Banjolele restoration? And, some news about me for those who are interested.

Matt Clara

Aug 3, 2009
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Lansing, Michigan
First off, I wanted to say, I've missed the group, but have been going through rough times. After 10 years of marriage, I find myself single once again. It came as a surprise, and I'm still in disbelief. My life has been on hold as I found myself thrust through the divorce process. I have recently purchased a home and started a new job, and so life continues and has some bright notes amidst the discord. And so it goes. I hope to return to building ukes soon, though I would like to get some circuits installed and new outlets in place before I start operating all the machinery. Still, I've puttered around the workshop some and it felt good. I have a lot more space than I did in the previous home (it's a good time to be buying homes in Michigan, not so good to be selling!).

On to the banjolele: A fellow I recently met became excited when he heard I'd built a couple of ukuleles. He has an old, beat-up banjolele he'd like to turn into a player. You can see images of it here:

The main problems with it are the drum skin, which needs to be replaced, the frets, which are worn thin (and set directly into the neck sans fretboard), and a very slight twist to the neck itself that keeps it from being 100% level. I was thinking the skin could be replaced with a new drum skin, the frets could be pulled, the neck planed back and leveled, and a fretboard added. I told him I would ask here on the forum to get some feedback, but I also recommended he take it into Elderly to get their opinion and a price quote.


Best wishes to you all, I hope to become a regular again sooner rather than later.

Good to hear from you again Matt..I wondered where you'd gone missing..I even searched your posts..and the last one was back in March..when you anounced that you'd found a "Loverly piece of Ash" (I thought that was just a spelling mistake:eek:)
Matt, I've been hoping to hear from you for so long - I can't say how glad I am that your finally back in the swing. Check your inbox for more.

In the meantime, I was thinking along the same lines for the banjolele, but if I was going to plane the neck down anyway I would think about adding a fretboard and maybe also some kind of stabilizing rod.

All the best,
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Almost a year a go I replaced the head on my banjo uke that looks almost the same
the cool think about the neck is that it is screwed on with a single screw. I messed my fretboard/.neck up and will be routing it out sometime soon and putting on a real fretboard.
Hope my article helps.
Welcome back Matt. You have been missed.
No fancy words of wisdom here except; happens, time heals all, ukuleles and working with wood are good for the soul.
Any plans for bringing up that CNC?
Hey Dude, Welcome back . . .
Thanks everybody. I appreciate the welcome back. And thanks Ukeeku, it's hard to tell from the one picture where the neck joins the body, but it almost appears that the neck has simply pivoted on its axis as opposed to actually having a twist in it. If there's just one screw holding it on it may be that the neck can simply be realigned.
Welcome back Matt. You have been missed.
No fancy words of wisdom here except; happens, time heals all, ukuleles and working with wood are good for the soul.
Any plans for bringing up that CNC?

Yes, I thought our marriage was on the mend and I was just about to get back to the CNC when she dropped the bomb. That was last January. The CNC is in pieces in my basement from the move, and I need to get a friend over here to put it back together (big, heavy aluminum frame to it), but I have every intention to do that, and soon.
Seems many of us were thinking along the same lines Matt, and wondering what had become of you. It's a real bitch to be blindsided, but nothing to be gained from dwelling on it. So the work bench is the best place I know of to get lost in your passion.

Your assessment of the repairs seems to be right from looking at it 1/2 a world away. Will watch this thread to see the progress.
Hey guys, I did eventually finish that banjolele. It was a challenge, but it looks good and sounds better than I expected it would given its small size. The biggest challenge was probably stretching a new goatskin drum head on it. Made a jig for that. The second biggest challenge was making a new tail piece for the strings. The first one was too big and ungainly, the second looked great, but whoever drilled the hole in the base for the tailpiece they'd made put it slightly off center, which I didn't realize until after I'd drilled one square in the center of the tailpiece I'd made. The third one looked good and I got the hole drilled in the right place but had a devil of a time getting the hard maple to take a stain that matched that of the uke. Several restarts on the stain before I was satisfied. The new fretwire was too thin for the old slots. Ended up using thin superglue to make them stick. It was a real tale of two steps forward, one step back. In the end the guy I did the work for--a friend of mine--is very happy.

I've been working on some new builds but continue to have some issues I had previously bending certain woods for the sides. Research indicates I'm using too much moisture, causing fibers to bunch up in the tightest bends, but if I don't my home made bending pipe tends to singe the sides. I'm thinking I should just put the money down on a pipe from LMI. On a positive note, those wasted sides make great kindling in my fireplace!

Hope everyone's well and had a great holiday. Best to all of you in 2013!
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