB75s.  I believe that radius cut on this tone ring accounts for the extra two (2) ounces of weight.  This 50 oz. tone ring sounds good on this banjo.  The degree angles listed for the slope seems a bit confusing and I guess depends on where the reference point was taken at the time.

The letter M in the above notes references the middle of the neck thickness between that fret and the next one going up the scale; e.g.,  the M 12th measurement represents the middle between the 12th and the 13th fret if memory is correct.  This neck seems a little thin in thickness for a curly maple neck and according to the owner does move around a little depending on the humidity and is an excellent sounding pre-war instrument!  You might need a major in Egyptian Hieroglyphics to decode all the scribbling I call  notes.  Grin if you must!  

Web posted on 11-21-11 by Bill aka Mickey Porter.

Below scan of measurements taken from a "dental type" casting done by John Monteleone on 03-19-76 of a TB7 tone ring that we horse traded some inlays for his time.  I don't have the serial number on file of that banjo but the alloy composition was nearly 100 percent copper per an analysis done which should be referenced in the About Us page under tone rings.

I kept the casting for years in my Kennedy machinists tool box but finally threw it out with other "junk" that I didn't have a need for.  Grin if you must!

PRE-WAR COORDINATOR RODS

Above informal drawing of pre-war coordinator rods that I made.  I had very few calls for this type rods and mostly sold the later type that fit the 10-32 tpi neck lag bolts without the long hex nut.

9550-38 NOTES TAKEN ON 09-14-73

Below scan of notes taken from banjo FON 9550-38 on 09-13-74 and the instrument was purchased on May 1, 1930 at Salter Music Store in Wilmington, Delaware....penciled inside of resonator.  Don't remember what happened to this instrument.

8836-50 NOTES TAKEN ON 01-06-73

9220-2 NOTES TAKEN

ONE PIECE FLANGE HEEL CUTTER DRAWING

Prior to this cutter, I used cutters that ran in a high speed drill press that were were secured at the base of the cutter into a heavy bronze bushing and a heavy steel rotating fixture at about 5.5 inch Radius moved the neck blank into the cutter.  Had excellent results with those drill press cutters but you need a heavy duty drill press and solid fixturing for safety.

TIME CHART FOR CUTTING SCRIPT GIBSON

The above card shows preparing 100 mother of pearl blanks to cut the script Gibson.  The cutting time for 20 units came out to 5.05 minutes each.  It took a little over 1 minute for each script Gibson to get to the cutting stage.  Not too bad for using a jewelers saw blade in a scroll saw and back then cutting inlays was like second nature...you didn't think about what you were doing, it just happened and came out excellent too.

TIME CHART FOR CUTTING VARIOUS PATTERNS;  RB4, RB5, RB6, H&F, BELLA VOCHE AND FLORENTINE SPECIAL

The above cutting time survey was taken over a five day period with 29 inlay patterns cut.  Apparently there were others things to do in between the actual cutting times listed.  It doesn't take into account the sorting/grading of the mother of pearl blanks, gluing them to substrate, cutting out the paper cutting pattern and laying out the paper pattern onto the mother of pearl.  See this link for details: 

Banjo Construction

Web posted on 11-22-11 by Bill aka Mickey Porter.

GIBSON 1970s 5-STRING BANJO NECK DISSECTED TO SHOW THE LOCATION OF THE TRUSS ROD

Above is pix of a Gibson mahogany 5-string neck that I cut in half to see the orientation of their truss rod.  I "horse traded" for a quantity of their mahogany neck blanks that were ready for the fingerboard and peghead overlays.  The carving was done on a spindle carver and I am sure they contracted those necks out...don't know that for sure.  There was a good .125 plus curve in the rod near the center length of the neck blank with each end positioned higher toward the fingerboard with the majority of the rod below the centerline mass of the neck.  I placed a neck template on side profile of the neck blank and traced around it since the neck was oversize for my usage to get a little better perspective of the truss rod orientation.  I never used one of their neck blanks but traded and/or sold them off to whoever wanted one.  There is an alignment hole drilled in the fingerboard area near the 3rd fret placement and the 20th fret for securing to their carving machine holding fixture and could be used to align the fingerboard.  Post war Gibson many times contracted out their fingerboards and they were fretted and bound before placing onto a neck blank as above.   I believe the above neck blank was for their reintroduced tube and plate flange by the way the neck heel is "hogged" out. 

BELLA VOCHE NECK CANNIBALIZED

Above pix of a Bella Voche neck that was cannibalized.  I think I obtained it from Tom Morgan or Paul Tester back in the early 1970s.  Back then and earlier, cannibalization of tenor and plectrum necks was the "norm" when 5-string replacement necks were needed.

Web posted on 12-04-11 by Bill aka Mickey Porter.

Above banjo adjustment instruction booklet was with a 1936 Gibson RB00 purchased by Len Stolz of Clarksville, TN.  I personally do not adjust the co-ordinator rods to change the action and IMHO doing so can distort the wood rim which is not a good thing.  I prefer to tweak the banjo heel angle for as perfect a fit as possible with the desired string action depending on the bridge height.

Web published by Bill aka Mickey Porter 01-01-12 with permission from Len Stolz, Clarksville, TN.

Gibson peghead angle above about 20.4 degrees.  The neck side profile template I used back in the late 1960s and through out the 70s was 19.5 degrees.  20 degrees is typical of the majority of pre-war Mastertone banjos!

Web published by Bill aka Mickey Porter 01-14-12. 

Holographic Universe Slide Show .pps format:

GIBSON G-BB FLATHEAD TONE RING -  REDUCED FACTORY DRAWING FROM THE 1970S

This tone ring weighed around 2.4 lbs. and coupled with the 11 ply wood rim from Jasper Wood Products rendered a horrible sounding banjo.  This ring had an excellent tin bronze alloy composition but did not have enough mass.  I am not sure if Riverside Foundry & Galvanizing Company or Kulesh manufactured this ring but thinking it was Kulesh.

I believe Frank Schoepf of Hampstead, Maryland emailed me this drawing which is self-explanatory. 

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