Minstrel Banjo

For enthusiasts of early banjo

My latest build

Views: 48

Comment by Al Smitley on March 23, 2020 at 6:51pm

Please explain more.  Is there something about the 5th string that allows it to be easily changed and, with the use of some capo device gives the option of playing in different keys.  Reminded me of a backgammon board, at first sight.

Comment by flatfoot johnny on March 24, 2020 at 10:28am
Hi Al. The 5th string is no harder to change than any other banjo. You just need to poke it down the slot and into the hole in the peg. Regarding a capo you could just tune up the string. They can generally take it. This banjo wasnt designed with new fangled capos in mind.
Comment by Al Smitley on March 24, 2020 at 10:51am

Sorry I didn't well articulate what I meant.  When I typed "easily changed" I meant with regard to the key you want to play in.  I thought that perhaps there was some device you came up with to significantly shorten the 5th string (from bridge to moveable nut, so to speak) as I would be reluctant to tighten the 5th string more than a step or so without shortening the distance from the bridge to the nut.

Comment by flatfoot johnny on March 24, 2020 at 11:37am
Oh right. No, no device I'm afraid.
Comment by Joel Hooks on March 27, 2020 at 7:32am

Al, to change keys one just needs to play in a different key.  Full instructions are given in the Converse "Green" book.  No patent clamps, twisting pegs or mousetraps needed.

Johnny, this is a very cool banjo!  I understood "Tunbridgeware" to be bundles of colored sticks glued together in blocks and then sliced off to form the pattern.  The concept was inexpensive and easy to cover wooden objects with no thought given to taste.  The banjos covered with that stuff tend to be tourist curiosities and not necessarily solid playing instruments.   

Is your banjo decoration not marquetry?  A good deal of quality early banjos were decorated with marquetry and your's looks to fall into that category of quality.

Comment by Al Smitley on March 27, 2020 at 8:05am

Joel, I've played in a lot of different keys as backup, but assumed that if I wanted to do an instrumental break or melodic bridge, it might help to re-tune the 5th string and use a capo devise.  I will take a look at Converse, however.  Thanks for the suggestion.

Comment by flatfoot johnny on March 29, 2020 at 3:48pm

Thanks Joel, ive been looking at a bunch of tunbridgeware banjos and they seem to vary in quality. yes proper tunbridgeware is bundles of 1mm sqaure sticks arranged to make a pattern then sliced up. Ultimately this is marquetry... but then so is tunbridgeware technically. Ive been chatting to someone from Tunbridge Wells museum (i was going to visit until this CV 19 stuff happened) where they have loads of info regarding tunbridgeware. he told me that the banjos were often a mixture of tunbridgeware and what was called at the time, German strap work. This banjo was inspired by a couple of simpler banjos that ive looked at.

A couple of weeks ago i got hold of a real Tunbridgeware banjo neck, probably quite high end as its all proper tunbridgware. Its pretty impressive. I dont know how they cut such thin pieces of wood without having equal amounts of waste... or maybe they did...

Once i work out the best way to make 1mm sqaure strips without tons of waste im going to have a go at real tunbridgeware

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