Jan Canters Project

"Magpie Mania"

For us birders...
Here is a guide to the birds, and the birding sites in the Netherlands

More about Magpies on Wiki

Dale Small 20 fret  Neck
Dale Small 11" Silverbell style rim
Maple construction
Bird inlay by Dave Nichols
Custom Pearl Inlay
Theme and Metal Engraving by Ron Raymer
Commissioned 1-09

Jan has expressed an interest in the theme being based around Magpie's and we are working on this together with Mr. Ron Raymer.

Ron will be able to convey the thoughts Jan is having to the woodwork as well as the metal, creating another one of a kind instrument


Soft head bearing on Silverbell style ring, which will impart a warm mellow tone
Shown still in brass
24 bracket shoe style maple rim
All parts will be gold plated

Rim assembled for mock up
Tension hoop is smooth on top due to side inserted hook design, one of my favorites
Flange has not yet been pierced
1/4" tension nuts

Flamed maple resonator back

black side binding


            Peggie. Colorado Magpie, shows the tail really well

(Time compressed)
This neck had inlay in the fingerboard that was just block MOP and nothing on the peghead and no finish
It was fretted and bound and bound on the peghead


I had Dave Nichols at Custom Pearl Inlay do his thing, and he chose to insert the blocks with abalone birds, and do an Abalone theme on the peghead with a couple of Doves in MOP
I drew some feathers on them with a marker but that will wipe off, I was just thinking how they would look with feathers later but I wasn't thinking Magpies at the time, Ill have Ron emulate that on them.

The finish is a vintage amber with a tobacco brown fade

Black side binding with white side markers

Mockup, for quick peek

            from Colorado, Thanks Peg!



Drill out rim for dowel

Inserted backwards to get drawing of proper profile

Ready to rasp

Rifflers get the job done
The tip of the tone ring is cut, just as a Bacon or Vega

Getting close, I want it very tight
This is an important connecting point

Good tight fit

The rim on the Dale Small design has a deep scoop up and under the tone ring to allow more air travel
I have scooped the dowel to touch only the forward contact point

You can see the recessed angle cut better from the top and why I trimmed the dowel forward mount

Drilled for the  front lag, in the rim as well

Nice and tight, ready to drill dowel for mounting screw

Checking the flange fit first, perfect relief on the heel allowing it to ride up and in

as with the front, good fit

Heel Drilled and dowel pinned with countersunk wood screw
This is Dale's style and works very well, better than a glue joint and dowel can be worked easily if need be.

That screw is hidden up under the flange
 Sometimes I just inlay a dot over it if its visible
I have a new Remo Renaissance head on it for setup.
Also, I have a new brass notched tension hoop, I like the fit better than the side drilled

Head is to tension
Medium crown
VG amount of lip left over the top
I'll need to fabricate an armrest next

Ready to string up, I'll make a nut first

Resonator is a nice match "Flame wise"
I chose Schaller 4:1 geared tuners for smooth efficient tuning

First Setup


Anyone that has been here knows this is how we look for the best nut blank, and bridge!
 I have my setup bridge on here now, its really deadened by a full ebony center, and brass string inserts
Its 29/32 and giving the action and string angle I had hoped for with the dowelset and neck angle I choose for this instrument

The Presto is the most docile tailpiece to test with as well, the more mass the more sustain so I want to start at the low end and move up testing voicing

First Assembly completed

I will work tomorrow on checking the intonation of the neck after things settle in a bit

I will test with resonator off because when they are not pierced for soundholes, they will lie to you on what to expect when they are completed.
You can see with this 20 fret compressed scale, the bridge is where Dale and I like them to land, closer to center, to open up the tone.

2010, Magpie in CO. Courtesy of P.Wiggins

Phase 2
Rim color-Dowel Color-Add Ser#

I have used Mohawk, with tint mixed into the clear, and a 15 percent reduction in solvents to do base coats.

