BUILD AN "UNCLE ENOS" BANJO - Daniel Carter Beard, St. Nicholas Magazine . . . circa 1870

(first published in the 1870's by Daniel Carter Beard)

Fig. No 315, shows a cigar-box with holes bored through the ends for the stick that supports the neck to pass through.

The bottom of the box is used for the top to the banjo. The lid of the box may be left on, so that it can be closed or opened, as the taste or ear of the banjoist may direct.

Fig. No. 316 represents a pine board with a plan of the neck drawn upon it, ready to be sawed out.

D,d',d'',d''' mark the spots where holes are to be bored through for the key to turn in. The place for the low bridge that separates the strings before they enter the keys is marked by the dotted lines at a; a rectangular slot should be cut here to fit the bridge into, as shown by the side-view of the neck (Fig. 5, Diagram 318)

(Fig. 321); & (Fig. 316) is a keyhole in the side of the neck for the short string.

See side-view (Fig. 321).

The slot for a small bridge for the short string of the banjo is marked by the dotted line at c (Fig. 316). This little bridge is fitte din the slot, as shown in the side-view. (Fig. 321).

Fig. 317 shows the broomstick, whittled down at one end, so as to fit the holes bored in the cigar-box, through which it must pass and protrude about one-half inch at the butt. The top to the upper part of the broomstick is smoothed off flat, so that the neck (Fig. 316) may be securely screwed on to it, as is more clearly shown by the side-view (Fig. 321).

Fig. 4 (Diagram 318) shows what shape to make the keys.

The latter must have holes (just large enough for the banjo strings to pass through) bored near the ends, as shown by the diagram. The keys may be made of any kind of wood - hard wood is the best.

Fig 5 (Diagram 318) shows the bridge that fits into the slot a (Figure 316), already described.

Fig 6 (Diagram 318) is simply a piece of tin bent into the shape shown in the diagram, and made to fit over the butt end of the banjo for the wires of Fig 7 (Diagram 318) to pass over when the latter is put in place (see Fig. 319).

Fig. 7 (Diagram 318) is a piece of hard wood or leather with five small holes bored through it for the attachment of the banjo-strings, and a wire loop at the end that passes over the piece of tin (Fig 6, Diagram 318), and is held in place by the tension of the strings and the protruding end of the broomstick at the butt end of the banjo (Figure 319).

The bridge proper is shown by Fig. 8 (Diagram 318). It may be cut from a piece of soft pine in a few moments, with a pocket-knife. Its place is in front of Fig 7 (Diagram 318), where it spreads the five strings before they pass over the head and neck of the instrument.

Fig. 321 shows the neck finished and all ready to be fitted to the box.

The neck is fastened to it's broomstick support by two screws, as may be seen in the diagram.

Fig. 319 shows the finished instrument, all strung and ready for use.

Fig. 320 shows the arrangement of the banjo strings.

The shortest string on a banjo is the fifth.

And now we have reached the part where the boy who wants to make an Uncle Enos banjo will have to expend a few cents. Go to a dealer, and for the first and fifth ask for E strings. Let the first be a little heavier than the fifth. The second should also be an E string, but much heavier than the first. For the third, ask for a guitar B string. The fourth, or bass string, is manufactured especially for the now popular banjo, and care must be taken not to purchase the guitar D for the banjo A, or bass; both strings are silver, wound on silk, but the latter is much finer wound than the guitar D,

The author has seen a banjo made under the direction of his old friend Uncle Enos, and the whole thing cost but half a day's labor and forty cents for strings.

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Replies to This Discussion

( ) This is a site with a free blue print of an open back banjo. I'm building my own version of this instrument. So far so good. I have it roughed out with fret board finished and glued on. I'm debating on wether to use a tin or try to build a resonator. I will post some pictures when I can. Chuck
my friend Charlie and i are almost finished with one of these.
it looks a lot like this, but we got all the measurements from foxfire 3.
we will post pictures when it's done
Is there a more thorough version of this somewhere on the net, with all the pictures, and much bigger ones?


Bart Brown
Very cool Thanks, Howlin Owln

What is the tail piece, or how can I make one? I saw one by Merlin Miller and I loved the way it looked but I couldn't get enough detail.


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