Minstrel Banjo

For enthusiasts of early banjo

 I have been having probs .last week , so that I havent even played it. Been playing  a"steel string'OB, sorry.

 When I first got it a couple weeks ago , it seemed to tune fine , stay there , but it was unusual then for us,,, low humidity , and cold.

As the humidity hit,, the pegs seem to swell,  and hardly wanted to move. I eased them out a bit, but when I tried to tune,it didnt go well.  One sunny day I went on the back porch and after a few minutes it was like someone took a glass of water & tossed it on the head. I also noticed the inst. paper I was using ,were soggy too.  Like a sponge sucking up the moisture.  I went in and dried w/ a light bulb, but going back out it happed again.

 Bottom line, it may sound horrible to some,,, but Im wondering if I could somehow take off the skin head & tack a fiberskin head, or something like that on.  How would I stretch it?

 I know our humidity is only going to get worse, its giving me fits now, any ideas?

 Steve

 

I

 

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Yeah, I got an idea...cowboy up, soldier!  I don't think you can tack a synthetic material onto a banjo.  I think plastic heads come with a hoop pre-mounted.  You'd have to have some kind of heat moulding apparatus otherwise.

 

Actually, in the winter of our discontent, I find the opposite situation--the air is so dry that my tackhead is usually at its tightest.  

 

I was wondering, does anyone recommend humidifying?  I know it's important for the violin and guitar, but for the ol' cremona?

Steve - I'm afraid old-style banjars are like farming - they make you very aware of the weather. 

If it's too humid you can always take a hair dryer to it for a while before you play.

Actually winter is my banjos' favorite season They're all tight as....well, drums. The grainmeasure tackhead I made last August has developed a sassy twang that I'm really going to miss when the central heating goes off in the spring. My other homemade instrument was only completed in December so I'm a little worried that it's going to develop a major case of the sags when it experiences summer for the first time.

Natural materials are great-don't get me wrong on that. I just wish they were perfect for musical instruments. I grew tired of the struggle and not knowing what I was going to get from day to day. The materials on my Hartel have really helped me enjoy playing the banjo-anywhere...anytime! It feels great and the sound is very consistant. I'm not even sure I would say it is a compromise in sound. Every darn banjo sounds so different, there is no set standard. Blindfold mine against a gut/skin instrument and the difference is small. For me, it's much more about the music than anything else...I would rather be pursuing a great tune than screwing around with a hair dryer to get it just right for 15 minutes.

Tim, how is your Hartel set up? I agree with Ian--winter is the best for my skin heads, especially the GW Tackhead.

 

~John

It has a Renaissance head and Nylgut strings.

 Well, I appreciate your replys.  You all echo what the guy at the  shop in my neighborhood told me. He s a old guy w/ lots of exp. MAinly a acoustic shop.

He told me "they  are cool, they just dont work well around here , too much humidity".

Alrightey then.  It was a short but fun ride.

Where do you live?

Steve Jeter said:

 Well, I appreciate your replys.  You all echo what the guy at the  shop in my neighborhood told me. He s a old guy w/ lots of exp. MAinly a acoustic shop.

He told me "they  are cool, they just dont work well around here , too much humidity".

Alrightey then.  It was a short but fun ride.

 SE of Houston Tx . 5-10 min from bays & 30 from gulf of mexico

Tim Twiss said:
Where do you live?

Steve Jeter said:

 Well, I appreciate your replys.  You all echo what the guy at the  shop in my neighborhood told me. He s a old guy w/ lots of exp. MAinly a acoustic shop.

He told me "they  are cool, they just dont work well around here , too much humidity".

Alrightey then.  It was a short but fun ride.

I don't think you should give up yet.

It's a little drastic, but you could remount a new head following the excellent instructions Jay posted recently.

It's not as scary as you might think - especially if you've got nothing to lose.

I'll bet if you did it on a nice humid day, the skin would settle into a tension that would work OK most of the time. You can order goatskin heads online from Elderley Instruments , but I'm sure there are other places too. I'm not sure what to say about the swelled pegs. Maybe you could pull them out on a day when you can and rub some peg soap on them and then try not push them in any tighter than they have to be to hold. (I've never had any real peg soap. I've always used the kind of cracked dried-up bar of soap that you generally find somewhere near the basement sink at our house.)

 

Steve Jeter said:

 SE of Houston Tx . 5-10 min from bays & 30 from gulf of mexico

Tim Twiss said:
Where do you live?

Steve Jeter said:

 Well, I appreciate your replys.  You all echo what the guy at the  shop in my neighborhood told me. He s a old guy w/ lots of exp. MAinly a acoustic shop.

He told me "they  are cool, they just dont work well around here , too much humidity".

Alrightey then.  It was a short but fun ride.

I would agree with Ian. If that is how Jay does it, I would try it. His tackys are pretty darn good in the worst of humidity. My gourd is really stable. I'm sure diameter and thickness really affect it...less area to take on moisture.

I would recommend that you find a local repair shop and have your pegs fit. It is an important step that is not given careful attention in some low end banjos. This procedure could really help. There's more to it than drilling a hole and sticking them in.

 Ok , thanks for the advice,,, I tuned it up last nite & magically it was like new. Im just gonna have to learn to work within  the confines  

 Steve                                                           Tim Twiss said:

I would agree with Ian. If that is how Jay does it, I would try it. His tackys are pretty darn good in the worst of humidity. My gourd is really stable. I'm sure diameter and thickness really affect it...less area to take on moisture.

I would recommend that you find a local repair shop and have your pegs fit. It is an important step that is not given careful attention in some low end banjos. This procedure could really help. There's more to it than drilling a hole and sticking them in.

Happy to hear the good news!

I play a lot of lo-tech instruments - they should all come with a "Don't Panic" sticker. Things like this often sort themselves out.

 

Steve Jeter said:

 Ok , thanks for the advice,,, I tuned it up last nite & magically it was like new. Im just gonna have to learn to work within  the confines  

 Steve                                                           Tim Twiss said:

I would agree with Ian. If that is how Jay does it, I would try it. His tackys are pretty darn good in the worst of humidity. My gourd is really stable. I'm sure diameter and thickness really affect it...less area to take on moisture.

I would recommend that you find a local repair shop and have your pegs fit. It is an important step that is not given careful attention in some low end banjos. This procedure could really help. There's more to it than drilling a hole and sticking them in.

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