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11 May 2014

Highwayman Banjo - More adventures in pot

I've been busy working on my Highwayman Banjo build. I've made so much sawdust, you wouldn't believe!

I'm living and learning with this build. Although I started off with the router, everything else I've done since has been by other means. For example, see here that I've trimmed the outside of the pot using my table saw. I LOVE my table saw! If you look closely, you'll see that I've set up an ingenious little guide above the blade that has allowed me to trim the outside by continuously turning the pot round and passing it by the blade. Amazing!

Whilst the outside of the pot proved to be fairly easy with the table saw, the inside has been a far bigger challenge. You can see here that I have routed as far down as my router allows. I've also routed the other side (which will be the front of the banjo) with a far smaller diameter hole. This is on purpose. I haven't seen this done anywhere else, but I'm wondering if this extra width to the rim will allow the head to stay taut. Maybe I'm worrying about nothing, but with the 12" head, I don't want the saddle to sink when the strings are fitted.

The problem I had at this point is that middle layer of wood. How on earth was I going to excavate it? 

I joked when I posted this picture that the forstner bit is the mainstay of half-baked lutherie, and actually, I'm probably right. I've misused this little instrument in the past and regretted it. You'll be pleased to hear that it didn't prevent me from trying again! Ha ha. Here you can see me removing as much wood as possible with the bit. 

I show you this picture because I think I might have captured the only sunny moment this weekend! Oh yes, and you can see a little closer the mess that has been left behind by my milling. My next challenge was to try and take this even closer.

Here, I've been hard at work with a chisel and despite a blister in the palm of my hand, I've only managed to tackle half of the pot, and even that's not looking very pretty. 

This is the pot flipped over. See the thicker rim. I do hope that this is a great idea!

Here's the side of the pot and me realising that I need to trim the depth by about 1 cm. 

I have other shots, but I'll jump right to the present. This is a shot of where I'm up to right now. I've trimmed the pot and sanded it so that the head fits. Inside is still a work in progress; Although I've taken most of the wood out, I need to tidy it up. I really love the look of this, though there are some rough bits on the outside that I'm going to have to learn to love.

Parts are still arriving for the build. Here's one that caused great giddiness on G+ earlier this week. I need to learn how to fit it... but isn't it beautiful!

Remember me talking about doing some sample mahogany coasters to see how the wood might look once finished? We'll here they are! Mrs Uke calls them "artisan". They look nice don't they. I've smoothed almost as well as I will do for the banjo and given them a couple of coats of acrylic gloss lacquer. I tend to prefer a satin finish, but for this banjo, I'm going to go for the thickest shiniest gloss that I can get away with!

I've finished drafting the final chapter of my comic "The Black Pirate". Here's the first page as a teaser. It's rough, but then you'd be feeling rough after chapter 4! This might be the end my friends!

"Fuke Uke, I won't do what you tell me"

Whilst I have been playing quite a bit of music recently, I'm going to end with some proper music courtesy of Fuck-Uke. If we could only bottle this... we'd have a bottle... of... something... ;-)

Just in case you were wondering... yes, my banjo will have a neck! See here that I've been measuring it out! I'm still thinking of 5 strings... or will I do 4? No... 5! 


  1. Hey mate, if the rim is thicker at the head side you might as well build a smaller banjo uke. I would leave as much of the skin as possible free to vibrate. And chances are you get annoying interference between the wood and the skin. But - I've never built one myself.

  2. Not sure where my last reply went.

    Thanks for commenting Sven. I'll admit that this is something that I'm still pondering. I got the idea from my Windsor Whirle.

    When I took it apart recently, I found that it had a separate inner tone ring. That one is made out of brass and it does sit slightly higher than the outer rim.

    Fundamentally, I simply don't want the head to sink in under the tension of the strings so figured a smaller inner diameter might help. Perhaps I'm worrying about nothing?