This is a technical account about banjo construction.
I hope you know by now that I love the banjo; and that includes the elegant and assertive pot. Its heavy wooden rim and metal tone ring insure a bright, clean sound. The optional resonator increases the volume and depth of the sound.
There are two problems with that pot, though. The first is its intricacy: hooks, nuts, shoes, bolts, brackets, screws, tension rods. All of these are subject to loosening or failure; so the conscientious player has a lot of adjusting to do. My first banjo had a parchment (animal skin) head, which caused a lot of fiddling with the nuts attached to the hooks.
The second problem is the weight of the pot. An average acoustic guitar weighs less than 10 pounds. A new banjo with resonator weighs 11-14 pounds.* The difference between a 10-pound guitar and an 11-pound banjo isn’t that great, but it feels big. That’s because the weight of a guitar is more evenly distributed.
The pot, with resonator, of an 11-pound banjo can weigh 7 pounds, all at one end of the instrument. You see that in the location of the strap; both ends attach to the pot. The more balanced guitar has one end of the strap at the peg head.
All of this got me thinking. Could I design a simpler, lighter pot? And, very important, could I make it? I knew that constructing a standard pot was beyond me.
*It’s possible to make a light standard banjo. Deering’s “Good Time Openback (without resonator) Banjo” weighs four pounds. I’ve heard one; it sounds very good.