Minstrel Banjo

For enthusiasts of early banjo

Can someone discourse on banjo rims during "our" era?  Single ply, I assume?  Was this universal?

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It was universal before plywood was invented. More or less 1850, patents by John Henry Belter (in NY) and a few others. Belter was doing rococo, pierced carving through almost cylindrical rosewood chair backs -- can't do that with solid rosewood, unless you hollow out a really big tree, for each chair. (Or hollow out a smaller tree for a banjo rim.) Anyway, cross-grain lamination was a response to the difficulty of bending -- and ease of splitting along grain lines, when one carves -- very dense and brittle woods.
So a multi-ply rim is a compromise to a true reproduction instrument?
Tim Twiss said:
So a multi-ply rim is a compromise to a true reproduction instrument?

That is the question I wish someone would answer.
I see on the Hartel site that the Ashborn repro has a bent maple rim. What is yours like Carl? Is it one piece of wood?
I don't think it's necessary to reproduce an 1840s rim, to reenact the CW of the 1860s -- by which time "plywood" (or cross-grain lamination, to get strength, stability and workability in curved shapes) was widespread.

I don't think the minstrel groups of the earlier 1840s could have had laminated rims, though. If someone knows better, I'd like to hear about the evidence.
razyn said:
I don't think it's necessary to reproduce an 1840s rim, to reenact the CW of the 1860s -- by which time "plywood" (or cross-grain lamination, to get strength, stability and workability in curved shapes) was widespread.

I don't think the minstrel groups of the earlier 1840s could have had laminated rims, though. If someone knows better, I'd like to hear about the evidence.

I see no evidence that multi-ply rims were used until the twentieth century. There doesn't seem to be that much written about it, although it seems that early Gibson banjos had single-ply rims--and they didn't start making banjos until 1918. I tried to look at various histories of drum shells, since the technology is pretty much the same, and it seems that multi-ply drum shells didn't really come into use until about 1920. So I would say single-ply is the rule, whether we are talking 1840 or 1860 or 1880.

--Brian
multiply banjo rim evidence: hasn't anyone noticed the 1863 Morell rim in the photo posted right here on your own site?

Brian Welch said:
razyn said:
I don't think it's necessary to reproduce an 1840s rim, to reenact the CW of the 1860s -- by which time "plywood" (or cross-grain lamination, to get strength, stability and workability in curved shapes) was widespread.

I don't think the minstrel groups of the earlier 1840s could have had laminated rims, though. If someone knows better, I'd like to hear about the evidence.

I see no evidence that multi-ply rims were used until the twentieth century. There doesn't seem to be that much written about it, although it seems that early Gibson banjos had single-ply rims--and they didn't start making banjos until 1918. I tried to look at various histories of drum shells, since the technology is pretty much the same, and it seems that multi-ply drum shells didn't really come into use until about 1920. So I would say single-ply is the rule, whether we are talking 1840 or 1860 or 1880.

--Brian
James Tyler said:
multiply banjo rim evidence: hasn't anyone noticed the 1863 Morell rim in the photo posted right here on your own site?

Looks to me like a single (hickory?) slat, that overlaps itself all the way around -- not just up near the neck, after completing one loop. Which is what I'm used to seeing. Your point is well taken, though. I guess somebody needs to look at a lot of pictures. (Or ask George, Greg, Bob...)
Perhaps at some point Greg or George, who handled all those instruments in the Banjo Database could shed some light on the situation....development of the rim?

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