Minstrel Banjo

For enthusiasts of early banjo

    I could use some Help... I am in the process of finishing my Bell & Son Boucher Banjo Kit and before I Reassemble it , I want to Color / Distress the Skin Head to look Old.  I have heard of Tea being a common use for this effect but am very hesitant to attempt anything without advice .Does anyone have any tips / experience about this ? What to or NOT to do ?

Any advice would be greatly appreciated.

  Also,  I apologize if this is an old  repeated subject but I found nothing in my search.

   Thanks,  DanO'

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I find tea to unpredictably leave a strange pinkish hue sometimes.  I prefer always to use strong coffee if I'm going to wet the head, which yields a truer brown tint.

Taking Terry's advise, I bought some spray matte artist fixative (for pastels drawings etc) and I sprayed both sides of my Bell Stichter head....two light coats with airing out in between.  This helps to even out the effects of humidity, and also darkens the tone of the skin and makes it a little more blothcy- the white parts stay fairly white but the transparent parts get more transparent so they look darker. 

I also get a little artist acrylic paint and mix it with just enough water to be able to rub in a few irregular spots here in there, in sienna and umber.  A very soft dark graphite pencil can be used lightly to smudge in some 'finger dirt'.  Don't overdo anything.  Less is more.

All that said, I shudder at brand nerw clean white banjo heads.  Just my own thing.

Hope this helps.

Thanks for the great advice Strumelia ,  I will get some of the matte spray and experiment with them and the Coffee too.  I tried contacting Terry but got no answer and am very anxious to get this done.   also, I  Agree with you about the clean white Banjo Heads, very unnatural looking, especially on a 1850's Banjo Head.

Don't spray the fixative on the head unless it's totally dry.  Terry also says you can use hairspray (Aquanet) if you want... but I prefer the total matte finish of the artist fixative for a few bucks more.

I'm sure there are endless materials that can be used but he Scarey part is, i only have one Skin , so there's no margin for error... I will definitely start out with a very lite shading and then increase to get the look I like.

   Oh well..  "I recon' here's goes nuttin"...  I'll post some pics when I'm done.

I too like stuff that looks old and has 'character'.  Since I'm not an actual re-enactor I don't have to worry about authenticity...or wear hoop skirts in 95F weather.   ;)

I understand your Point Dan'l ,  I agree and it absolutely makes sense...

   However, You Ask.. What's The Reason? Well,  For me,   (a kid from THE BRONX)  and I know this is gonna  sounds Absolutely Crazy But  when I see a Pearly White New Banjo Head it reminds me of when I was a Kid and myself or one of my buddies  would get a New Pair of White Converse All Stars High Tops or a New Rawlings Genuine Cowhide Baseball Glove... You Stuck out like a Hood Ornament on a '55 Chevy!    You just had to "Break 'em in and get them Dirty  FAST  so they would look "Up to"  and "Worthy of"  the task at hand.

    And believe me, If You Didn't, Your "Buddies" would!!  Great Childhood Memories still haunting me and controling me... into my Sixties!!       Oh Well,  told you it was Crazy    But  You Asked...

Dan'l said:

What's the reason we want our banjos to look old?  For me, it's because it gives character and looks more interesting. However, to check the impulse, for living history or reenacting it's more authentic-looking to have a newer-appearing, not-greatly-distressed banjo.  They would exchange worn heads for fresh ones.

  - Dan'l

My Stratocaster is very distressed but I bought it that way. People think it's really cool. I never tell them it was not me.

Yes it is cool.  Older men have more character, experience, and appeal!   :)

Remember, war ages men beyond their years. We actually look authentic!

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