October 13th, 2019
Restoration Of An Old Inherited Banjo
Finally, again here I am!
Two months ago, I got a picture from my mom with some cousins of I with her, holding a banjo (FYI, i started playing banjo a year ago).
I learned that it was a banjo belonging to the husband of the sister my grand-mother, on my mother side (or in two words: my grand-Uncle), and that as they are not playing any music on this side of the family and knew we were, in particular that I started playing the banjo, they decided to give this banjo to me. So great! And contrary to what I thought, it is actually a usable banjo...Youhou! (there are different sorts of banjos - 4, 5 and 6 stringed banjos - and not all can be used with the same finger technic nor for the same type of music).
As I am not living in France anymore, I could only have a hand on the banjo a few weeks later, and discovered that whereas it would be possible to play on it, it was also in a very bad state. The skin - which looks like goatskin - is completely untighneted, the neck of the banjo is really damaged and the vernish half gone, the screws and most metal parts are completly rusty...seing this, I decided that I would restore it.
I know that I never restored a banjo before nor even unasssembled one, but unassembling a banjo can be quite straightforward depending on the construction, and restoring is then a simple matter of wood carpentry and manual work, with loads of ressources that can be found on internet.
Here are some pictures of the banjo as found:
So...there's some work!
first things first: let's unassemble the main structures!
After removing the string, removing the flat metal part on the back of the banjo, and removing the screw at the base of the neck, I can finally disassemble it. Here it is what it looks like:
And after removing the skin:
And a patient work of removing all the 'hooks holder' on the side of the banjo (inside which the hooks which hold the skin tight against the head go), let's have a closer look at the head:
I need to start somewhere right? As I don't have yet all the necessary tools to rework the neck, I start by an easy part: the collar, that holds the skin to the head, made of brass. I first sand it using 180 then 240 sandpaper to remove the greyish green then give it a bit of work with a metal polish for car, and after an hour it already looks amazing. on the left before, and on the right after:
That was the easy part ahah..let's now have the real fun, with the neck! I first need to sand it completely, to remove the remainings of the black vernish on the outer part and the incomplete lack on the top, between the frets. After a while and a lot of sandpaper, most of the outer black vernish is gone (i don't need to completely remove it), and the lack on the frets is mostly gone.
As I am doing all this in my bedroom - lacking a proper workshop - I need now to find a way to hold this neck to do the future paint/vernish/lack needed. Challenge accepted...after a few minutes of reflexion and about 20min of design, I am now 3D printing a custom holder for the neck, that can fit on my photo tripod. I had to sand a bit the inside with a little file as my 3D printer never perfectly prints to the exact dimensions - more than usual 3D printers - as it is a first gen half kit half homemade 3D printer, and the printing process is always a bit painful, but it works as expected. Quite satisfying!
To be followed...