Goodtime Special Mod


Not long ago, I acquired a slightly used Deering Goodtime Special Openback.  The Special is like the regular Goodtime with the addition of a steel flathead tone ring.  You can read the details at Deering's web site.  It has the same peghead shape although a "Special" decal replaces the branded star.  My example was made in early 2004.

The mods I did include:

  1. refinish to medium brown
  2. recut peghead to "fiddle-cut" shape, add peghead overlay, and a little MOP inlay
  3. add ebony veneer to the fingerboard and MOP position marker dots
  4. recut the heel and add ebony heel cap
  5. add 14 additional brackets& hooks (for a total of 30)
  6. add planetary tuners (unmarked but probably Schallers)
  7. modify the tailpiece slightly for better fit
After complete disassembly, the first thing was to select the new peghead shape.  I have done a few Goodtimes with a Vega shape.  For variety, I chose a fiddle-cut shape for this project.  The Special peghead is the usual Goodtime "Gumby" shape, which I have scanned.
I readily found a template for a fiddle cut at First Quality Music Supply FQMS template which I copied and superimposed on the Special peghead in my photo editing software (which happens to be Adobe PhotoShop Elements).  One can then manipulate the size and proportions as desired.  Here, I've got a good fit with minor manipulation of the classic shape.  Now, I can print it out and glue it directly on to the peghead when its needed. 
This tuner holes in this shape do not match the existing tuner holes in the Special.  I cut plugs from the excess material along the top edge of the Special using a drill press and a 3/8" plug cutter.  My plug cutters make a tapered plug, so I ream out the existing holes until the plugs fit flush with the back side of the peghead and glue them in.
The tuners I will be using don't quite have long enough shafts for the very thick Goodtime peghead, so it needs to be thinned about 1/8".  This was also done on the drill press with a Wagner Safe-T-Planer, available from Stew-Mac (planer) and elsewhere.  I left a little material along the bottom center which will later become a "pseudo-volute".
Now, I glue the template on the front side of the peghead and shape it.  I do the very rough shaping with a hacksaw and/or disc sander and finish with various cutting and sanding bits in the Dremel drill press.  This method is slow and tedious but it is hard to make a major error. Final shaping is done with small files and sandpaper after the ebony peghead overlay is glued in place.
In the previous photo, the inlay is already in place.  I am terrible at inlay so I wanted something simple and elegant.  After considerable thought, I decided on a small keystone shape, representing Pennsylvania, my state of birth.  I copied a keystone from the Commonwealth Of Pennsylvania web site. and printed it out in various sizes.  After selecting the size, I glued the pattern on to a piece of mother of pearl and cut it to shape with a Dremel cutting disc. Then, I inlayed it in the usual way.

For the fingerboard, I removed the frets and drilled out the brown plastic position markers (some clever person said they look like "cigarette burns").  After removing the factory lacquer finish, I glued a sheet of Macassar ebony veneer to the fingerboard.  This veneer is quite thin (0.022" or about 1/45") before any sanding.  I recut the fret slots through the veneer with a razor saw and replaced the old frets.  I added MOP dots in the same locations as the factory fingerboard.
I really don't care for the stock "orthopedic shoe" heel.  I narrowed it down from 1 7/8" to about 1" using the disc sander, then recontoured it with a Dremel tool, files, and sandpaper, then added an ebony heel cap
Some time ago, I bought a set of 16 hooks, nuts, L-brackets, and bolts from Deering for a regular Goodtime.  However, the new hooks had a flattened tip whereas my Goodtime had round hooks (the Goodtime hardware has changed over time), so I set them aside.  This Special had the flattened-tip hooks, so I decided to add them to the rim.  This is very simple - it just requires drilling new holes between the existing brackets allowing 14 more brackets for a total of 30.
Deering doesn't give much detail about the tone ring, so here is a little more.  It is made by stamping a single piece of 10 guage (approx. 1/8") steel.  Here is a really crude cross-sectional drawing I made of it.  The tone ring weights just half an ounce short of 2 pounds.

It looks like this in real life.  On my example, the tone ring was not very well fitted to the rim.  The inner lip stood about 1/32" or more above the inner edge of the rim, so I removed wood from the outer lip of the rim until the tone ring sat well.  It was also too tight, so removed wood from the outside of the rim until I got a nice slip fit.  Pardon the cat hair on the background material.

The stock Goodtime line uses a single coordinator rod.  I found a gold-plated brass upper rod in my junk box, so I modified the Special rim to accept it.  This only requires drilling a blind hole in the inner side of the rim above the tailpiece mounting hole.
The tailpiece didn't fit very well, either. Namely, it hits the aluminum collar of the head causing it to stand well free of the tension hoop.  This was easily remedied by grinding a notch in the tailpiece edges.  I also elongated the tailpiece mounting hole a bit so I could get the tailpiece to sit a little higher above the head.

Back to the peghead for a bit.  Remember the pseudo-volute?  I shaped it a little more and rounded the edges.  It looks good and was practically no effort at all.  I added a set of unmarked planetary tuners (probably Schallers) that I got on eBay for about $50.

Overall finish is medium brown stain (Stew-Mac stains) with 3 coats of lacquer rubbed with 0000 steel wool for a semi-gloss finish.

A few other details: I made a bone nut to replace the black plastic one.  I removed the Deering logo from the head with lacquer thinner and moved that area under the tailpiece.  I replaced the 5th string railroad spike with a bone pip set half-way through the 5th fret.  I also thinned the stock bridge down about 30% for a little more volume and clarity.

Here are more photos of the finished project.  All-up weight is 7 pounds.  I am happy with it.  For about $120 in replacement parts and materials, we have a much better looking banjo.  It plays and sounds great, too!

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