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Thread: All wood banjolele projects

  1. #1
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    Default All wood banjolele projects

    Hi all, I'm a hobby luthier and have built quite a few instruments such as dulcimers, mandolins, and lap steels. I'm currently into a console grand non-pedal steel guitar project cut from one huge slab of 50 year old black walnut with 2 necks with 6 strings each.

    I have recently come into some nice wood and a couple of old beech hand drums one is 8" and the other is 10" both are 2.5" thick. I have begun building a soprano and a concert neck both made of Honduran mahogany. ) have also made the fretboards soprano = maple & concert = black walnut. both have medium round frets.

    I have tone wood of padauk, western red cedar, Honduran and African mahogany, and zebra wood. this tone wood is in book matched pairs that are large enough to cover the larger rim with a little to spare. 1960's Fender style Wilkinson tuners. I also have a bone nut and saddle and rosewood bridge cut for each.

    Now for my question...

    Do any of ya'll have recommendations as to the combinations of tone woods for the best sound as well as aesthetic quality given what you have read above? As for the tone wood, I have enough to make one top and one bottom for each species of wood listed. I'm thinking western red cedar for both tops and something else for the backs....

    I would appreciate any ideas with justification ya'll may have.

    Have a fine day and a better tomorrow.

    Thanks in advance.

    Log Dog

  2. #2
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    Default

    Oh yeah and could someone give me a good example of bracing for instruments of this shape and size. I have bass wood kerfs ready for the inner supports but nothing yet for the bracing.

  3. #3
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    Default

    Hi Log Dog, and welcome to Ukulele Underground. Just for clarification - you use the word Banjolele. This means a four string banjo, usually of soprano or concert scale, reentrant tuned. You seem to be describing a wooden instrument, more like a traditional Hawaian ukulele, figure of eight shaped. Is this what you plan to make, and what scale length are you considering?

    John Colter.

  4. #4
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    John,

    I am sorry that I was confusing in my earlier post:

    I called them banjoleles because they will be in banjo shape. The hoops (bodies) will be made of the two hand drums one that is 8" around that will be in soprano scale and the other is 10" around and will be built to concert scale. Since they were just leftover beech wood hoops from some old Remo brand hand drums, I decided to incorporate them into a project. I built a fretless practice banjo the same way.

    20141227_105710.jpg.

    So like I said they will be like banjoleles but they will have wood tops and bottoms rather than drum heads. The banjo in the picture sounds very good considering it's basically a stick and a piece of a cardboard concrete footing tube with a plywood top. The banjoleles will sound much better because they will be made much better and with quality parts and wood.
    Last edited by Log Dog; 08-10-2019 at 04:38 PM.

  5. #5
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    Hi Log Dog,

    Your last post simplified things a fair bit, allowing me to unscramble my thoughts enough to offer a few suggestions:

    If you intend to put a conventional wooden bridge on a round instrument with wooden top and back, it will, to my way of thinking, be a camp-style ukulele which will require some form of sound board bracing. There is copious information available for this design.

    If you want the quack or ratchet sound of a banjo-uke, you could omit the back and use a traditional dowel. This will require a floating bridge and tail piece. With a WRC or Mahogany top, a floating bridge will allow the necessary bridge height adjustment (adding material to the feet) to maintain optimal intonation as the top sinks with age. This also eradicates the rotation issues of a glued on bridge.

    Seeing that you have two rings of different sizes, you could entertain the thought of making a “wedding cake” (two tiered) design of the old wooden jazz banjos, circa 1920. The only unknown with this is the ability of nylon/fluorocarbon strings to create enough energy to drive the top with sufficient volume.
    The wood topped jazz banjos were typically steel strung and designed to be mellow (guitar-like) to fit in with the popular jazz style of the day.

    Google the subject to get further ideas. Banjo makers have been experimenting with wood tops, apparently with good results, for a long time.

  6. #6
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    Yes you seem to get my idea. I will be putting a traditional ukulele bridge on both instruments. I don't want to do a wedding cake style, nothing that elaborate. Just something that sounds and looks good and is light weight and easily playable. I wont be going backless, as there is a 1 1/2" hole in the side of both rims that will suffice as sound holes and should make them plenty loud. I will put a backbone inside as well as a removable back (removable for maintenance or upgrades). I am considering bracing ala Spanish guitar, and the bridge will be supported underneath by a raised ridge on the backbone to keep the bridge from sinking. I'm thinking WRC top for it's spruce like tone and sustain. It only has a hint of pink so it will match the beech wood sides pretty well. And although not my first choice for tone I am considering the zebra wood because the light color stripes should also blend well with the beech and the dark stripes should make it *POP*. Although the mahogany would match the neck and headstock and has a better tone than zebra wood.

    Thank you for your input.

  7. #7
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    Ah! I can now see what you are proposing, LogDog. I've never built a round bodied, or so-called camp uke, but the ever helpful ProfChris has. Perhaps he will chip in.

  8. #8
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    Quote Originally Posted by Log Dog View Post
    ….I will put a backbone inside as well as a removable back (removable for maintenance or upgrades). I am considering bracing ala Spanish guitar, and the bridge will be supported underneath by a raised ridge on the backbone to keep the bridge from sinking.
    I can't mentally visualise this, but be aware that anything that contacts the top or its ancillary structural parts and is not allowed to float in sympathy with it, will potentially kill volume and diminish tone.
    The cedar or mahogany would be my choices for top wood …. I would keep the zebra wood for non-critical aspects.
    Please consider posting progress pics, as it sounds like it will be an interesting build.

  9. #9
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    You learn something new every day. Now that I know it has a name (camp uke) I know where to look for info. I did a quick search and here is an example of what I have been talking about. Or at least something close to it. The only thing that makes this moment bitter / sweet is I thought I invented something new LOL!!!! Now I know Gretsch had made these as far back as the 1920s LOL!!!!

    camp2.jpg

    Thanks folks Ya'll are great. I'm glad I found you.

    Log Dog AKA Stephen

    Stephen.jpg
    Last edited by Log Dog; 08-10-2019 at 11:31 PM.

  10. #10
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    Bazuku,

    Of course you are right about stabilizing the bridge with the backbone. I should have caught that error in my plan myself. But since the area is small and it will be a nylon ish string set I think bracing the top as one would on an acoustic classic guitar and adding internal kerfing around the top and bottom there should be enough support for a classic uke bridge to salvage ample sound. What cha think?
    Last edited by Log Dog; 08-11-2019 at 01:16 AM.

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