Dale Small/Vinnie Mondello
Custom Plectrum Banjo

Cap'n' Mike Moe's


Commissioned 7-10

Theme and engraving will be handled by Ron Raymer

 Final assembly, Finish and Setup by VM.

  There comes a time when we must carry the torch for our fellow man and the task has fallen upon me to take care of disposing of "All
   things banjo" from the estate of  Mr. Dale Small, a world renown banjo builder and Master Craftsman and a man I called a friend.
      Dale has several banjos in the Banjo Museum in Oklahoma City and was also inducted last year into the Banjo Hall of Fame.

    Dale and I were both working on themes that had to do with winter themes and were discussing his and mine, when tragedy struck
                                      At the time, it was only known as "The White banjo"
     He had a hankering for a while to use pure white celluloid's on the fingerboard  and then decided why not go all the way white.

   Then Cap'n Mike Moe, Lighthouse Point FL came along and decided he wanted it, and wanted an Atlantic Ocean Fishing scene on it
                                               and we are starting to form ideas.
    Mike runs a Charter Fishing Service running back and forth from the Bahamas, braving the "Triangle" more than many of us can  imagine!

                         Anyone wishing to look into a trip in his locale give him a shout..(Hard of Herring)

Captain Mike's Reliable Yacht Service

Lic. USCG Capt. 37 Years

Office: 954-782-5143

Email: capmike409@aol.com

The Cap'n says...
"Various pelagics and boats engraved in fret markers will be great as well as boat shaped flange holes with fishing scenes engraved around it no (Bleep) Sailboats or Yachts ... all Sport fisherman of which I will send pictures."
Gold plate with Nickel hooks

And I have asked that a Drill rig platform be added into a scene somewhere, because I'm not mad at all the oil companies.


11" rim, Bacon style flange
24 bracket shoes
Custom Armrest
22 fret Plectrum neck, Holly construction
The flange and tension hoop are still in the brass stage, no plating, and have no engraving or  piercing's at this time since they are theme related.

Click here to see a  banjo for an example


Decorative Celluloid on the peghead reverse and heel cap, and Planetary tuners with MOP buttons


Rim assembly is veneered on the botttomside as well as the side

Rim sanded clean, its been sitting awhile

Back sanded clean, and all hardware ready to go to Ron for the good stuff so off in a box it goes.

Preliminary sketches from Ron

Basic peghead design

This banjo doesn't have a flange plate so we deleted that one
"The Captain" will be engraved on side of armrest

We will move the outriggers to a working position
Yes, I requested an Oil rig...thats my addition to the theme....go fossil fuel!

We will go with something like on the right, with defined position markers

Cutouts in the flange will be alternating Boats and fish

Engraving - RON RAYMER

Ron just "Keelhauled" me with some great pics, and I just look at it and think "SET THE HOOK", because it is "OFF THE HOOK!"

Just look at the detail and you will want to "Bait up"!




Now it is off to FQMS for plating, and Ron will work on the paint detail work.
Cap Mike will be Trolling along with this thing in no time.



These are photos  from Ron, of the engraved and painted peghead along with those of the fingerboard unpainted.  The black lines are engraved and filled (w/acrylic).  The color on the peghead is also acrylic but lies on the surface.

It will be covered in clear, and Ron will paint the detail in the fingerboard markers next, and I will protect them with a heavy coat of clear brush on acrylic that is a method i do on many restorations.
The fingerboard will remain natural and protective clear can be added in its life, over the markers.
Just as with the restored Epiphone pictured here, the clear is protecting my new color tints.
Here is the "LONG-VIEW" of it



I can now begin to imagine how this will look with brilliant colors and clear coats....it will have a heck of a visual impact.
If I only had blue fret wire.....

Hmm...........where is my propane torch , my Japanese compadre "Mash" taught me a new trick, lets see what happens!

Ok Mash... that's the ticket!...Thanks for the tip.
Very light heat/ annealing, and I would suspect maybe some additional tempering and only time will tell if this is true.
It maybe a nice way to get a medium between Stainless steel and Nickel Silver
I am interested in getting a different look as well.
It will polish nicely and have a "gun metal " blue appearance and should run thru out the wire.


As usual, Alan and his boys did a good job of not overheating the thin brass during the plating process.
They have alot on their hands dealing with the things that I send in, it is not mainstream items and I thank them for listening to my needs.

You can see in the magnified pics, the effort Ron Raymer puts into his work.

And you can see here, the need to choose a color scheme besides black inside the resonator
It will highlight the Sailfish cutouts

Detail Painting - RON RAYMER

Ron has done it again.
He takes peoples dreams and turns them into reality and never fails to please.
Just troll thru the next set of pics, you will taste brine!

