Minstrel Banjo

For enthusiasts of early banjo

All Blog Posts (282)

sharpening cabinet or card scraper

 any yall use a scraper? and if you do, how do you sharpen it?

I got a set from woodcraft,, and when new it was great,  I took a LOT of sanding out , I cant handle much sanding , it hurts my lungs ,, even with a mask,,, i abused them as a younger man

Added by Steve Jeter on June 5, 2012 at 10:16am — 3 Comments

Sebastopol Breakdown

Does anyone know the origin of this song. I really like it and upon playing it for some friends that used to live in the Sonoma Valley, said of the town there named Sebastopol. Some rumers that it got it's name sake from;

" The town was originally called Pinegrove, and how the name change occurred is rumored to have something to do with a bar fight in the late 1850s which was likened to the long British siege of the then-Russian seaport of …


Added by Nicholas A Bechtel on June 4, 2012 at 5:28pm — 7 Comments

The Fun Factor

I did and / do not mean to belittle musicians.

I enjoy learning a musical style on appropriate instruments !

But  I realized long ago that I have a lot of fun trying inappropriate things too!

I have instruments that I have built that have no name or appripriate musical family 

or music just for that instrument.  I enjoy learning and doodling around musically.

One of my outlandish approaches is to play old time music on a Tenor Recorder.



Added by Ronald D Haines on May 25, 2012 at 8:31am — 1 Comment

"Lady I Ain't no Musician ! ......I'm a Banjo Player"

The old line about baseball players adapted to me !!


Don't know how much skill i'll end up with but I'm havin a great time

My Rules:

1.   Don't take it so seriously

2.   If I'm not having fun don't do it

3.   It was in tune when I bought it !!


Added by Ronald D Haines on May 24, 2012 at 9:23am — 1 Comment

My First Coffin Case Part III

Added by Nicholas A Bechtel on May 18, 2012 at 2:37pm — 1 Comment

My First Coffin Case Part II

Added by Nicholas A Bechtel on May 18, 2012 at 2:34pm — 1 Comment

My first Coffin Case.

Needed a coffin Case for  my new sweet Banjo from Jay Moschella. it sounds sooo sweet. I have a reenactment event this weekend at Ft Tejon, Lebec CA.


 Figured I could make my own. Took me 4 days, made a couple measurement errors...nothing that the belt Sander could not fix. This was…


Added by Nicholas A Bechtel on May 18, 2012 at 2:32pm — 5 Comments

Early American Banjo Enthusiasts in California

Putting a call out to anyone out here in Southern California that is particularly into this style of Banjo Playing.

I live in Santa Barbara, and have not seen anyone so far on the website that is out here. I read on with envy at all of you that get to get to get together. A lot of cool stuff going on out there.

standing by...

Added by Nicholas A Bechtel on May 16, 2012 at 10:15am — 12 Comments

Well I couldn't stay away

I have returned to This site , I'm glad to be here. Now

that personal Issues are resolved and I have Time to

 learn and enjoy this instrument. I would like to explain

my banjo , It was built with the"use what ya got" approach.

 I didn't have much money or special shop at my disposal

so I just kinda went for it.  The Pot is made from a piece

of that aqua bluesewer pipe that ya often see at

construction sites. The neck and dowel are from…


Added by Ronald D Haines on May 15, 2012 at 2:03pm — No Comments

The first time you string up a new banjo

As a banjo builder, I can't help but feel like an expectant parent when I am getting close to finishing a new banjo. All that excitement springs to the surface as I get that new set of strings out and start tying the knots to hold them on the shiny new tailpiece. Then, as I tighten them up for the first time, nerves on edge , POP! One of the knots lets go and I carefully tie it back on with an extra twist to make sure it stays. Now I am feeling a bit jumpy. I cringe as I tighten those last few… Continue

Added by Brian Glass on May 10, 2012 at 9:13pm — No Comments

Tutor Recording - Rice


Okay, I am going to begin on the Phil Rice Method of 1858. Actually, I am going to start at the back and work the other way. No special reason.

I am using a new instrument for this book, that being a brand new Bell Boucher. You all know the excitement of having a new instrument in your hands. That is what I am feeling now. This instrument, all 27 inches of it's resonating beauty, is perfect to capture the dynamic range of…


Added by Tim Twiss on April 22, 2012 at 6:35am — 9 Comments

got a fever

 Just ordered a peg shaper, enough pegs for 5 banjos, almost have my 2nd finished, a cold got me down some. A gourd is up next.  I am lovin it.

Added by Steve Jeter on April 17, 2012 at 12:27pm — No Comments


Hope everybody has a great wknd. and some fun with your banjo

Added by Steve Jeter on April 13, 2012 at 4:23pm — No Comments

Tutor Recording Blog

4/2/12 Started the Briggs tonight. Thought a lot about Jim Crow Polka and after watching some dance videos, decided to slow it down. Felt and sounded better. Also did Dan Tucker, Dandy Jim, and Boatman's Dance. Recored on Hartel Boucher. 


Added by Tim Twiss on April 2, 2012 at 9:00pm — 30 Comments


Hey Al Smitley....you going up to the Cromaine this weekend?


Added by Tim Twiss on March 29, 2012 at 6:58pm — 3 Comments

bridge options

I thought I'd share the results of my experiments with bridges of different heights, thicknesses and woods on my tack head minstrel.  I made two from aspen and two from cedar. All are horizontal grain.

The original is pine. 2 7/8 L x 9/16 H x 1/4 W x 1/16  - right in picture

The aspen bridges are: 

(1) 2 7/8 L x 5/8 H x 1/8 W x 1/16 -  left in picture

(2) 2 15/16 L x 9/16 H x 3/16 W x 1/16

cedar:  (1) 2 7/8 L x 9/16 H x 5/32 W x…


Added by Rick Pickren on March 27, 2012 at 10:31am — 2 Comments

Union Jig

 Does anyone have Union Jig in tab preferably,, or dots?? that they could share ?

Added by Steve Jeter on March 26, 2012 at 1:12pm — No Comments

Great bldg. long wknd

 I took fri off, intending to put the Bell kit together. but decided  to  work on my banjo Im building already from scratch..  My pot is basically done. Made a 12" to get some tum tum hopefully.  I  got the neck down to size using hand tools,  I like them and truthfully I dont have any "big " power tools. I am using ,my elec drill, and cut some w/ my bandsaw.   But realized you can move a good bit of wood w/ a rasp,,, once i got the hang of it.   Did some reading up and found you are…


Added by Steve Jeter on March 26, 2012 at 8:13am — No Comments

Stitcher Neck Kit

 Just got my wonderful Tery Bell neck kit, cant wait to work on it, I think Ill take tomorrow off.

 I then realized the neck blank I have been making was overkill, I have 2   1x4 X26  poplar boards glued together,,, I thought you needed a lot of peghead angle, evidently not.  Glad I have a band saw.

 Thanks Terry , it looks perfect

Added by Steve Jeter on March 22, 2012 at 9:29am — No Comments


Hey Al...(and anybody nearby in lower Michigan)...I'm playing at the Celtic Kettle tonight in Hartland, with my friend Marianne Murphy. Sneaking in a few banjo tunes along with lots of guitar, a little bones, and my Spike Jones Jaw Bone solo.

Come on out if you are able. Showtime is 7:30


Added by Tim Twiss on March 17, 2012 at 12:35pm — No Comments


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