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  • amy7059

First banjo I ever sold

Matt Lewins from the Brighton old time band , Chicken Shed Zeppelin called over to see me a few weeks ago. He had with him a banjo I’d made for him about fourteen years ago .


This banjo has been his main instrument in that time and is on its third refret , but still going strong ! I was looking at the wear on the frailing scoop and remembered I’d changed the binding last time I saw this banjo. You can still see a little piece of the original stuff where the neck meets the pot.

I was strange seeing it again after all this time . This was the first banjo I ever made to sell. Obviously , in the last fourteen or so years , I have changed the way I do things and there are aspects of this banjo I would approach very differently today but I felt very proud seeing it again and even more proud that Matt is still wearing out frets and enjoying it. I was working as a tig welder in a stainless steel firm at the time , notice stainless steel tail piece ?


The string posts on this tail piece were made from stainless welding rod with the ends carefully heated to form a ball.



I was surrounded by stainless steel at the time and was keen to produce my own banjo hardware using it. I’ve got to say, it’s a wonderful material but doesn’t always lend it’s self to banjo parts ( at least in my opinion ) . I made tension hoops , hooks , nuts , tailpieces…etc it’s much tougher to machine than brass and obviously , you don’t have to plate it. Although I personally , prefer the look of nickel plate on banjo parts ( I like the way it dulls down and ages too ) . Now in this banjo I rolled up and tig welded a brass tone ring but I was still experimenting with stainless steel. As a matter of fact , Just to satisfy my own curiosity and because I had access to lots of it . I decided to roll up, weld and machine flat head style tone rings out of stainless steel (316 if anyone is interested) These took forever to machine . I fitted the first one to a bluegrass style banjo I was making ….and …well…you live and learn ! 🙂 . This thing was the loudest harsh sounding banjo I’ve ever played. It could have stripped bark off a tree ! ..I’m not kidding . It was like a Stanley tone on steroids 🙂 .


This banjo is fitted with a Fishman rare earth pick-up. As these pick ups are designed to fit on 2 co-ordinator rods, I had to make up this adapter.

At this point I decided to curtail my stainless steel adventures and go back to brass and bronze etc :-). All good fun though and if you don’t try something out , you can’t always be sure your not missing out .

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