Minstrel Banjo

For enthusiasts of early banjo

I am now building a tack head banjo (rim is 0.21" thick, 13" diameter).  I am looking for suggestions on intallation procedures.   Can anyone direct me to on-line or other sources for information?  Specifically, should I try to pull the wet head as tight as possible, just snug, or even somewhat loose?  Also, I plan to use furniture upholstry tacks from the local hardware store, but maybe better types are available.

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I don't have any specific links available to me right now but I would do the usual google search and also search the banjohangout website. One thing, make sure you drill pilot holes for the tacks. Big hardware store should have a selection of tacks, different sizes, heads, plating, etc. Also, glue is involved. regular white carpenters glue (TitebondI), about one inch down (?) - just past the row of tacks. I'd say between as tight as possible and just snug, more toward the former but by all means seek other opinions, like here   http://www.banjohangout.org/archive/173207

Start on one side and go to the other (like tightening lug nuts). Ditto on pilot holes (as small as you can) so your rows of tacks will be nice and straight. Also you will find that an extra set of hands will be quite useful. If you can get a hold of some lasting pliers (like used in shoe making) it will make the job go a lot easier and maybe eliminate the use of extra hands.  Lasting pliers have a small anvil that you can rest on the hoop while you grab a tack.

Another place to pose this question might be on the yahoo group of banjomakers. Also, you may be able to search their archives of conversations to see how other builders have dealt with these issues.

 

 

it is very important that you go by the following procedure when tacking on a head:


1. pre-drill the holes for your tacks using a bit that is just barely thinner than the shanks of your tacks

 

2. after soaking the head, applying your glue, and generally getting everything in place, fasten the head to the rim with the first tack. pulling the head so it is only SLIGHTLY taut, affix the next tack on the opposite side of the rim. do the same for the next two tacks, pulling the head slightly more taut with each, so that you have eventually tacked the head at 12 o'clock, 3 0'clock, 6 o'clock, and 9 o'clock.

 

3. now you can whale on each tack. starting at one of the four tacks youve just installed, you can begin tacking around the whole rim without alternating sides. just place each next right next to the previous one, pulling the skin back as hard as you reasonably can each time.

 

dont expect this to go right the first time, especially when its hard to know how much force you can bring to bear without tearing the skin on one of the first four tacks. so buy 3 or 4 skins. the rest is all practice.


 


Thanks to all of you for the input.  Everything seems clear to me, except I would like a little more clarification on the use of the glue ( which Titebond Original has been suggested).   How wide should the band of glue be, and is it placed directly under the ring of tacks?  Also, since the head is wet at this point, does the glue adhere well?  Finally, I assume that after everything dries and the head shrinks into place,  one trims away the excess skirt of the head below the tack line.  If so, then I assume this part should not be glued down beforehand.

Most of the finish work in now done on my rim, so I am ready to try this in the next few days.  I'll let you know how it comes out.


Moschella Banjos said:

it is very important that you go by the following procedure when tacking on a head:


1. pre-drill the holes for your tacks using a bit that is just barely thinner than the shanks of your tacks

 

2. after soaking the head, applying your glue, and generally getting everything in place, fasten the head to the rim with the first tack. pulling the head so it is only SLIGHTLY taut, affix the next tack on the opposite side of the rim. do the same for the next two tacks, pulling the head slightly more taut with each, so that you have eventually tacked the head at 12 o'clock, 3 0'clock, 6 o'clock, and 9 o'clock.

 

3. now you can whale on each tack. starting at one of the four tacks youve just installed, you can begin tacking around the whole rim without alternating sides. just place each next right next to the previous one, pulling the skin back as hard as you reasonably can each time.

 

dont expect this to go right the first time, especially when its hard to know how much force you can bring to bear without tearing the skin on one of the first four tacks. so buy 3 or 4 skins. the rest is all practice.


 

1. Get the blue 'low tack' painters tape and tape every part of the outside of the rim that WON'T be getting glued.

2. Calculate where you want your tacks, Drill holes slightly narrower and shallower where they'll go.

3. Get a black Sharpie pen, mark a spot right on each hole. You'll be able to see the hole through the wet skin. Some are still hard to see. With the Sharpie, mark a line about 2 inches down from the hole- on the tape. When you're hurrying to push the tacks in, every second counts and you want the tack in the hole fast.

4. Throw your skin in the tub.

5. Glue the top of the rim and over the edge. Don't overdo it, don't underdo it. 30 minutes later....

6. Get the wet skin out of the tub, roll it in a towel so it's not dripping wet. Now hurry....

7. Set the skin over the rim, not ON the rim. Align it so there's equal distance all around overhanging.

8. Lower the skin down carefully. Don't slide it around once it's down, you'll get glue all over the skin.

9. Get a small block of wood for a 'tack pusher' - push in 3 tacks, all next to each other. One may rip when you pull the other side. Three distributes the 'pull' and prevents tearing.

10. Go across to the other side. Pull hard on the skin, push in 3 tacks.

11. Go fast.....Now push in two perpendicular to these. Pull hard!!!!!

12. After you have tacks set in these four positions,  ( 12, 3, 6, and 9 o'clock )  tack one at a time, pulling HARD on the skin. Tack where the wrinkles are. PULL HARD.

13. When the tacks are all in, cut off the excess skin with a SHARP knife.  Get an old damp washcloth and start  wiping around the tacks on the skin, pushing out any extra glue and also this softens the skin where it's too dry.

14. Whew. ..  You can slow down now. Everything's cool. The tacks are on. If you think there's no more excess glue, take off all of the blue tape.

15. Sit in your favorite chair, turn on The Waltons, stand the rim up in your lap and spin it slowly around about 100 times, pushing with your bare fingers between the tacks to ensure the skin will dry nicely - flat without wrinkles. Wear old pants or have an old towel in your lap.

Tips - Pull the wet skin hard but not so hard to bend your thumbs back and hurt them ( I did now I get steroid shots in my thumbs. Ya, it hurts.) Don't hammer. Use a push block. DON'T even think about touching the top of the skin until tomorrow.

In a couple days rub some mink oil on the skin, front and back, wipe off any excess after a few hours.

I've done countless tackheads this way. They sound great.

 

It seems like the glue would be pretty dry after 30 minutes, depending on how thick it is spread.  Does the water from the skin make the glue tacky once it makes contact?

Bell Banjos said:

5. Glue the top of the rim and over the edge. Don't overdo it, don't underdo it. 30 minutes later....

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