Serial is DS 2010-01 VM
This is how I have been doing all of the collaborations. 

Refret with larger wire

Under close scrutiny, I just do not like the quality nor the setting of these wires.
They are epoxied in so will be hard to remove, heat is being applied

I will be going back with a wider and taller Stew Mac 147 wire.

Going back in with the 147 wire
Sealing as I go,being very careful not to mess with what I've already done

I will continue on up the neck, its going well

All in ready to trim ends

I will finish cleaning the excess glue residue from the sealing and then start tung oil on the board.

Parts buffed and sanded and ready to head out to Mr. Raymer

Scenes to dwell on... in from Jan

A picture of his own beautiful yard, where he has tangled with the winged warriors!

These are some prints Jan did in his artistic moods and we are trying to incorporate them into the theme, something  that Ron has been so instrumental (pun intended) in helping me achieve these goals.

I can see Magpies at a distance, as well as one flying by up close and personal so the full colors of the creature can be seen

I added the color, and outside edge fade to the resonator and shot a coat of sealer onto it.

I plan on getting it to Ron when he says its OK to send it on, and now that the Captain's work is back we should be able to squeeze it in.
I'm going for detail painting on the Peghead reverse and Heel and Resonator back.
 (MOP dot will cover screw on heel cap)
No carving on the neck or resonator, I want the paintings on the surface of the sealed parts, and I will protect them with clear coats until I get to a mirror finish.
I will have Ron engrave detail into the MOP birds on the peghead  and pierce/engrave the flange


On the resonator, I have some protecting sealer over the stain  and will have Ron paint a nice scene / border over this and I will encapsulate it in clear nitrocellulose
On the rim...I envision Magpies flying between the anchor shoes....
On the neck, only a painting on the back of the peghead, no heel work.
The brass Armrest, flange and tension hoop have been high shined and ready for piercing/graving.
The Armrest will read "The Magpie", on the side, the top will be smooth
The Flange piercing's and gravings for flange and hoop, will be sketched out by Ron, he has a better eye than me on such things.
 On the peghead ,I will also have the MOP birds engraved by Ron,
If  Ron thinks graving lines might accent the abalone birds on fboard, then we may do this too.


Hi Vinnie,

I received the Magpie banjo today in good condition.  I have attached some idea sketches for the resonator and some extra photos that I found.  What a beautiful bird.  It really lends itself to art projects.

On the flange.  I see choosing two or three silhouettes and piercing them.  I do not  want to do sculpting , as the brass is not a good one to sculpt because of the composite material added.   I will just do some normal engraving   I'm thinking  about leaves and limbs.  That could be carried over onto the tension hoop and perhaps a touch on the side of the armrest to tie it in.  Of course, Ill letter “The Magpie” on the side too.


On the peghead I will  have the MOP birds engraved by Ron.


Ron found the photo of the magpie attacking the bike rider and we love the symmetrical design of it.  It might work on the back of the peghead painted like that.
Then there is a plain bird in flight that could also work


I think the one of the resonator sketch with Jan's scene in the background is probably what you all have in mind.


On the rim.  We will paint different magpies in various positions in the fashion of the fish on the Atlantic banjo except without the engraved lines as per your instructions.


2010, Magpie in CO. Courtesy of P.Wiggins

Ron sent me some pics of the flange today, and here are those for your viewing pleasure

He captured "Magpie in flight" and gave us a marvelous platform to start with

I am excited to see the next phase!!

Engraving completed

A little contrast added to show how it would look in the gold plated final.

I do not like engraving on the top of an armrest for comfortability reasons and requested "side only"

Im totally satisfied and thankful to Ron for all he brings to the banjo world

Headed to FQMS for Gold plating
Ron will carry the woodwork with him to his winter home and complete it there.

Detail Painting

 Im nearly speechless...an odd place to be in my case...
Lets look at the combination of Art and Music together..

Ron really helped out the blank MOP birds eh?
Now it goes well with the theme, THANKS RON!

