View Full Version : Recommendations for a custom banjo

Jun-29-2016, 12:50pm
I've really been wanting to go down the fretless path for a while now, but I'm being very particular in what I want. I just haven't seen anything come up in classifieds that matches my desired specifications, nor can I find any maker who produces a model standard with *exactly* these features.

So, based on the list below, I'm wondering if there is a builder who makes a banjo just like this. And if not, who would you recommend to build a custom one, or that would tweak a standard model for these options? I've got several companies and makers in mind, but maybe you know of one I haven't considered?

Open-back 5-string, of course
12" walnut or stained maple rim, no tone ring (or just a hardwood tone ring, no metal). Don't care whether it's a dowel stick or co-rod setup, as long as it works.
Fiberskyn or actual skin head
Brass hardware on rim, preferably ball-type brackets (24-28 count)
Ebony fretless fingerboard, scooped, with brass plate overlay up to 5th fret area. Might consider doing a half-fretless or flush-fret up the neck, but I really want the brass plate below the 5th string tuner
Walnut neck with smooth satiny oil finish, nothing glossy. Adjustable truss rod and a boat heel.
25.5" scale. Or, if that's not ideal for a 12" pot, nothing longer than 26.25" scale.
1.25" nut width
Rear-facing tuners (no guitar-style side-facing tuners or slotted ones) with brown or black tuner buttons, not white/pearl
Shaped peghead in the classic scalloped hourglass or Victorian-esque style, not a plain paddlehead shape or a minstrel shape
Simple and tasteful inlay at peghead, like moon or star on a black or dark veneer overlay. Nothing too ornate in the inlay department.

The only thing I'm not sure of is whether I want it to be set up with nylgut or steel strings. I'm tempted to go nylgut, but I worry that it might suffer in the volume department.

Banjo Cafe
Jun-29-2016, 2:07pm
Assume maybe you've seen the one at Mass Street Music (http://massstreetmusic.com/collections/banjos/products/chuck-lee-open-back-fretless-banjo). We know, we know, not an exact match of course, but a real nice instrument and maybe someone else reading this might agree it's a fine one. We've seen it. Half mile from us.


Jul-02-2016, 11:03pm
Hi Tobin,

Have you seen this youtube video of Bryan Sutton with his OME fretless nylon string?


Jul-25-2016, 2:48pm
I would only go with Nylgut if you stick to one tuning. It can be plenty loud but from my experience it doesn't like to change from say G to double C without spending a fair amount of time retuning as the stretchy string get used to the new tension.