Minstrel / grain measure / tackhead banjos

Grain measure banjos were a brief development of the gourd banjo just before the manufacture of the mass produced instrument. The use of a grain measure (an implement used in the sale of grain to farmers) as a replacement for the gourd led to a stronger and more reliable banjo. It also lead to a slightly different sound. Grain measures could be upto 15" in diameter or as small as 8".

 

Recently I have been using Victorian Sieves for my pots, as American grain measures are very hard to come by, which has allowed me to develop an Anglicised version. Generally the pots (steam bent oak or beech full of antique patina) are between 8" and 10" diameter. This leads me to make a slightly shorter scale neck - which I sympathetically age to compliment the patina on the pot. Maple drum shells are also available in a variety of sizes.

Minstrel banjos are made using single ply seam bent rims. The heads can be fitted with either side mounted cast bronze or bottom mounted folded brass bracket shoes.

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Appalachian mountain banjos

This is the archetypal folk instrument of the southern Appalachians. As the banjo gained  in popularity and status during the early years of the 20th century it rapidly became out of reach to the poorer mountain farmers. An inherant need to make music combined with an infinate amount of resourcefulness lead them to develop their own using whatever materials that come to hand - a handy length of timber and a ground hog was all that was needed to make this iconic banjo.

 

My mountain banjos are based on the famous Stanley Hicks model found in Firefox 3. They are usually made from reclaimed timber (often using old piece of furniture) and calf or goat skin vellum (no ground hogs are harmed in the making of these banjos) with some very subtle modifications to improve playability and tone. Tuners are usually friction fiddle tuning pegs but I can fit Peghedz planetry geared tuners at extra cost. They look like fiddle tuners but with all the benefits of gears. 

 

So if you are looking for that "high lonesome sound" and a banjo thats a true talking point... then lets chew the fat.

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Gourd banjos

This is where it all began. From the tragedy of Slavery came an instrument that changed western music and became the iconic American sound.

 

The grandmother of the modern 5 string is a hybrid of the Gambian Akonting and the European lute. Its is tuned low and has a wonderfuly expressive and sonorous tone that resonates through your body when you play it.

 

All my gourds are grown here in the U.K. - occasionally by me - and are sometimes re-inforced with GRP (if the gourd wall is a bit thin) for stability. The necks can be simple and stick-like or ornate and sinuous - its up to you. Tuners are usually friction fiddle tuning pegs but I can fit Pegheds planetry geared tuners at extra cost. They look like fiddle tuners but with all the benefits of gears.

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Open back banjos

Custom made open back banjos built to your specifications. I do however have certain limits on the timbers I use due to my mission to use environmentally sound sources. The brass hardware is designed and made in house and I give the choice of Tru-Oil gunstock finish or French polish. Currently, custom options include, heel carving, inlay rolled brass or rosewood tonerings, reclaimed ebony or Richlite fretboards... more options will be available as and when I accumulate more material.

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