I shadowed the holes for effect.
Bear in mind that when clear coats are applied this acrylic will POP with even more colors

Just super..



The warm background color gives a wonderful Autumn feel that Ron captured in the detail as well, I just couldn't be more pleased.

I cannot WAIT.....until I can see this with a mirror coating of Mohawk Nitro!
WONDERFUL WORK........Im honored to have Ron bestow his efforts upon this instrument and all of the others he has worked on for me.




I can say that I get a warm feeling for this theme.

My Mom, who passed away last year was an avid bird watcher and that was one thing I shared with her always, looking at the feeders and looking up what species showed up in our part of Texas.
I will think of her each time I look at this instrument and smile.
Thanks Ron.

The woodwork arrived today, i will add in the MOP dot that covers the dowel screw, and start adding the clear coats

Very excited on the colors!!!


Tone ring polished, and 1/8" steel rod inserted inside of it, same as Silver Bell
The shoes and hooks are nickel plated

Remo translucent (Milky) head

Armrest installed

I have it shown with a mix of Gold and Nickel hooks to see if Jan would rather have gold hooks
I like the nickel, when viewing up close.

As soon as I have the back finished with clear, it will go on next

Final assembly

My backordered 11" medium crown Renaissance arrive just i time, and now I will have the head I want for final setup, in both looks and tone

Back has been buffed, and attached to the flange

The new hooks were cut to fit, and installed

A few more coats on this neck and Ill be ready to attach to the rim and move into the setup as soon as the tailpiece returns from plating.
Cold weather is causing some slower dry times, even under lamps

Tuners installed, Shallers
Tailpiece back from plating
lets get this thing going...

Finalizing neck attaching hardware

This is a simple way to do a dowelstick banjo
I drilled and threaded the dowel for a standard resonator lug, like on Gibson banjos

Then I drilled a dimple into the rim, where the  adjusting screw can land for retention

The lug is threaded as well for the screw, this is what allows it to add backpressure as needed


Strings at tension, I will need to allow it to set the neck and all of its parts .

Raining outside, so some humorous final pics for now..

My buddy Barry Grant up in Talkeetna AK, owner of the Great White North banjo, never lets me get too big of an attitude !!!!



The banjo has a HUGE amount of tone and volume, I have alot to work with.
As powerful an A string as I have ever heard on a tenor.
I will let it settle down, tweak it out, In VERY encouraged on the finalization being something Dale ,Dave,Ron and Vinnie can be proud of and something that Jan can enjoy, its a dream that is nearing fruition.
Final "Notes" to follow

Tyler Jackson, in for a visit

TJ came by after a run with  Ray Price  to catch up, check the Bass, and the Magpie was ready for a good test.
So immediately, it was "What bridge works best"
Banjo players live for these tests :)

He was amazed at the Volume vs Weight, this is one powerful machine in proper hands!

The smile on his face means alot to me, he gave it two thumbs up and he infused alot of notes and chords into it so that when Jan gets a hold of it ....it may try to buck out of his hands.
I sent Jan a short video sound byte, Ill see if I can get it to load on a page in some primitive method.


Jan flew in over 7000 Km to pick this banjo up in person, a promise that he made to me long ago when we first entertained the idea, and he is a man of his word.
It was a wonderful visit that included some very good talks, a little BBQ, some Lobster tail for dinner and then a little jam session before he had to rest up for the return flight.

So I cleaned her up once more, tuned her up....

Let her say good-bye to her pals....

And I have the Jan the man himself, caught  hanging out in Banjohaven, Longview Texas and I can say in all honesty, the visit was a welcome one, and I wish that it could have lasted much longer.
We have been good friends on the internet for over 10 years and we finally got to meet face to face and this made the project even more meaningful than before.
Thanks Jan, for all your support  and a fulfilling experience, and I am looking forward to the next 10 years!

"Was this your pick??".......So sorry...

            a potato chip in CO, courtesy of Peggie Wiggins