Minstrel Banjo

For enthusiasts of early banjo

I'm fairly new to the board and have searched thru the forums looking for some answers, but came up a little short.  Sorry if I'm repeating any topics that have already been covered.

I am in the early stages of building a Minstrel-style banjo; not entirely traditional, but I'm looking to achieve sound and playability over aestetics. If this goes well, then I will strive for traditional next time.

I built a crude rim approximately 13" diameter, and am now working on the neck layout.  I plan on using Aquila Minstrel Strings, and am also planning on a 26" scale.  The fingerboard will be fretless., and I will be tacking a skin head to the rim.

I looked at the Banjo Sightings Database for some dimensions, but need some clarifications....

Nut width: I see variations from 1-3/8" to 1.5"; I'm leaning towards 1.5". Is this too wide?

String Spacing:  Is there any standard for string spacing at the nut and at the bridge?  I have a Gold Tone Bob Carlin model to compare, but I'm wondering if the Nylon String Minstrels need to have a little wider spacing than the typical.  Of course, this affects the nut width.

Bridge Placement:  I see bridges placed directly in the Center and off center.  Any advantage to one over the other?  This will affect my overall neck measurements with a given scale length.

Bridge Height: Again there are variations between 1/2" to 3/4".  Any advatage of one over the other given a 26" scale?

Any help or suggestions would be appreciated.  Thanks

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I built my first neck from scratch as well.  I found 1.5" to be too wide, I cut it down to 1 3/8.  You do not want the bridge to be dead center,  the playing action will be mushy and the sound dull.  I could go in to the structural dynamics of the situation but off center is better.  I like a wider spacing, but that is a matter of preference.  Bridge height is somewhat an issue of the instrument.  On one banjo it was originally quite high, but when I rebuilt the neck and repositioned it, all of a sudden I needed to go with a lower bridge height.

Don't get too hung up on a precise scale length.  It is fretless, after all. Put the bridge where it sounds best to you.  I play my Bell Boucher at about 28" to 28.5" (sometimes 29" depending on the weather).  Sometimes I'll slide the bridge forward far enough to raise the pitch a half tone or more to make some of the low notes more reachable when I'm singing. Regardless, have fun with it.

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