Minstrel Banjo

For enthusiasts of early banjo

My banjo sees some hard use in the field.  About once or twice a year, I wipe and rub the wood with linseed oil.  I've got it torn down right now - from a nasty wet overnighter - and I'm wondering what, if anything, I should do to clean and preserve the calf skin head. 


I'm not so much interested in removal of the stains as they lend character.  I'm interested in extending the life of the skin as much as possible without damaging the tone.  Any suggestions?     

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Despite the obvious problems with exposure to the elements, I'm keeping it period. The sound is important. Faux strings or skin create a faux sound. Further, my reputation in the reenacting community would take a serious hit if I used fiberskyn or nylgut.

I'm going to restring my banjo later today as the linseed oil has nearly dried. Any application of something period on the head will have to wait for another time. Like next spring. No big deal.

As for Twin Rivers, you won't see me there. I've already done my two eastern events for the year : a living history at Vicksburg last February and the recent In The Van near Jamestown, Tennessee. Twin Rivers was never on my radar screen. Just not my type of event. I have many friends who will be attending, but their expectations levels are very, very low for the event.

- Silas
On the head, do nothing. Let it dry and if it sags, retension only. The head will be fine once dry.

As for linseed oil I would stop doing that. Wax is a better answer and provides better protection than continually oiling. Once the fibres of the wood are oiled well and there is a good coat of oil for basic protection wax is the way to go. I have had to "undo" more than one finish because too much oil was applied one too many times.

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