Minstrel Banjo

For enthusiasts of early banjo

Hi all,

Another really newbie question.

Reading through the forums it looks as if some use thimbles and some don't, with lot's of good logic and experience to back up each choice.  Of course, everyone here is pretty experienced, and I'm as green as they come, banjo wise (I'm still figuring out a half strike, heh).

Do you recommend a thimble for an absolute beginner while learning?  (I usually keep my nails pretty short, and while they're not necessarily brittle, they're not what I'd call tough.)

Thanks,

Tony

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I guess you told me.

AHHH.... GUYS!   This is "Anthony G Spangler" post on Thimbles...   I think we are heading off topic... 

 Can this be taken to a different posting area?  

Sorry, guess I can't take a joke.

Let's see....who has the biggest thimble here?  Or fob?  Lordy, I think I may faint dead away!  Pass the smelling salts!   lol!

I'm lucky to have bought 3 brass thimbles from George W. about 15 years ago, looong before I ever dreamed I might be interested in actually playing any minstrel tune or minstrel style.  Got them for clawhammer, but found them not as nice a natural tone as plastic picks, which sounded a little more like natural nails to me.

I know some clawhammer players who use brass bluegrass picks but turned the other way. It's a god-awful sound on steel strings for playing old-time, if you ask me. And horribly overbearing in a group.  But I digress- a thimble is different, and minstrel is different. 

Frankly, don't people have trouble with brass thimble edges abrading and cutting into their nylgut/gut strings??  Seems to me my G.W. thimbles have kind of sharp edges.

My banjos only have steel strings,so I can't speak to the what a thimble may do to those strings. My nails are taking a beating so I ordered some of Joel's picks. They are smooth as butter. The sound may be to harsh for others, but it is helping my abused nail.

I second the "smooth as butter".  I use Joel's thimble on my steel strings for clawhammer -- doesn't sound metallic at all, but rather like a very strong fingernail (which I don't have). I "usually" don't use it on gut or nylgut unless my nail is particularly floppy that day, or i'm having trouble gliding.

Valerie Díaz Leroy said:

My banjos only have steel strings,so I can't speak to the what a thimble may do to those strings. My nails are taking a beating so I ordered some of Joel's picks. They are smooth as butter. The sound may be to harsh for others, but it is helping my abused nail.

Geez, I read what I wrote and I must be working too hard.  I'm usually a good sport.  Please excuse my childish tantrum. 

I cannot speak for other manufactures, but I make sure that all the edges are smooth.  I know that lots of folks use gut (me included) and I don't want my products to be the cause of fraying.  Practice causes enough. 

The "blanks" are stamped with a custom die set in a 5 ton flywheel punch press (electricity not steam, but I've thought about trying to find a screw-press and doing it the old fashion way, steam power would be great, but I have neighbors that would not like the coal smoke).

Next I take off the burr with 2000 grit paper.  Then I toss them in a tumbler with glass beads to make sure.

After the shaping process I take them to a cloth wheel with polishing compound to shine them up.

Using modern technology (egad!) , I then clean them in a ultrasonic cleaner to remove 95% of the compound.

I rinse them with fresh hot water and dry them with a soft cotton cloth to clean off the rest.

The polishing and cleaning is what I do different than the originals.  In the 19th century these were thought of as a commodity.  Stamp 'em and sell 'em by the dozen.  Who knows who made them, and I've seen examples of unused originals that are pretty rough edged.

I'm a bit of a perfectionist. I also buy stuff and want it to be correct.  Luckily, I can do small batch production so that the extra attention can be given. 

Joel, sounds like you have outstanding quality control.   :)

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