Tuesday, July 19, 2011


Little Bear Banjo Hospital just finished a long, long project for a British client, restoring a C.E. Lennox banjo from the 1890s. The project didn't take from the 1890s to now. But it might as well have.

I ended up bending a modern No Knot tailpiece to fit, not the most perfect solution but better than trying to excavate five string holes in the pot. I believe the five hole approach was the way Farris strung up some of his thin metal clad pots.

I used Nylagut minstrel strings. They are a bit thicker and are not intended to be tuned to scale. They tune down to that growly minstrel voicing.

Lennox's patented way of getting around the need for a dowel stick does not win any awards from me. It’s partially the three screws, and partially string tension that hold the thing in place, and I’m not necessarily confident that this is a real advance – it didn’t really catch on, of course. But it is holding decently for what one might want and expect from a banjo like this.

I would have preferred using old stock hooks and nuts, if only because the new ones are long enough to actually protrude through the bottom of the rim. The pot might have been made a touch deeper to account for that possibility. The tension hoop was as mangled and ovalized as any of them from the 1890s are, and that proved a challenge for getting the calfskin fitted decently. I didn’t want to braze the tension hoop because I was concerned about losing any material at the joint and then not quite being able to get it around the skin.

The project arrived at a life changing moment, got caught up in a lot of issues involving health, kept getting shelved, and then got mangled up in our preparations to relocate and my retirement plans.

But its completion marks the end of the Arlington, VA work for Little Bear Banjo Hospital, which is now reoriented to doing local work in Staunton, VA, and focused on hand tools exclusively.

Some photos attached. Nice piece of wood, and Mark Hickler makes very sound banjo rims.

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