Freemon's Five

Part 2

Well, not much to show here as far as technique.  I disassembled the banjo and cleaned all the parts. The neck and dowel stick were just rubbed with paper towels moistened with Formula 409.  The brass parts were soaked overnight in a mixture of mild soap and Formula 409.  Steel parts (2 screws holding the neck to the rim, 20 screws holding the bracket shoes to the rim) were soaked in Rust-Oleum Rust Stripper until clean, then soaked in WD-40 for a couple of days, as usual.

The finish on the neck was almost completely intact, so all I did was put a light coat of good-quality paste wax over the existing finish (varnish??) for protection.  The fingerboard divots were minor, so I left them alone. The fingerboard is an extremely thin ebony overlay.  I gave it a light coat of black leather dye. The nickel plating on some parts was worn through to the brass in places, particularly on the tension hoop and rim sheathing.  I decided not to replate them.  Rather, I just polished the nickle and brass surfaces with Mothers Mag And Aluminum Polish and lightly coated them with a good-quality carnuba wax. The hooks and bracket shoes were just lightly buffed and left alone.

The major task was to install a new skin head.  This went smoothly.  I removed the first 5 frets and replaced them with identical stock from another old banjo (one which will requite a complete refret job).  Only one original tuner remained.  It was a somewhat unusual translucent, amber-colored celluloid peg.  I could not match it, so I scavenged a set of white celluloid pegs from a couple of other old banjos (which are destined to get mechanical tuners). I cut about 1/4" off the end of the headstock pegs and redrilled the string holes.  The full-length peg is, in my opinion, too long for a banjo.  They look better shortened and it shifts the stress to a thicker part of the peg.

Then, I scavenged a dowel stick endbolt and mounted the tailpiece properly.  I made a 5th string pip out of a small scrap of rosewood.  I strung it with Mark Horowitz's Clawhammer Cannonballs (light guage).  The action was a bit too high with the 1/2" Stewart-MacDonald bridge, so I elongated the hole in the rim about 3/16" so I could push the endbolt up towards the head, which lowers the action.  Then, it was ready to play.

overall front

three quarter

overall rear

upper neck

peg & neck rear

rim & heel

rim bottom

Here is my dopey cat, Shtinky Puddin', checking it out:

rim & Pud


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