Banjo Uke Build

Jerryc41

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This is turning into a slow project, which is fine. I bought a 10" drum and a slothead concert neck. I added a small extension between the neck and the body, and I glued and screwed in place a couple of nights ago. The next morning, I received a tenor slothead neck (also from China). I didn't know I had ordered it. It's longer than the concert neck without the extension. I considered removing the concert neck, but decided against it. Instead, I ordered another 10" drum for a second build. The mahogany is left over from the necks of previous builds.

I'm not sure what I'll do about a tailpiece. I have a brass tailpiece from Stew-Mac, but I'm not sure I want to use it. Maybe I'll improvise. My creations will never be competition with real luthiers, but making them is fun.

I don't know how to remove that second picture of the neck and extension.

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That looks promising, Jerry!

John Colter.
 
Absolutely enjoying your build Jerry. Fabulous progress. And will now there will be two of them, I like it!
No such thing as too many ukes. :shaka:
 
I reckon you could make a tailpiece Jerry. I have had a go at a couple and used the end of the stiffening through rod as the attachment point, that way you can always bin the thing and start again without harming your instrument. good luck
Max
 
You can make a tailpiece out of an old dinner fork or desert spoon...just a thought :)fork.jpg
 
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I've done work similar to yours on a hand drum banjo. I added neck and tail blocks first (don't let them touch the head). I made a back for it rather than use a dowel stick to add some weight to improve the balance since mine had a banjo neck. I used a similar neck adaptor to speed things along. The neck and tail piece bolt directly into the internal blocks. It sounded fine. The friend I gave it to chose it over a more conventional banjo. You might want to add a bit of neck pitch to fit a taller bridge. It will drive the head more, improving both tone and volume.

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This is turning into a slow project, which is fine. I bought a 10" drum and a slothead concert neck. I added a small extension between the neck and the body, and I glued and screwed in place a couple of nights ago. The next morning, I received a tenor slothead neck (also from China). I didn't know I had ordered it. It's longer than the concert neck without the extension. I considered removing the concert neck, but decided against it. Instead, I ordered another 10" drum for a second build. The mahogany is left over from the necks of previous builds.

I'm not sure what I'll do about a tailpiece. I have a brass tailpiece from Stew-Mac, but I'm not sure I want to use it. Maybe I'll improvise. My creations will never be competition with real luthiers, but making them is fun.

I don't know how to remove that second picture of the neck and extension.

View attachment 112969 View attachment 112970 View attachment 112971

If I'm looking at this correctly, you have your two dowels running at the top of the neck, and the main brace dowel running underneath? I've been wondering whether to use wood or a truss rod.
Can't wait to see how your's comes out. I've only gotten as far as putting stuff in my Amazon cart. Need to get clamps or at least pad some of my misc clamps from home really well.
 
I've done work similar to yours on a hand drum banjo. I added neck and tail blocks first (don't let them touch the head). I made a back for it rather than use a dowel stick to add some weight to improve the balance since mine had a banjo neck. I used a similar neck adaptor to speed things along. The neck and tail piece bolt directly into the internal blocks. It sounded fine. The friend I gave it to chose it over a more conventional banjo. You might want to add a bit of neck pitch to fit a taller bridge. It will drive the head more, improving both tone and volume.

View attachment 112978 View attachment 112979 View attachment 112980 View attachment 112981

Are you using steel strings on this? It's really beautiful.
What did you use for the tailpiece pegs?
It doesn't look like you have a dowel/truss rod to run from neck to tail or are you just using the back plate instead? I can't remember if it was you who said they just attached the neck with a pair of dowels and didn't run a rod down to the tail. Would you throw up a picture of the neck? I'd like to see the banjo neck. Did you fret it like a uke or a banjo?
 
If I'm looking at this correctly, you have your two dowels running at the top of the neck, and the main brace dowel running underneath? I've been wondering whether to use wood or a truss rod.
Can't wait to see how your's comes out. I've only gotten as far as putting stuff in my Amazon cart. Need to get clamps or at least pad some of my misc clamps from home really well.

The two dowels in the neck are to attach that spacing piece, which I eventually cut down to about 1/2". Yes, the main bracing dowel is toward the bottom because I didn't want to interfere with the band that holds the drum head in place.

Adding things to my Amazon Wish List and then to my cart are two small pleasures I get out of life. : ) So many uke parts come from China, and they take weeks, rather than days to arrive. Sometimes, I don't mind waiting, but I usually like speedy delivery.
 
I've done work similar to yours on a hand drum banjo. I added neck and tail blocks first (don't let them touch the head). I made a back for it rather than use a dowel stick to add some weight to improve the balance since mine had a banjo neck. I used a similar neck adaptor to speed things along. The neck and tail piece bolt directly into the internal blocks. It sounded fine. The friend I gave it to chose it over a more conventional banjo. You might want to add a bit of neck pitch to fit a taller bridge. It will drive the head more, improving both tone and volume.

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That's beautiful. I like that tailpiece. Can you give me some details about how you made it and what pins you used? One screw is enough to keep it firmly attached? Cutting the two curved grooves proved to be a challenge.
 
Are you using steel strings on this? It's really beautiful.
What did you use for the tailpiece pegs?
It doesn't look like you have a dowel/truss rod to run from neck to tail or are you just using the back plate instead? I can't remember if it was you who said they just attached the neck with a pair of dowels and didn't run a rod down to the tail. Would you throw up a picture of the neck? I'd like to see the banjo neck. Did you fret it like a uke or a banjo?

