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.
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.
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.
Back to Modifications page