Minstrel Banjo

For enthusiasts of early banjo

What was the common size and tapering of the tuning peg holes in the 19th century.

I am going to be making and authentic replica of a 19th century banjo and I have been looking for the common size and tapering of the tuning peg holes.

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I just use a violin peg reamer and a matching peg shaver at 4/4 size. Just make sure they match. They are fairly pricey and I got cheap ones the first go around but about 2 years in I had to get expensive ones so consider that if you plan on using them often.

I Thought about buying the 4/4 size violin tuners and reamer but as I was looking on the banjo database, I found out the early banjo tuners look a lot different than the modern ebony tuning pegs, so I have been building a treadle lathe to make the tuners and just going to hand carve the tuner heads.

Chris Prieto said:

I just use a violin peg reamer and a matching peg shaver at 4/4 size. Just make sure they match. They are fairly pricey and I got cheap ones the first go around but about 2 years in I had to get expensive ones so consider that if you plan on using them often.

I've carved up a few by hand and they came out nice. I still used shaver and reamer to get peg and hole to fit. You can also purchase nicer violin pegs that are similar to one in photo above.

I've carved some for my gourd banjo out of walnut. I used a modern reamer, but made my own shaver out of a block of maple.

I make my pegs out of walnut. They work better than the ebony violin pegs because they aren't as sticky. I think the softer wood compresses more than the ebony and therefore has a better fit... so I don't have to jam them in quite so hard. Also, it feels like the violin pegs go oval with changes in the humidity more than the walnut pegs do.

The link below shows how I made the pegs for my most recent banjo.

http://www.thekimerers.net/brian/minstrel2/pegs.shtml

That's what I used to make mine! Thanks for posting :)

I have a Flesher Boucher minstrel that I built from a kit. It has beautiful rosewood violin tuners for pegs. I dread tuning the instrument because the pegs stick and slip and chatter in the holes. I have had to pound them out of the holes with the heel of my shoe on more than one occasion. I have no such problems with the walnut pegs. I have been thinking of making my own pegs for the Flesher so that I will play it more, but I hate to put those beautiful pegs in a box somewhere and swap 'em out for my more rustic look.

You try and dust em with graphite?

I have a Bell Boucher banjo and it has ebony tuning pegs and they turn very smoothly and stay tuned, but To me they don't look too much like traditional banjo tuners, but other than that, he also makes some very nice Banjos.

Brian Kimerer said:

I have a Flesher Boucher minstrel that I built from a kit. It has beautiful rosewood violin tuners for pegs. I dread tuning the instrument because the pegs stick and slip and chatter in the holes. I have had to pound them out of the holes with the heel of my shoe on more than one occasion. I have no such problems with the walnut pegs. I have been thinking of making my own pegs for the Flesher so that I will play it more, but I hate to put those beautiful pegs in a box somewhere and swap 'em out for my more rustic look.

Maybe it is the rosewood then. I just took another look at the pegs, and they definitely are not ebony. Nice looking pegs.

I have not tried to put compound on the pegs. Too many other fish to fry. I should do that. I could also try to shave them slightly to present a new wood surface.... and maybe ream the holes just enough to expose fresh wood. When I put the banjo together I did not have the reamer and the shaver, so the pegs and holes are just as they were manufactured. Maybe there is some finish in them too.

I also need to adjust the set of the strings on that  banjo. I think I set them a tad too high.

So many banjos; so little time.

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