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View Full Version : Question about banjolele head replacement (with pics!)



J_Tay81
01-04-2011, 11:33 AM
Last night I replaced the old paper (seriously, it was paper) vellum/head that my vintage banjo uke came with with a goatskin head. I tightened down the brackets a bit to keep it in place, allowing it to dry without any wrinkles on the playing surface. I was going to tighten the head down more but it is already pretty much hard as a board, with just a slight 'give' under thumb pressure. My other concern is that I don't know if the tension hoop is down far enough. With the new bridge in place it looks like the strings will clear it, but I'm afraid the action may be too high. Should the tension hoop be this high off the head? Can I tighten it more (once dry) and get it lower? As of this writing the head has been drying for about 17 hours now.

Pukulele Pete
01-04-2011, 11:40 AM
Looks to me like you have to put on a new head. I've put on two heads on banjoleles and I put the tension hoop much lower when it was wet.
I brought the ring down near the height of the head ( when it was wet ) and have had no problems.

J_Tay81
01-04-2011, 11:44 AM
Looks to me like you have to put on a new head. I've put on two heads on banjoleles and I put the tension hoop much lower.
I brought the ring down near the height of the head and have had no problems.

I haven't attempted to do a final tightening. This was just to keep the head taught and in place while it dries. It's just that at this point, the head is pretty stiff. I read that when it dries totally, it can take more tension. Hopefully I can get by without doing a new head. It was a pain trying to get the old flesh hoop any lower that I did...

Pukulele Pete
01-04-2011, 11:46 AM
I don't think you will be able to tighten it enough. But ......Good Luck

J_Tay81
01-04-2011, 12:12 PM
Thanks! Hopefully the thing doesn't rip apart. But if I have to put another head on, I'll just chalk this up to a learning experience.

Jnobianchi
01-04-2011, 12:54 PM
After 17 hours, it's pretty much set, but I can see there's some play still. Try it and see. Remember to tight the opposite tension hooks and go around the head that way to bring the tension down evenly. The time to bring it close to the level of the neck is when you first attach it. It's still wet and there's still plenty of play in the wire.

If you can't get it lower, I'd say try it again. Don't worry, I bought two heads for my first try. After that first one, which wasn't going to work - I had it on upside down, I've never had another problem!

Pretty soon, Loreley will be luring sailors onto the rocks - or something. Maybe that isn't actually something you'd want! :)

J_Tay81
01-04-2011, 01:22 PM
Well, I'll pass on the sailors, but I'll take the rest of your advice. Appreciate it!

J_Tay81
01-04-2011, 01:50 PM
OK, I've been tightening the tension ring down by 1/4 turns all around. I've got the tension ring even with the end of the neck of the fret board, but it still sticks out away from the head by ~ 1/4 inch. I don't have a spare set of strings around that I can test out...Do you think that will be good enough? I did just order another piece of goat skin from ukulele world just in case...

John

KamakOzzie
01-04-2011, 06:31 PM
OK, I've been tightening the tension ring down by 1/4 turns all around. I've got the tension ring even with the end of the neck of the fret board, but it still sticks out away from the head by ~ 1/4 inch. I don't have a spare set of strings around that I can test out...Do you think that will be good enough? I did just order another piece of goat skin from ukulele world just in case...

John


If the tension hoop clears the end of the fret board, you should be o.k.
Try putting a straight edge along the frets to make sure it is down far enough. The string action can be adjusted by bridge height.

Bill

Pukulele Pete
01-05-2011, 01:18 AM
I'm wondering if the goatskin is too thick for the ring to come down to where it should be. The heads I put on were "vellum"
and were like a sheet of paper., pretty thin.

Tudorp
01-05-2011, 02:35 AM
The ring on mine is about 1/4" higher than the skin too. Plays fine.

Jnobianchi
01-05-2011, 05:09 AM
If you're at the level of the fretboard, you'll likely be fine. As suggested, try a straight edge to see if the strings will clear. If they will, string it up and let's hear it!

