View Full Version : Banjo uke needs new head

02-09-2010, 06:01 PM
Hello all,
Forgive the uninformed terminology I will likely use; I am a musician but am not a ukulele player. But I was told recently by a demonstrator at the Hohner booth (Winter NAMM show 2010 in Anaheim) that you are really great people and would be able to help me find a replacement part for an antique instrument.

My wife's great aunt owns what I believe is called a "banjo ukulele". Our cat recently knocked it off the top of a wardrobe and the head under the strings was punctured. I've searched the LP percussion site but cannot find anything that would fit. Please help!

I'll upload a picture of the instrument. I laid it next to a tape measure so you could gauge its size. (The name "Amelia" is scratched into the headstock; that is my wife's great aunt, who is currently 102!)

The head measures about 6.25 inches, assuming that it extends all the way under the black metallic retainer ring.

Thank you so much for your expert assistance!

02-09-2010, 06:12 PM
Some years ago I restored an ancient mando-banjo. Genuine skin heads are more expensive and not as durable, so I went with a synthetic Remo drum head.

02-09-2010, 06:34 PM
Some years ago I restored an ancient mando-banjo. Genuine skin heads are more expensive and not as durable, so I went with a synthetic Remo drum head.

Thank you for the fast response, itsme. I looked at the Remo site and found the same problem we've encountered elsewhere: a 6" drum head size is standard; a 6.25" head size is not.

Part of the problem is that I'm not sure how I would mount the drum head under the metal ring. The current (broken) head has a flange (it's a part of the head material) which protrudes under the metal ring and is secured by the screws that go through the ring into the body. But it appears that drum heads have a sort of metal ring around the outside that would interfere with the current mounting hardware. (I realize the solution may be more readily apparent to someone familiar with stringed instruments; I'm a keyboardist. Sorry to be dense!).

Here's one such choice at the Remo site:

BTW, recommendations for particular head characteristics are welcome (bright tone? medium? short sustain?)

Would it help you help me understand if I took a picture of the underside of the ring/head assembly, or of some other view? If so I'll add that/them to the post tomorrow.

Thanks again!

02-09-2010, 06:47 PM
Randy, where in California are you?

I will be honest with you... I basically disassembled the mando-banjo, cleaned all the parts, and took it all in a box to McCabe's in Santa Monica and paid them to re-assemble it all with a new head. Their repair dept people seemed very competent. If you are nearby, perhaps you could consult with them or at least give them a call about where to find the size head you need.


Phone: (310) 828-4497

02-09-2010, 08:42 PM
If you want to go with a skin head, you can do it yourself by going through a bit of work. I am attaching a link to the site of a friend.
He is very sharing with his information, as his main site shows. This page is about changing a skin head on a banjo, but should be able to be modified to your setup. (you don't have the bracket hooks)
If you browse the whole site, you can find my Martin D-18 guitar getting a bridge repair.

02-09-2010, 10:26 PM
I have a banjo uke restoration in progress which has stalled at the head changing stage.

A real skin vellum certainly gets around the non-standard size issue as you just cut to slightly oversize and then trim after fitting. Fitting a skin is a dratted fiddly job, but doable even by the inexperienced.

On my project I need to get the tension ring re-soldered before I can finish off fitting the skin. I kind of broke it.

Pukulele Pete
02-10-2010, 12:13 AM
I tried a drum head on my banjo uke and it was a waste of time and money.They are hard to fit to old banjo ukes. Putting on a skin head is really easy.You can find plenty of sites with instructions.

02-10-2010, 01:26 AM
Roy Cone at ukuleleworld.com

02-10-2010, 09:33 AM
Wow! Thank you, everyone. You have certainly lived up to and perhaps surpassed the opinion of that NAMM show demonstrator. I'll follow the links you have provided and post any new/useful information I find. Someone else is bound to be in a similar situation someday.

God bless you all!

02-10-2010, 10:06 AM
Any good banjo site can get you a skin head. They are very oversize; don't worry about that, just use what you need, cut off the rest.

As others have noted, installation is not difficult and there are links to installation. I selected a skin head from my Clarophone head restoration principally because it is a 1928 instrument and I wanted to have it kept in the same era.

I did find that two people makes it a bit easier to install the head -- the extra hands seemed to help keep everything in place (remember the wet skin is slick)


02-10-2010, 11:00 AM
I replaced the synthetic head on my Waverly Street banjo uke with a goatskin I purchased from Ukulele World (whom someone mentioned earlier). Here is an album of the process (http://s632.photobucket.com/albums/uu42/bem_bucket/WS89%20skin%20change/?albumview=slideshow). Since the synthetic head was crimped into the tension ring, I had to make my own flesh hoop from (rustproof) coiled wire I bought at Lowe's.

02-12-2010, 11:52 AM
I have one almost identical to it and I bought a head from ukuleleworld, it was a "second" which means it was not 100% pure white. Looked on the internet for how to install a head, wetted it down and went for it, It was an easy project. PM me and I'll tell you what I know.

10-23-2010, 02:12 PM
I just wrote up this article about how to do it. I hope others who find this post find it helpful

10-23-2010, 03:39 PM
Roy Cone at ukuleleworld.com Yes go there buy one and cut off the excess, no Prob.

10-24-2010, 03:21 AM
Yes they were correct, we are awesome people, lol..

That said, I think you got your answer above, I just wanted to chime in anyway. Replacing it with a true lambskin is not that hard of a task, and I personally like natural skin better than the plastic anyway. You can buy them at many etailers, but Elderly Instruments in Michigan has them too. They are cheaper than the plastic premade ones too. For what it's worth, I think the size of a premade one for that is a 6" head. I think that is what that is considered (dont quote me on that tho). I have restored a banjo uke, and several vintage tenor banjos and it has always been a fun project for me.

Good luck, and keep us posted..

10-24-2010, 05:03 AM
I just wrote up this article about how to do it. I hope others who find this post find it helpful

I was just scanning the thread to see if this was posted about so I could tell you about it. The man himself beat me to it. Great how-to and article.