Minstrel Banjo

For enthusiasts of early banjo

Hello Friends:

     I am wondering about the so called "Flush Frets" that are seen on some banjos.

I'm building myself a fretless banjo along the lines of  the Boucher banjo, but not an exact replica.

I'm not going for Extreme authenticity, just the general  type of instrument.


     I've seen position markers in the form of contrasting strips of wood inlayed on some banjos.

Is this ok  to do or it it not recommended?


     Would appreciate any thoughts tou'd care to share.


      R H

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As a beginner , I thought about going the flush fret , or branded as Prust does. But if you do , I bet you will always wish you hadnt. To me , some of the romance of the  Early banjo is the lack of frets.   And its fun to hear people say" how do you know where to play"   they  look at me like Im much smarter than I am ,,, even at my beginner stage.

I m still lost past the first position, but down low   I bet you would adjust in a few days.

This is just advice from a beginner, so its not Gospel, but I hear what you are saying, and coming from




Most early banjo photos show the bridge somewhere near the middle of the head.  This is the place where the combination of the sound and action of the banjo are optimal.  Because there are no frets of fret markers there is great freedom in positioning the bridge.

I have three fretless banjos made from 1860 to about 1870.  One has flush brass frets, the other two, which are factory banjos, have inlaid wooden fret markers.  On the two with the wood markers, the markers aren't really that much help.  What I have done on both is to paint small white dots on the side of the neck.  As positions markers, these are much easier to see.  I then place the bridge for optimal action/sound and ignore the inlay.  The paint is easily removable should I need to remove the dots. 

Lots of the pre-war banjos had ogees and other markers on the neck to help you know where you were.  Minstrelsy was alive and well during the 1860's and 1870's so don't worry too much about being anachronistic with markers.  But, if it were me and I wanted markers, I would opt for dots on the side of the neck as opposed to inlays.  This technique frees you to adjust action and bridge placement as desired.

Thank you very much for the information. I found it helpful.


Ron H

 Im glad those pencil marks are too horrible, I have a side mark at 2& 3.  3 mark  sure helps me when tuning. 5 goes w/ bump & seven ogee.

 Im glad Im not bashing authenticity ,, and history,  that is important to me.

Well Authenticity and history are important to me as well. But on this build I'm just approaching it like it would have been done back in the perriod. That is , since I can not afford to buy a minstrel banjo, Im building one using a "make  Do" approach and adapting and scrounging parts and materials from unlikely sources.


So far its lookin purty good



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