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12 April 2015

Highwayman Banjo - Buffalo Soldier

Time for a quick update on the Highwayman Banjo build. I was going to promise to try to keep on-topic, but I won't make promises I can't keep...

Isn't this picture great! I've swiped it from the Trapper Creek Bluegrass Festival page on Facebook. The festival is on the 22 May at Trapper Creek in Alaska. I'm sending our very own Ukulele Blog correspondent, Ukulele Russ along to check the gig out. In fact, I think he might even be playing a set for all the local bluegrass trappers. Brilliant!

Here's a song I stumbled across the other week to soundtrack this post. I think you can see where I'm going with this can't you?

Yesterday I set out to do some more work on my banjo neck. The first task was to firm up the join with the body. There was a little bit of play there that I wanted to sort out.

First, I set about stopping the neck from rotating on the bolt. My solution was simply to fit a dowel. Here you can see that I've screwed a round-tipped screw into where I want to place the dowel. Next I fastened the neck back onto the body...

Can you just about make out the small indent in the wood from the head of the screw? Yep, that's where I'll need to put the hole for the dowel. 

Boy, this was tricky, but here you can see me testing out the dowel in the hole I've drilled into the neck. I had to drill it all by hand because the bolt prevented me from getting the drill in there. Have you ever tried working a drill-bit with your fingers? It gives you very sore fingers... Trust me.

Never mind.... all done now.

Having put the hole on the body side, I could then fit the two together and this little dowel now prevents the neck from rotating on the bolt. Success!

Just incase you're struggling to picture what I'm talking about, here's a shot of the neck being fitted. 

I love this photo. Don't know who made it, but I'll give credit to Studio Urvois 1

Here's me trying to show how wonderfully straight that banjo neck is. It's wonderfully straight, isn't it! ;-)

Okay, the next step didn't get many photos for some reason. Look at this hand tool I put together to help me drill my next hole. I was getting frustrated by the neck rocking slightly from side to side. I did try to work the join a bit, but in the end I decided a bolt was needed.

If you look just to the right and down a bit where the bolt goes into the rim, you can just make out a small hole. This was drilled into the neck with the intention of fitting a bolt there. 

I fitted one of these "threaded insert nuts" into the neck and once the bolt is in place, there is no more movement in the neck. Obviously, this bolt needs fitting after the neck has been adjusted to get the string action right. So far... so good!

I had intended to do some work shaping the neck a little more, but this was not to be. I didn't stop here though...

You may remember me talking about fitting a 5th string guide. Here are some of the more standard ways of doing this. I'm about to present you with a new one that I'm experimenting with.

I've realised whist tuning the banjo neck that I have a problem with the 5th string as I lower the overall action. When I get the 4 main strings in a good place, I've found that the 5th string starts to buzz. This is because it starts lower down the neck. It's a fine line, but what I wanted to experiment with ways to see if I could keep the low action but deal with the 5th string in another way.

In a flash of inspiration I began wondering if I could make something to sit on the fret a bit like a nut. Seconds later, I'd found an old screw and I'd lopped the head off it. I made a little groove in the back and here you can see me testing it out for size.

The bloody thing only went and worked! Ha ha. The only issue I had here was that it was putting the string out of pitch when fretting the 5th. No problem... I could deal with this...

I ground down the screw a little more to bring back the nut release point. It's still pretty rough-and-ready, but what can I say... it works! The only thing that is worth calling out is that in the main string pressure is holding it in place, but because it isn't fixed, it can move side-to-side when I get excited.

I'm going to keep it there and see how I like it.

Right, that's your lot. I do have another couple of posts I could possibly do for you, but you're going to have to wait and see...


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