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3 May 2014

Highwayman Banjo - Adventures in pot

You might have noticed already that I've decided on a name for my new banjo build. I'm going to call it the Highwayman for reasons that should need no explanation. I vowed to share with you all the build drama and so far I've been pretty quiet. All this changes... right now...

I threatened to have a go at making the pot for my banjo using a technique I'd seen on the internet whereby you glue layers of wood together in hexagon shapes. Here you can see me gluing layer 2 of 3. I'm making it look easy, but what a bloody nightmare! This hasn't been easy at all!

Before I explain a little about my journey into pot, +shankti oviedo pointed out that my workshop looks a lot like a painting by Juan Gris. This is Tablero de Ajedrez from 1917. I have to say that Shankti has a very good point!

I knocked together a spreadsheet in Google Docs that allowed me to figure out all the angles and measurements for making the hexagon layers.

Feeling brave, I cut out the blocks for all three layers in one sitting. It was only when I started to piece them together that I found that I'd made some sort of mistake. They didn't fit! Lots of small variations all added up to the layers not quite making a circle. DAMN! I was distraught to the point of slipping into a black depression! I scooped up all the little blocks and threw them in the corner. What a f*kin* waste!

What you can see above is my second attempt at a single layer. I overcompensated and made everything too big with the realisation that I was going to have to play around with it a bit to get the blocks to fit right. Sure enough, I had to tweak the angles here and there until I got to what you can see in this picture. I glued one layer and left it to dry overnight. The ring laying on top is the tone ring that will be used to hold the head in place. it is wider than the pot will need to be.

The next day, almost on a whim, I pulled out the bad blocks and started piecing them together. They'd all been mixed up and this is where the magic starts... they fitted like they were intended to! I had to trim a couple of bits, but amazingly, there was very little to do. Bloody Hell! It was a miracle! The God of Sawdust was smiling on me! Ha ha. I was able to use the pre-cut wood to fashion the remaining 2 layers and I got the whole thing glued.

Here's everything once the glue has set and the clamps have been removed. See how the top two layers are thinner than the first (which is closest to the floor). I haven't left myself much leg-room in terms of margin for error. 

This morning I dug out my router and immediately realised that I didn't have the bits I needed to shape the pot. This didn't stop me (but I wish it had!). I cut a template using the trammel pin attachment. This was a first for me and it went well. I used it to cut an outer circle and parts of an inner circle in some mdf. I attached the template to the pot and used a combination of the template and the trammel to route a part of the outer circle. What an absolute bloody disaster! At one point the bit shot out whilst I was routing. At another, the router bush fell off causing all sorts of sparks and mayhem. I've got gouges and splinters all over the bloody shop! Oh dear! Mrs Uke was quite diplomatic when I showed her: "It'll look quite rustic," she told me. Yes. Rustic. :-(

Never mind, I've got some bits on order that should allow me to finish shaping the pot and we'll just have to wait and see. Tonight I will be praying to the God of Sawdust! :-D

Here's another bloody thing that broke on my router today. This is the bolt that allows you to fix the height of the blade. It screws tight to that metal rod you can see leading out below. It should have a little plastic handle on it, but it's burred inside and no longer works, so I've taken it off. I've resorted to adjusting the nut with my fingers. Actually, it seems to work a lot better than it did with the handle on. I HATE ROUTERS!

In case you're wondering how the trammel works, you might be able to figure it out from this picture. See that I've drilled a hole in the centre of the mdf. And look at that strange rod that is fixed to the base of my router. See that one end has a trammel pin attached. I placed the pin in the hold in the wood, got the router blade the distance I wanted from the centre and tightened everything up before routing round in a circle. 

Okay, I've told you pretty much all I have the energy to tell you on today's shenanigans. See what I did last night. This picture is a mashup I did of some of my Bad Moon comic and a wonderful picture created by +Alice Glytch. I reckon that they go well together. Go check out Alice's Google+ stream for more in the series - you won't be disappointed! Yeah... that was a bit cheeky of me wan't it! 

Before I wrap this up, I want to show you three things I picked up during the week. At the time I called it a "charity shop bonanza" and I reckon that I had it spot on. I've only gone and bought myself a bodhran, thumb piano and comic by John Byrne! What a wonderful set of treasures!

I've never played a bodhran in my life, so I was keen to give it a go. Here's a song that I wrote especially for the occasion featuring my first ever bodhran! I'm cheating and playing it with my hands, but there you go.

I do have some tentative words and the idea for a banjolele solo, but for now, this will have to be it. Until next time! Woof, woof...

Alright... one last thing...

I hate waste. I've been wondering how the mahogany I've using for the banjo build will look once finished and varnished. Here, I've taken some of the offcuts and glued them. My intention is to make a few coasters like the bamboo one pictured. I'll share some pictures when I get them done. Should give me a good insight into how the banjo might look. ;-) 

This is the last picture... promise...

Whilst I was learning about Juan Gris, I happened across this cubist guitar created by Michael Dunn. It was inspired by Juan Gris and captures the cubist feeling brilliantly. Check out Hawaiian Time Machine for more. 


  1. On the subject of "Adventures in Pot",today is the big 4:20 parade down in Nimbin.

  2. Nice comic mash-up KU.
    It reminds me of a "Nightmare on Elm Street" movie.

  3. That glue you used wasn't Permabond A113 by any chance King ?-)

  4. Daz - that Nimbin link seems to be all about drugs! Oh... I see what's happening here! ;-) Alice's monsters are great aren't they! I said that they were the stuff of "desert nightmares", so you might be onto something here. Here's another picture I mashed up. Not sure you'll be able to see this unless you follow me on Google+... but give it a go...

    Yes, the glue WAS Permabond A113! It's an especially sticky compound mixed with love. But don't tell anyone in the Kitchen Sync... Ha ha.

  5. It was Permabond A113 ?!
    You must feel like an embed in a Pixar movie using that stuff KU.
    That link didn't work for me either King. :-(

  6. Try this one...