I see that Oil production is going strong again........thanks Ron!










I feel like I have been "Keelhauled" after looking at all that fantastic work, I'm worn PLUM OUT!


Ron got this right on out to me, and now it is time to get some protective clear over the rim, resonator and armrest.

I will fret the neck and bind it before adding any clear

I plan on a tiger maple binding that I have used in the past with good reviews

Its nice to see it more to scale than in the close ups, but when you actually do see it close up, once again Mr. Raymer has managed to beat the pictures all to heck.

Adding the maple binding
It has a breaker line made onto it that will match up good with the existing stuff

medium cyano and accelerant

ready to trim the topside and add side dots

After 3 coats of clear, a 600 grit wetsanding, just enough to scuff the high spots

Scraping the top profile

Scraping the side profile


Serial number under tone ring

Ready for a head.
I'd like the Capon to notice the use of GALVANIZED shoe bolts and washers....
I mean, it is an offshore banjo.  :)

Tensioned down with a Renaissance 1100 M

5 coats of finish on the armrest

Nickel hooks, shoes and nuts offset the gold nicely.
The use of threaded inserts into the rim adds ease of insertion, with the thumbscrews


Now back to the neck work, and a few more coats on the back

Adding the side markers, I'll use the large size and it will show up good in this blond maple

First coat of sealer, made the grain pop on the binding

Taking on clear alongside the "Magpie"
It will head to Ron soon for detail work

Now what color if any, do I want here.....

A nice Ocean Blue Metallic....

Makes the little fish's sparkle and shine!

Rim assembly completed

After blueing some wire, Im mocking it up
You an also see the depth in the gravings with the clear coat applications building
The flash lightens it, but it has a nice rainbow effect, even better than dark blue and more like a natural fishily iridescence.

Not glued into place, just all sized and ready to go
Full length.. "over the binding"
Now back to clear coats

Going in with the fret wire, sealing as I go

I am filing the tang barb off some of the wire to help make room for some adjustment

Medium thickness cyano is my choice of adhesive, filling the slot to near the top, and squishing in the wire

Pressing while catalyzation occurs

All set and sealed, ends filed

First test assembly

Inside neck hardware mounted

I will test it with my adjustable tailpiece that I use to see what is the best "arm length "tailpiece .

The top portion is on a slider and I can add or subtract arm length in this manner
it gives me an idea of what tones can be produced

It has a low action on a 5/8" bridge, thats a good sign, and the initial noting is showing one minimal buzz on the 17 fret only, and only on the D string so Ill let it all settle in before doing anything
With the truss rod in the heel, I'll have to take it back down to do an adjustment but will wait a day or two to see how the neck reacts under tension
It is NOT..an exact science.
This is very good, that is without any fret leveling whatsoever.

The peghead is very thick so the tuner posts barely clear, but clear they do.

I sure like the overall look, and the tone is really nice and clear.
You can see with the Dale Small scaled neck, the bridge is close to center and this really opens up the sound.

That metallic blue inside the reso, was a good choice.

OK, lets stop here and take a breath, it's going to play out OK after final tweaking


After allowing the neck to settle in under tension for a week, I could see what I though I should do as far as fret leveling and truss adjustment.
The only caveat on having a truss adjustment in the heel is the fact that the neck MUST BE REMOVED and the truss adjusted by BEST GUESS, not as it is when it is at the top at the peghead where you can rapidly re-adjust and test.
And with the banjo going to sea level, I have to think ...how it will react.
Its a Holly neck and they tend to move more than harder woods, and the 2 way truss rod can do more than a one way, but sometimes I just prefer solid rods and no adjustment.
I'm always nervous, its a long way there and back for just an adjustment, its not like he and I are "local" to each other!

After leveling, recrowning file is implemented

Then the end file, specifically made for this one task

2 stages of polishing wheels are next...

Mike opted for non galvanized hardware, much to my chagrin...:P

Serial number stamped on dowel

After working the nut slots and testing bridges, I ended up with a 3 footed non inserted and thinned at the top to get what I thought was a nice sound
The banjo has the ability to run high bridges but I adjusted it to run 1/2 to get a more mellow sound
I have added the actual tailpiece made for it, an extra long Oettinger style that Dale had fabricated for his special scale.
As you can see the bridge rides very close to center and the longer fingers make for a correct static string gap from bridge to tailpiece.

I will get it in its new case and off to the Captain after a few outside pics tomorrow


Off to the Atlantic Seaboard, and out of my hands.
Let's all pray for safe passage, and a long service life!
Its been quite a challenge and I hope Dale is happy with my efforts
As my work on his pre-existing work comes to a close I will always think about having him as a friend and the things that we had in common
Only a couple of more to go, and we will close that chapter
Thanks for watchng,