Minstrel Banjo

For enthusiasts of early banjo

Hi everyone,

So in the near-ish future I want to start experimenting with finishes on scrap wood for when my banjo kit (one of Mr Bell's) arrives.  I read through some past discussions regarding this topic and have a feel of what I'd like to try out first - the oil then shellac and rotten stone and final waxing.  However I was thinking about adding some color to the inside of the rim, a red. 


Thanks tothe wonder of the internet and some past knowledge gleaned form many random sources, I was looking over wood dying with analine dyes put into water and applied to the surface.  They color the wood but allow the grain to still be seen and a finish to be applied over it. 


Then are the 19th century paint recipes, of which I know a bit about but not enough yet (Gotta chat with some friends of mine who have!).  Oil and pigment. 


OK, so anyone have thoughts or experience with dyes or period paint recipes?  I have plenty of time till my kit arrives and will try to take shots of my results of each processes for all to see.




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If you use an aniline do not use water.  Use alcohol instead.  It will not raise the grain as much and will make for a better finish in the end.  

 So far as paint goes, use a regular artists oil paint cut with linseed oil and japan drier.  For a thinner finish use the drier and a but of turpentine instead.  You can also buy dry pigment and make your own paint, but there is little reason when the artist paint is basically what you will end up making.  The original formula used lead oxide to make the paint opaque.  Today this is replaced by less toxic substances.  I have made lead paint once but could not discern a difference in the final product so I abandoned the project as too dangerous.  

In period banjos we don't see a whole lot of "staining".  Mostly we see the use of re-agents like nitric acid (in the very mild form called aqua fortis.  This brings out the grain on woods with heavy sugar content like maple when lightly heated.  On non-sugar woods we see the use of potassium do-chromate.  This is used by violin makers and works with both sugar and non-sugar woods.

When we do see translucent colors over wood they are a type of glaze.  Usually this was a mixture of linseed oil and shellac with the pigment. By removing the opaque substrate you can get a nice glaze.

I hope some of this helps. 


The information you provided does indeed help!  Thanks very much!  I have some oils that I'm hoping are still OK, might have separated (became a watercolor guy years ago and never looked back at oils haha).  Aqua Fortis sounds familiar, I'll test it out if I can get my hands on it.  I'll most likely go the route of linseed oil and shellac then wax.  We shall see!

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