Make Your Own Capo-ble Banjo?

Have I inspired you to start constructing a capo-ble banjo?  Even if not, you might be interested in what’s involved.

The top-of-the-list book on banjo building is Construction of a 5-string Banjo: a Technical Guide by Roger H. Siminoff.  It was my reference when I built my banjos.

(Please note: Mine is not a commercial site.  I don’t sell anything here, nor receive any compensation for my personal recommendations.)

If you dip into Siminoff, you’ll quickly discover that building a neck and building a pot are radically different enterprises.  A moderately skilled and patient woodworker can make an excellent neck, and might not need to buy one additional tool for the job.  A standard pot, on the other hand, is a precision industrial product.  Siminoff tells you how to do it, but he scared me off.

It’s not difficult to alter Siminoff’s full-scale plans to suit your needs.  Just bear this restriction in mind: For G or C tuning, the strings cannot be longer than 22”.  A full length banjo with 25” strings must be tuned lower—to the E or A equivalent of G or C.  (That has an interesting mellow sound.  And you can, of course, capo up.)

You can buy all the parts except one needed for a capo-ble banjo neck from Stewart MacDonald, the string instrument supply store:  The one thing you can’t buy there is the neck wood.  The unfinished neck blanks they sell are carved specifically for standard 5-string banjos.  You’ll have to buy a piece of maple or luan and carve it yourself.

You can also buy a complete pot kit at Stewart MacDonald, everything exactly machined.  The price may give you pause, though.  Unless you want to construct the most elegant capo-ble banjo possible, buy an inexpensive banjo for its pot, or look for a second hand one.

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