Goatskin isn't too thick. it adds no height to the pot at all. Vellum is traditionally calfskin, but goatskin is called vellum as well. A calfskin head will be thinner, but the only thing its going to effect is tone, which will be slightly sharper in most cases. don't worry about goatskin - its a great choice for a banjo uke and it will have a warmer tone, which is not a bad thing for your family members' ears. :)

Also remember that your head will loosen slightly as it settles over the next week or two. You may actually find that it needs a quarter turn of tightening in a couple of weeks - you also may find that it sits well and doesn't loosen, in which case, don't tighten. You'll also find that rainy or damp weather makes the head go temporarily slack and your sound gets a little duller - don't worry - it comes back, and if you have a gig on a rainy day, you may want to tighten temporarily.

SailingUke
01-05-2011, 07:30 AM
Are you sure you have both rings on correctly?
If one of them is upside down it may not fit properly.
I put a new head on mine and had no issues.
You may be able to re-wet the head and see if you can stretch it a bit more.
I did not trim mine until I was al done.

ukeeku
01-05-2011, 04:36 PM
Just my 2 cents.
Since you have not had to poke any holes in the Head I would re-soak it and then bring the head about 1/8" to where its final tighening would be. The only banjo ukes I have done are inline heads so it is a one time shot.
so I am saying yes to resoaking it, wetting it while on will not work, tried it once to only destroy the instrument

Jnobianchi
01-05-2011, 05:38 PM
The only issue there is that he's cut the vellum already, so unless he gets on centered exactly, it won't hold.

J_Tay81
01-05-2011, 06:10 PM
Well, I went ahead and left the tension ring at 1/4" above the vellum. I put strings on it, polished the fretboard and put the bridge on. It's still settling into tune (the strings are anyway), but it does sound unique. Certainly much louder than the original paper head that was on there. I sanded down the bridge a little bit because the action was off the charts high, but it seems like it will work as is. No weird intonations that I can detect with my tin ears.

The banjo uke certainly has a different sound to it - very plunky and 'in your face'. Hopefully I set it up well. All in all, it was a fun project to mess with!

Jnobianchi
01-06-2011, 08:20 AM
Plunky and 'in your face' are a good start!!

Remember, Jeeves left Wooster when Bertie bought a banjolele. My wife protests whenever I play when she's in the house. This is the natural order of things when you're playing banjo uke.

Welcome to the dark side. (maniacal laughter ensues)

You may want to sand down further as you play if you notice you're working a little harder to fret up the neck or going out of tune when you fret open chords. I've always bought 1/2" bridges and often sand down to 7/16s or even closer to 3/8s. But play for a while and see what you think before committing to an even lower action. Remember, no matter how the head goes on, the bridge always basically sits on the same plane; as long as your strings are clearing the bezel ring, you'll be fine.

ukeeku
01-06-2011, 01:23 PM
Awesome, a playable instrument is a success in my book. Also Welcome to the dark side, we have cookies

Jnobianchi
01-06-2011, 01:32 PM
Awesome, a playable instrument is a success in my book. Also Welcome to the dark side, we have cookies

:D

I'm using that!

J_Tay81
01-06-2011, 05:50 PM
Mmmm...cookies... :)

I may be sanding down the bridge a bit - higher up the neck is a bit lofty in terms of action. Unfortunately, I ordered a second banjo head because a few people said I'd have to redo it. Anybody need one? It's natural goat skin!

When one sands down the bridge on a banjolele, do you sand the 'feet' or base of the bridge, or the notches where the strings sit?

I'm still waiting for the Aquila banjo strings I bought (with the 'C' string wound) to settle in. But it is definitely a different beast than my sweet little sopranos!

Thanks for all the advice and support!

Jnobianchi
01-06-2011, 07:21 PM
Always feet! sand it by duct taping a sheet of fine grit sandpaper to a counter or floor - has to be stable and taut. Then, put even pressure down on the bridge and move it in a circular fashion. That way, you'll get flat feet that are evenly sanded down, makes the bridge stable and sound better.

Good luck!

J_Tay81
01-07-2011, 03:38 PM
One last question (until I think of another!)
I basically just tightened the head down until it was hard as a board with a tiny bit of give under thumb pressure. I've read that you can 'tune' the head. How does one do this and should I do it on my banjo uke?

J_Tay81
01-11-2011, 11:15 AM
OK, back before I thought I screwed up the banjo head placement, I bought a second head. I can get the current head with the tension ring down pretty tight, so it clears the neck, but there is still a 1/4" rise above the vellum. Now, it appears to play fine, but I've got this second goat skin head - should I replace the head I have on there now and try a new one (more just for fun the anything else)?