Rim and Tone Ring (click image to enlarge)

bare rim

Remove the factory lacquer finish using your favorite method.  It is thin.  I use a scraper.  Sanding will work just as well although it is a little slower. After scraping, smooth it out with 150 and 220 grit sandpaper, then 0000 steel wool.

rim stained

Here is the rim after staining.  I prefer the Stewart MacDonald Color-Tone stains.  This particular color is made by mixing 4 drops of Tobacco Brown and 3 drops of Red Mahogany in hardware store denatured alcohol (about 1/3 cup). Just rub it on with a clean rag or paper towel.  It dries almost instantly.  Repeat for a darker color.  This is two heavy coats.  I finished it with light two coats of lacquer.  I like a matte finish, so I rub out the glossy lacquer with 0000 steel wool between coats.

rim shelf

The Goodtime rim has a small shelf on the inner side.  This is where the tone ring will rest. This raises the head a bit and gives a "semi-archtop" effect.  Also, I have stained the inside of the rim black with Feibings leather dye.  You can also choose to finish the inside of the rim like the outside.  I chose to make this one black like so many of the old banjos that I work on.

ring roller

OK, now its time to make the simple hoop-type tone ring.  I've had more inquiries about this part than everything else on the web site.  First, you will need a gizmo called a "ring roller".  It rolls straight pieces of metal into a ring (Duh).  This one comes from China via Harbor Freight.  It is very simple.  The metal to be bent goes in the 3 knurled rollers, which are turned by the massive crank on the left.  The big knob on top adjusts the position of the third roller (rear), determining the radius of the bend.

roller 2

Here's the roller again, from the other end.  The brass rod is in place, ready to get bent.  I used 1/4" brass rod from Ace Hardware.  It comes in 36" lengths which is just right for this application.


Here is the rod part way through the first bending.  You will want to run it through a couple of times to get it down to the desired diameter.  Be careful to keep the bent rod coming straight up out of the rollers or else the ring will not be flat.  Rings that are not flat are difficult to fit to the rim (been there, done that).

ring rough

Here is the ring fresh out of the roller.  Due to its design, the roller leaves an unbent section about 1" or so long on each end of the rod.  They will be cut off, so it is not a problem.

ring joint

Cut it down to size gradually.  I use a cut-off wheel in a Dremel tool.  You may need to make small adjustments of the radius to get a good fit.  Here, it is taped to the rim after the fit is satisfactory, ready for the final cut.  I make a beveled cut to improve the strength of the solder joint.

joint close up

At this point, the ring is about 1/16" longer that I want it.  I slowly run the cut-off disc down between the two ring ends, making them more-or-less identical for a good joint.


Here is the ring ready to solder.  I've stapled and nailed it to an old, flat board.  The joint is in the section overhanging the edge of the board.  Solder the joint using your favorite method.  I use silver solder and a butane pencil-type torch.  It you are really slick, you can braze it, which is even better.

ring done

Clean up the solder joint.  Remove the knurl marks left by the ring roller with files and sandpaper.  You can polish it up if you like.  I don't think the degree of shine had much effect on the ultimate tone of the banjo, but it looks nice, ain't?

pot done

Now, set the ring aside and mount the brackets.  Place the ring on the rim and put the head on.  Put on the tension hoop and hooks as you normally would.  Tighten the head as you normally would.  The head tension holds the ring in place. And, there you are.

Moving On To The Peghead