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30 March 2015

Highwayman Banjo - Stand and Deliver

I can't believe it! I've actually done some work on my Highwayman Banjo build! I woke up at stupid-o'clock this morning with banjos spinning around my head. I must have laid in bed for hours scheming up ways to get back into the project before I could fight it no more.

For those who might have forgotten, the Highwayman Banjo is my first attempt at building a 5-string banjo. I did a lot of work on it over the Summer and had to shut up shop for Winter. Now Spring's here, I've been itching to get back out in the garage to create more sawdust.

Today's challenge has been to fit the neck to the head. I've had many sleepless nights wondering how I'm going to do it. It seems I just needed to take the plunge...


Here was the plan I put together this morning.

I'd already cut an 88 degree slope-back on the neck and curved it to fit flush with the head. What I intended to do was to drill a hole for a barrel nut to hold a long bolt that is going to act as the dowel stick.

You'll see above I mention a block to hold the neck vertically aligned. I haven't done this in the end, but more on this later...


It was great to get the tools out again. Here I am preparing myself to drill the hole for the barrel nut. I measured twice... several times. View this as me limbering up. 


Not bad. The groove on the surface is for the truss rod and in this picture you can see me holding the bolt and barrel rod near the hole for size. The idea is that I drop the nut down the hole and then line it up with the bolt hole using a screw-driver. It would be a bloody miracle if I could get the hole in the side to line-up and  I knew it! 


I dispensed with the drill press for my next trick and reverted to doing it all by eye. Here we are looking down on the end of the neck and I've only gone and drilled the hole for the bolt. But would it line up? 


Of course it would line up! Ha ha.

See here the bolt standing proud. I've fixed it into the barrel nut and everything is looking great! 


Having drilled holes in the sides of the body for the bolt, all that was left was for me to cut the bolt to length.

On the holes in the body: the one nearest to the neck goes all the way through; the one nearest the bottom does not.

It was a fantastic feeling fitting the body and neck together after all these months. It was finally starting to feel real! What I discovered is that the neck is a pretty good fit though it needs to be pretty tight to hold it firm.


This time you see the banjo from the front. You can see the silver tone-ring fitted in the top of the body ring and bolt running across the centre.

It was about this time that I started to question why I needed the block I talked about in my plan right at the beginning of this post. I've seen a number of different ways to fit banjo necks and some luthiers can get hung up on putting in devices to allow you to align the neck vertically and horizontally. My thinking was that I might add in an ebony block to try and stop my neck from moving from side-to-side. The more I thought about it, the more I thought that I wouldn't need it, so I've dropped it.

The only thing I might do is to add a screw to support the bolt. Of course this means that I'll be into the realms of shims if I need to adjust the neck, but right now, I'm okay with this. Famous last words?


Having done far more than I thought I would today, I started to measure up the neck for gluing the fretboard in place. Here I am with the truss rod cut to size and fitted in place. In no time at all, I'd glued it and was onto the fretboard.

If you're wondering why I've got the odd hole to the bottom left of the truss, then you need to go read about how I cut that hole and why I am so glad to be beyond that.

And if you're wondering how I made the fretboard as purdy as I did, then you need to go read about that too.


Here we are, all clamped up and nowhere to go. I'm going to leave it overnight and let's see how it looks in the morning... :-D 


This shit is hot! 

That's your lot for today. If things go according to plan, I'll be back at it tomorrow!


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