Tambourine insert tunneled 5th string banjo

I removed the jangles from a 10" Remo tambourine and inserted it into an old banjo pot. The 5th string is tunneled under the fretboard and emerges in the peg...

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Comment by Mark Bliss on February 10, 2019 at 11:18pm

As far as the tube goes. First off, I am a bit of an "old timer" I guess, and messed with model airplanes in a time where fabricating a fuel tank from brass sheet and tubing was simply part of the craft. The tubing isn't hard to bend, and if needed, you can get miniature spring style benders to reduce the chance of kinks or collapsing. Its not hard to work with.

But even so, the tunnel isn't really necessary. Its kind of a builders "trick" in some ways. A traditional 5th peg at the fifth fret works out just fine, if you play it like a banjo and less like a guitar anyway. JMO. Fun stuff.

Comment by Mark Bliss on February 10, 2019 at 11:13pm

Great reference. Rhiannon Giddens has a Masters degree or something in early American music and could write a book on the banjos role. I discovered her long ago in the early days of "the Carolina Chocolate drops" and have seen her perform many times. Very diverse talent!

Comment by Jim Morris on February 10, 2019 at 9:46pm

Thanks Richard. The 5 string banjo is a piece of American history. Brought to this country in various forms by African slaves and incorporated into blackface minstrel shows in the 1800's. Often stereotyped as a redneck, white cracker instrument nowadays its African origins are often forgotten but there are many of us who won't forget. Plus a growing number of younger black folks are tapped in to the banjo's roots. Check out these beautiful, talented young ladies.   https://youtu.be/uDvPZBjXa9o

Comment by Richard Sundberg on February 10, 2019 at 2:09pm

Not only am I enjoying your playing very much, but gettin a free education on these marvelous instruments at the same time. No shortage of creativity here, what a blast this Sunday morning! Thanks Jim, mighty fine!

Comment by Jim Morris on February 10, 2019 at 10:47am

That should work Tom if it's flexible enough. I was considering using a thin plastic drinking straw too. I might have to experiment with that.

Comment by Rough Cut Tom on February 9, 2019 at 8:48pm

If brass tubing bends easily enough I'm thinking it could extend out the neck, following the contour of the neck as it widens and butt right up to a mini nut. Hmm, the last time I made a tack head - my first - I went with what I knew: 4-string, and thought, "That was fun, can't wait to get back to CBGs!" :-) But you're giving me the itch - might have to plan my first 5-string for 2020.

Comment by Jim Morris on February 9, 2019 at 8:01pm

Thanks again Mark. I have built one in the past with no tube and you're correct, the string does catch on the sides of the slot and make stringing a little harder. I'm planning a similar banjo very soon but with a pete1 plastic head since that satisfies my need to use stuff other people throw away.

Comment by Mark Bliss on February 9, 2019 at 5:52pm

Thanks Jim!

I've seen some tunnels done both with and without a tube insert, but always imagined the string "digging in" to bare wood unless very hard, and the obvious issues this would create. 

did one similar to what you describe, with a peice of brass tube bent to fit a curved slot. Epoxied in and flush at the ends. String slid right in smoothly. played nice but got an offer I couldn't refuse and haven't built another.

but what a treat to see and hear yours! Very nice!

Comment by Jim Morris on February 9, 2019 at 4:12pm

Thanks much RC Tom! I often find tambos and bongo drums at flea markets and yard sales. This one I actually purchased new on ebay - 20 bucks I think - which is about what a decent calfskin costs for my tack on banjo heads. Check my answer to Mark Bliss re. the tunnel. As to intonation point, I decide beforehand where I want the bridge to sit on the head and then make the neck the appropriate length. 

Comment by Jim Morris on February 9, 2019 at 4:04pm

Thank you Mark. I injured my fingernail a few years back and started playing with this pick designed for clawhammer made by Fred Kelly. My nail has healed but I've gotten real used to using that pick! Maybe I'll do another bare finger video with it. I routed the tunnel with a 1/8" bit along the edge of the neck. Had to widen it with a chisel just a little to insert the hollow tube which is actually a length of aluminum knitting needle which happened to be hollow. I then drilled a hole into the side of the neck and into the tube. The 5th strings runs through the tube and emerges from a small hole in the peg head. It takes a little jigging to get the string to come through. There are some detail pics on my page which may clarify things. The fret board was glued on after I made sure it all lined up.

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