Pin Tin Banjo

Greetings. My eldest daughter recently expressed an interest in a Banjo. I found these plans Make a Tin Pan Banjo - 1923 ( and was wondering if anyone here has followed them. I have several questions.

The plans show Frets but give no spacing or positions.

The short 5th string, I can't see if it has any kind of nut or frets?

Thats a good start for the questions, I am sure more will arise once I begin. I am hoping for this to be a Christmas gift.

You need to be a member of Cigar Box Nation to add comments!

Join Cigar Box Nation

Email me when people reply –


  • Hi, that string looks lower possibly due to the fact that it is touching the 5th fret and the others are coming off the fingerboard nut. If you fingered the other strings to the 5th fret, they would look the same height as the 5th string off the fingerboard.

  • Oh, and the nut is not really the setting-off point of the string but is more of a guide that takes the string from the tuner's post to a position on the fret. 

    The 5th string tuner is not always in line with that position on the fret this is why the nut is used. In the same way with a zero fret on a guitar, there is a string spacer/guide behind that fret.
    Taff. ..Dont forget HTML.

    • Hi Taffy and Brian Q. your inputs have been great and I am planning on getting a start for this build this weekend. I still have just a bit of confusion over this 5th string. I understand it is a drone. From the look of the picture Brian Q posted, the 5th string has a lower action then all the rest? I was going to add a small section of jumbo fret under that string to match the jumbo fret wire I use as the nut for the rest of the strings. 

  • Hi, two reasons to put frets under the 5th string. aids in the use of a 5th-string capo.
    And two, easier to do the fretting. If you don't mind finishing the fret ends in the middle of the board or finishing them all off at one end prior to fitting go for it.
    Also having an empty slot at the edge of the fingerboard isn't a good look.

  • By the length of it, I’m guessing that it’s an Irish tenor,  which would put you at 19 3/4” scale length? Yes that string is a drone, but the nut of the 5th string has always been a slotted dowel like Taff said? I have always used bone nuts on my banjos, most of the banjos I’ve seen have them& they add a nice touch too, but I have also seen flat head screws used as a 5th string nut on old banjos?


  • Disclaimer:  I do not play nor have I ever built a banjo.

    I may be wrong, but I was under the impression that the 5th string is mostly a drone string. So, it would not really need frets.

    For the 5th string nut. I had this idea.  Have the regular fret for the other 4 strings stop between the 4th & 5th string.   Use a taller, short piece of fret the rest of the way across the fretboard.  Like a zero fret for just the 5th string.  ;)

    I agree with using a bit shorter scale (depending on your daughter's age).

    For a fret calculator, I have used this one.  Set printer setting to print 100% or actual size.  Measure that your printouts are to scale.

    • Just so everyone is on the same page. My daughter is 34. From what I am seeing 26 inch is pretty much the norm, so that is what I am going for. I have moved away from the Pie Tin idea and leaning more to the Cookie Tin idea. I like this one.

  • Hi again, if you have scales for guitars pick a scale that will put the bridge at the sweet spot on the pan, and use it.
    The scale of a standard 5string would be around 26''. That might be a bit of a reach depending on the size of the player.

    The banjo pictured here I built a while back is called a piccolo banjo, a very short-scale, I can't remember the size now.
    This gives a better idea of the size.
    Cheers Taff

  • Taff, Thanks for the reply. I spent a bit of time on the interweb looking at photo's of banjos. I did see the small "nut" under that 5th string.

    BrianQ , thank you as well. I intend to scour the local thrift store hoping to find an old pan. I think old would be more astatically pleasing anyway. If whatever pan I find has trouble with the tension. I'm sure I could put a small block that matched the dimensions of the bridge to support it without dampening the vibrations much.

    Now if anyone out there has information on fretting a banjo. Would it be the sane as a guitar? I have fret guides for 20 inch and up, what would be typical for a Banjo?

  • It seems to me that those plans might be missing a page, there’s lots of details left out? But I doubt a modern tin pan can handle the tension of 5 strings, so maybe look for an old one. Here’s a video of a 3 string cookie tin banjo, pretty much the same thing,but easier? Good luck on this

This reply was deleted.