Would it be ok to just use a natural clear finish on the maple ? I really like the light wood with the dark accents with the tail piece and tuning pegs. I realise I can do as I like it's my banjo, but I want to do something that might have actually been seen in the early days.
Forum members Greg Adams and George Wunderlich have compiled a database with (not only) pics of historic instruments.: http://www.banjodatabase.org
Thank you for this information. It was a big help
I'm a far cry from an historical expert, but I think you would find that the finish used during the period was shellac... true shellac in flake form as secreted by a species of tropical beetle and dissolved in ethanol alcohol. And though it can be sourced in various shades of light to dark, they all are amber and darken and highlight the grain of the wood somewhat. As far as staining if that is desired... before the shellac finish is applied of course, I believe that aniline dyes were used. These can really bring out the grain in figured maple. I had a kit Bell I built (now sold) that I did with water-base aniline dye and natural shellac. I also artificially distressed the wood and finish where I thought normal wear and tear might have, in order to make the instrument look as if it had been around for 120 or so years. I achieved a nice soft patina by buffing with a paste made from linseed oil and rotten stone. Click the other photos given here as attachments.
Thank you for the information and great pictures.
I have decided on a stain called Golden Pecan. It is an amber color.