Deering Goodtime Modification

The Deering Goodtime is a great banjo for the price. I’ve owned one for several months but seldom picked it up to play. The peghead is just so wicked ugly! So, I decided to recut the peghead and do a few other things while it was apart.
stock peg


1. recut peghead

2. strip and refinish whole instrument

3. replace tuners with Five Star tuners

4. add a tone ring

I started by completely disassembling the banjo, including removing the frets. I scraped off the factory lacquer finish down to bare wood. Then I recut the peghead using a pattern modeled on the later Whyte Laydie styles [the blue thing is a pattern I made on the computer, printed it out, and glued it on the stock peghead]. This required plugging the holes for the 2nd and 3rd string tuners. I cut the plugs from the upper corners of the peghead so they would match as well as possible and drilled new 3/8” holes for the Five Stars. I found some very thin (ca. 1/32”) maple veneer taken off of an old Kay resonator that had disintegrated due to water damage and applied it to the peghead face.
peg mod

Refinishing involved several coats of stain sold by Stewart-McDonald. I mixed 3 parts of their Tobacco Brown with 4 parts of Red Mahogany, dissolved in alcohol. This is sealed with 3 coats of sprayed lacquer, rubbed with 0000 steel wool between coats. The peghead and fingerboard are stained black with leather dye also sold by Stew-Mac.

The tone ring is made from a ¼” brass rod rolled into a ring, soldered, and polished. It sits directly on the factory rim. The 11” factory rim has a raised outer edge or lip about 1/8” high, so the tone ring protrudes about 1/8” above the wooden edge of the factory rim. The tone ring sits inside the raised outer edge. It is 10 ½” outside diameter, turning the banjo into a semi-archtop. This required no modifications to the rim in case I wanted to return it to a flathead.

Finally, I replaced the dark brown, plastic fretboard dots with pseudo-MOP plastic dots taken from a really cheap tenor neck. I added white plastic position markers in the neck. The factory Goodtime uses a railroad spike to hold the 5th string on to the 5th fret. I removed the spike and substituted a pip made of a scrap bit of ebony in a 1/8” hole drilled just behind the fifth fret.

Then, it was a simple matter to reassemble it and set it up. I used the original Deering mylar head, with some of the frosted coating sanded off, and removed the label (which I hid under the tailpiece). It is stretched fairly tightly but not “Bluegrass tight”.

The result: Wow, it is really fun to play now. It is louder, has remarkable sustain, and is very bright especially in the upper ranges (probably because of the archtop configuration). The only cost (besides my priceless labor) was for the Five Star tuners, which I got on eBay for about $50, and $3 for the brass rod at Ace Hardware.

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