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17 August 2014

Highwayman Banjo - Dead in the Water

Regular readers of this blog will know that I started a new project this year to build a banjo. I dubbed the build "The Highwayman Banjo" and have been posting updates fairly regularly ever since. Actually, the last update was months ago and since then I've been busy doing everything but the build! Nooooo! Time for a quick update...

This looks interesting. I'm going to have to try and remember what I was up to from the photo. Ah yes... Here I am gluing the ebony veneer on the headstock. After some precision cutting with my table saw, I'd managed to cut the headstock so that it inclines back at an angle.

I'm in a make or break mode now. Any mistake from this point onwards is going to be fatal!

This is another picture, probably taken just before I committed to gluing. You can just about see the inlay that I've put into the ebony under the clamp. I created myself a problem here by fitting the inlay before cutting the block to size. I've had to cut the paper template to try and figure out how to position the veneer on the headstock. What a game I had trying to line everything up!

Look at this! Can you see that I've actually drilled small guide holes through the ebony and used small screws to help hold it in place once I'd got everything lined up the way I wanted it.

I'm impressed with my ingenuity here! Ha ha.

See here that I've trimmed the veneer closer to size. I'm going for an old-school paddle-shaped headstock. You can't see here, but I was kicking myself after cutting the nut slot as I'd managed to cut into the neck a little. Damn! I'd tried my hardest to avoid it too! Double-damn!

Ooh! Here I am testing what it will look like with the fretboard in place. It's going to look pretty distinctive! What do you think? 

It was about this part of the build that I began to slip into endless cycles of procrastination. Here I am worrying how on earth I'm going to fit the neck to the pot. I've been intending to use the pictured bolt, but how would I do this exactly? Surely it needs to be fitted before I glue the fretboard. And doesn't the neck need to be cut at an angle too! Oh dear! Too many variables! Does... not... compute! A problem for another day...

While I wrestled with the problem of joining the neck to the pot, I was never too far away from admiring the headstock. Ha ha. That's a premade ukulele plastic nut in case you're wondering. It's wrong for this build in too many ways to mention, but you get the gist. It was about this time that I realised that I needed to finish the neck. What about the truss rod?

My router has been playing up for a while now. The bolt that holds it at the correct height has gone. One of the bits now flies out. The whole bloody thing cuts in and out. It scares the life out of me! Here's what will probably be the last job it ever does. I dug it out to cut the hole for the truss rod. Can you see already that I haven't managed to get the line straight. I wrestled and wrestled, but it still went it's own merry way! DAMN! The good news is that I spotted it before it became a fatal error. Phew! That was close! Ha ha.

And here's the proof that I finished. That's the truss in place. I actually finished off most of the hole by hand with the chisel pictured. It took a while, but the end result was much cleaner and truer than produced with my router. I wish I'd done the whole hole this way in hindsight. There you go... always learning. 

And there you have it! I'm pretty much up-to-date on the blog with progress. I haven't done much recently but hopefully within the next month or so, I'll return to the project with renewed vim and vigour. Do you remember the planetary tuners I'd bought from China? I realised that they were missing the bushing nuts. I took the opportunity to get hold of some black ones. This could look great against the ebony! Can't wait to see it!

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