Minstrel Banjo

For enthusiasts of early banjo

I just made a big violin sale and thought I'd treat myself to another banjo (yes, so soon after I just got my Bell, which I love!  I can't get enough of these things).

Can anybody tell me the pros and cons of Hartel and Flesher banjos.  I'd be getting a Boucher or a Sweeney.

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John, I have a Flesher that I got back in 1995 when there weren't hardly any makers out there. Hartel makes great banjo's and is a helluva nice fella - can't go wrong there. But also check out Mike Wesley of Roxboro, NC. I have played all his models and endorse them wholeheartedly. I have one on order from him myself. I also have some video's up here of me playing one of his 1850's Ashborn reproductions. Good luck!

I confess as to not knowing much of banjo construction and don't know anything of the Flesher banjo.

I can tell you that I'm very happy with my used Hartel Sweeney model.  Also, even though I purchased mine second-hand, he insisted on fixing a tiny crack, free of charge.  He stands behind his product and each of the three times I've been to Harper's Ferry or Antietam, Jim has been there (and a participant on the list)......which is another plus.  It's nice to have the maker of your banjo available to discuss ideas, etc.

Both Hartel and Flesher have terrific reputations, so I doubt you'd go wrong with either.

That said, I don't have the honor of owning a Flesher, would love to of course.  But I bought a banjo from Jim Hartel at Antietam this year.  It's a terrific banjo, and Jim was very gracious about insisting that if I EVER had any problem or question with my banjo, that he'd happily help me out and make it all right.

Must mention too that I looooove my wonderful Bell Stichter too!  I feel pretty blessed, banjo-wise.

I don't know how "hands on" Flesher's customer service is nowdays. As was stated, Bell and Hartel are at the top of the game. Highly recommended.

I'm going with Hartel.  I'm feel really lucky to have my Bell, which is a great sounding banjo and perfect for the reenacting I do.  I also have a Prust on the way to play around on.  Yesterday I sold a very fine fiddle I've been trying to sell for a while... I've been telling myself that when it sells I'll round off my Boucher collection and get a really fine instrument.  I'm working out the last details of my Banjo with Mr. Hartel right now and I'll post the specs here when I'm through!

I have one of Jim's basic-model Bouchers on its way to me at this very moment.  I'm very much looking forward to getting my hands on it.  Everything I've read and heard so far has me expecting a wonderful banjo.  I don't think either of us will be disappointed with a Hartel.

What specs/features are you planning for yours?

My order is in.  I'm going with a Boucher with:

rosewood fretboard

flat rim bottom with 8 cast brackets, hopefully antiqued to slight blueish color

curly maple neck and rim

premium calfskin head

red/orange varnish 

Sounds like a real beauty!

I'm very excited.  I originally was going to go with the traditional dark brown stain you typically see on Bouchers, but I fell in love with a particular stain Jim recently did on a Sweeney that is particularly stunning.  

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