Back in the day I built a bunch of hammered dulcimers, and I still have a small box of the 1/8" stainless steel hitch pins left over, so those are what I used on the banjo tailpiece. I think StewMac sells them. You could also cut up a 1/8" brass rod from a hardware store, chuck them into drill (press) and quickly file the ends round. The cool thing is that the pins run through both the tailpiece and the rim, so there is no way the tailpice going to pull off of there.

Its strung with steel strings. Scale length is 23 1/2". I dislike dowel sticks. The walnut back is a good 3/8" thick. I would make it thicker to correct the balance if I had to. I don't think the rim is going to warp. The tailpiece covers an access hole I can use to reach through a nut driver to tighten the neck bolts.
 

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The two dowels in the neck are to attach that spacing piece, which I eventually cut down to about 1/2". Yes, the main bracing dowel is toward the bottom because I didn't want to interfere with the band that holds the drum head in place.

Adding things to my Amazon Wish List and then to my cart are two small pleasures I get out of life. : ) So many uke parts come from China, and they take weeks, rather than days to arrive. Sometimes, I don't mind waiting, but I usually like speedy delivery.

I wondered because I can see where your main dowel goes to the body brace and it just seemed like two dowels in you extension might have split the wood with the body brace. Are you setting up the bottom with an adjusting screw kind of like a firefly? Oh, I love this. I'll post mine when I get to it. I haven't decided whether I can pirate the Kmise and make it work. At $60 it's about what I would spend in parts.I'm trying to decide if I take it apart,can I open the radius at the bottom of the neck a little to accommodate the 10" head instead of the 8". I have a really good set of woodworkers chisels and gouges
I agree, I love jcalkin's uke!
 
That's beautiful. I like that tailpiece. Can you give me some details about how you made it and what pins you used? One screw is enough to keep it firmly attached? Cutting the two curved grooves proved to be a challenge.

I made the neck adapter and the tailpiece in a similar fashion. I only used ebony to add a bit of weight, but I also enjoy the look. I double-stick taped thin ebony, sized to fit the rim beneath the head ribbon, to a block of wood and sanded the radius of the rim into it. To that I glued a piece of ebony the full depth of the rim, with the radius of the ribbon sanded into the top portion of it. The adapter is not glued to either the neck or the rim, but the neck bolts run through it. The heel of the neck has a flat 2 1/2 degree pitch to set back the neck.

If you look carefully you can see that the tailpiece is a stack of ebony pieces using the same thin filler sanded to fit the curve of the rim. The top piece overlaps the head just a bit. The tailpiece hitch pins are stainless steel from the dulcimer page of the StewMac catalog. They also run through the rim.

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Jerry,
Saw this and thought I'd post for fun:
https://dailyukulele.wordpress.com/2012/04/21/27-remo-headed-banjo-ukulele/
I kind of like the way he just shimmed the neck and has strings hold tension. I could probably chop the neck off a cheap uke (plentiful on letgo) and use that.

I think I'll use Calkin's wood tailpiece idea too. Looks nice. BTW, and you gluing the dowel or just fitting tight?
 
Jerry,
Saw this and thought I'd post for fun:
https://dailyukulele.wordpress.com/2012/04/21/27-remo-headed-banjo-ukulele/
I kind of like the way he just shimmed the neck and has strings hold tension. I could probably chop the neck off a cheap uke (plentiful on letgo) and use that.

I think I'll use Calkin's wood tailpiece idea too. Looks nice. BTW, and you gluing the dowel or just fitting tight?

Wow! That is a super simple way to attach the strings. I think he going to need support inside the drum, though, either a threaded rod of a piece of wood. Also, I'm not crazy about how he attached the neck.

I cut and glued some pieces of mahogany to make a tailpiece similar to Calkin's. I hope to get it assembled today. I put several coats of Tru-Oil on it to bring out the color. Yes, I did glue the dowels. I'm thinking about a good way to attach the dowel opposite the neck. I like the idea of an acorn nut, but that means an hour's round trip drive into town. I might have one in the garage, but it would take more than an hour to find it. : )

With any luck, I'll post some pictures today.
 
The heel of the neck has a flat 2 1/2 degree pitch to set back the neck.

2 1/2° tilt! That's above my pay grade. I always aim for level, but in this case, there is a slight downward tilt, so I can say I planned it that way. :)

As it turned out, I had to glue two pieces of mahogany together because I couldn't find a scrap large enough. After shaping and sanding it, it looks pretty good.
 
Wow! That is a super simple way to attach the strings. I think he going to need support inside the drum, though, either a threaded rod of a piece of wood. Also, I'm not crazy about how he attached the neck.

I cut and glued some pieces of mahogany to make a tailpiece similar to Calkin's. I hope to get it assembled today. I put several coats of Tru-Oil on it to bring out the color. Yes, I did glue the dowels. I'm thinking about a good way to attach the dowel opposite the neck. I like the idea of an acorn nut, but that means an hour's round trip drive into town. I might have one in the garage, but it would take more than an hour to find it. : )

With any luck, I'll post some pictures today.

Yeah I figured the strings would eat through that drum wall but it was different.
I pulled up an example of a Firefly and looked at the angle bracket on that for the brace at the bottom. I was thinking of something like that.
Don't have any interesting wood around unless I break up an old cane-backed chair no one wants, so I may try to get creative with a moped part since I have tons of them. lol
 
As it turns out, the angle wasn't sharp enough so the action is too high. I'm going to cut the neck off and sand an angle into it. This isn't a $500 uke, so if I make a mistake, I still have the drum to start over. I also have a couple of necks I can use, but this one is a slothead, which I like.
 
Here's what I have so far. I'm going to slice off the neck where it joins that small piece of mahogany. Then I'll attempt to sand an angle into it to lower the action.

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