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31 March 2015

Highwayman Banjo - Coming Together

Day 2 of my holiday banjo building and there's lots to show you! With no further ado...

This is where I left it yesterday. I'd glued the fretboard onto the neck and here I am admiring my handiwork. What a beauty! I had all sorts of unanswered questions about the neck joint, but I realised that there was no point worrying about that until I could get the instrument playable. But what should I do next?

Out came one of my boxes of banjo bits. What a lot of banjo shit! Ha ha. It was time to dress the banjo up with some of the parts I have gathered and to figure out where to go next. 

Look here that I've been drawn to the body. The hooks have been hung in place and the tail piece is balancing precariously. In the distance are the tuning pegs. Maybe I should start there? No... I resolved to sort out the hooks first... 

I decided last year that I would fit 14 hooks. Why 14? I can't remember.

Now was not the time to challenge the number of hooks. Now was the time to fit them! See in the picture above that I've cleverly figured out where they should all go so that they avoid the neck and tail piece, but remain evenly spaced around the circumference.

I marked lines on the outside of the body where each hook lug would go and figured out the distance I wanted the lugs to be from the base.

Oh dear. See here me remembering that the rim of the body is just a couple of millimeters too thick for the screws. No problem, I would countersink the holes on the inside of the rim. 

Here's the jig I put together for drilling the lug holes. The wooden block is carefully positioned to ensure that all holes are exactly the same distance from the base. All I had to do was to turn the rim, hold it tight against the block and drill away. Easy! 

This is what it looks like with the lugs screwed into place. Nice!

This was going to be easy! Oh dear! I should never think this! 

Yesterday I achieved far more than I thought I would. Today, the balance was redressed. I found out pretty quick that I couldn't get the hooks in place. What on earth was I going to do?

I figured that I'd just bend them to shape. Out came my new vice that I picked up in a liquidation sale a couple of weeks ago (don't tell Mrs Uke). I just knew it would come in handy! Using an old wrench I set to bending the hooks. Some almost snapped, but at the time of writing this they've all held. Unfortunately, I think it is only a matter of time until a couple go.

Even having bent them to shape, I really struggled to get the buggers to fit. 

But, I did eventually get the head on and the hooks in place! Wahay! I haven't dared to take them off since. 

Here's the body the right-way-up. That hook screw is one I think that came with the hand drum originally. It works like a charm. I tightened the head taut but didn't push it too far.

Ever one to dream, I quickly fitted the neck back on. This is really starting to come together! 

With energy to spare I figured I'd fit the tuners on the head. I'd already reminded myself earlier in the morning that I'd cut the head far too thick for the Grover tuners I've bought. No problem. I needed to drill the tuner holes and this always makes a mess of the wood. Better I did that first before tackling the thickness. 

Out came the drill again and here you can see me carefully enlarging my guide holes. 

And here are all 4 done! You know... I might have even got these all level! Wahay! 

I dug out the table saw and thinned the head.

To prove that everything was where I needed it to be, I fitted the tuners. Looking good! The original bushing and nuts were silver, but I've fitted black ones because I reckon this will look better with the ebony. Notice that the tuner pegs are ebony too. Don't you just love attention to detail like this! Ha ha. 

This is where I've left it today. I fought the urge to stick some strings on it, but this will be my next trick. I want to get a feel for how close that neck is to right. I guess I should really fit the frets first, but right now I'm feeling far too impatient for that.

I'm not sure when I'll get back to this. All things being equal, I'll be off treasure hunting tomorrow.  Ooh... treasure!

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