Getting Started (click image to enlarge)

large parts thumb

First, completely disassemble the instrument.  Here are the large parts – neck, rim, tension hoop, and head.  Staring into space is my dopey cat, Shtinky Puddin’.

hardware S

Here is the hardware – hex brackets, hooks, nuts, tailpiece, tuners, nut, coordinator rod, lag screws, etc.  I store the small parts in a plastic storage bowl until needed again.

tuners thumb

These are the factory stock tuners, including shaft bushings and attachment screws.  They work fine and are quite economical.  However, I just don’t like how they look on a banjo.  We won’t be using them.

fret tools S

Next, removing the frets from the neck requires a couple of tools for a clean job.  First, get a pair of end nippers and sharpen them on a grinding wheel.  Get then as sharp as you can.  The sharpened jaws will slip between the fret and the fingerboard with minimal damage to both.

notched pen S

Frets will come out easier if they are heated.  For this, use an ordinary soldering pen.  Take a small round file and notch the tip. The notch helps keep the tip from slipping off the fret and marring the fingerboard.

heat fret S

Heat the fret by gently pressing the tip onto the fret.  This will melt any glue and/or finish present and generally help loosen the fret.  It the fingerboard is smoking, it is too hot.

nip end S

Holding the nippers vertically, squeeze the jaws under one end of the fret while it is still hot.  Move in a little and repeat all the way across.  Wobble the nippers slightly to urge the fret up.

nip last S

Here, as we approach the end, the fret is lifting out.

nip out S

Its out.  Note the nice, clean, undamaged fret slot.

fret clay S

We will re-use the frets.  I stick them in a strip of modeling clay to preserve their order.  You may prefer to drill a series of holes in some scrap wood or stick them on to masking tape.

dot out S

I like to remove the position marker dots.  We’ll replace them later with Mother Of Pearl ones.  The factory stock dots are hard brown plastic.  Here, I’ve drilled a 1/8” hole in the dot and am prying it out with a file handle.  You can also drill the whole dot out with a ¼” drill.

heel S

There was a potential problem with the heel.  The lag screw holes were drilled at an angle (as indicated by a couple of needle files inserted in the holes).  I don’t know why it was done this way.  It requires you to bend the ends of the lag screws up so they run horizontally through the rim.  Since we need to move the lag screws down a bit to accommodate the tone ring, just plug these holes with some doweling and move on.

Moving On, Rim & Tone Ring Are Next