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Thread: Recommendations for a custom banjo

  1. #1
    Registered User Tobin's Avatar
    Join Date
    Apr 2016
    Bandera, TX

    Recommendations for a custom banjo

    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.

  2. #2

    Re: Recommendations for a custom banjo

    Assume maybe you've seen the one at Mass Street Music. 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.

    Banjo Cafe Administrator

  3. #3
    Registered User
    Join Date
    Apr 2016
    Las Vegs, Nevada

    Re: Recommendations for a custom banjo

    Hi Tobin,

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

  4. #4
    Registered User
    Join Date
    Jul 2016
    Chelmsford, MA

    Re: Recommendations for a custom banjo

    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.


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