Luck of the Irish Banjo Project

Heavy 40 yr. old 3/4 rolled maple rim
Simple head bearing, 11"
Grooved 1920s Bacon tension hoop and hooksets
Newer Shoes/Screws
Skin head
Gibson KK11 19 fret tenor neck
Single co-rod, /upper lag

my plan is to make a nice ITM (Irish) banjo that has the look of the homeland.

What I do when tedious work piles up I need a distraction from the pressure so I get a bunch of spare parts out and start thinking.
Usually this jump starts normal creativity so I can bear down on benchwork that actually pays the bills.

There is no rhyme and reason at first, just alot of "off the cuff' designing and hoping for a decent outcome.

 I have had this rim around and used it on another project or two that had tone rings.
It came from the Liberty Banjo Co. years ago, and was laid up in the 70s
Shot it with a Green aniline dye tinted lacquer.

 blackened the bottom and top

The "IT" is   now official

Drill outs on the bottom,  for Greenish Abalone dots

Installed and taking on clear coats

Im taking off a little more wood in the sidewall so I can use an ivoroid binding flush by the head

Binding glued in and sanded flush
Abalone dots set in rim bottom

KK11 neck is nice and straight, I will pop the overlay off peghead and make my own

red dots on markers changed to green during the refret

ready for overlay

Veneered dyed, sealed.... ready for new holes and a peghead theme

First tint coat


Ochre Acrylic for the pin striping
Man, I got that "Green thumb" for sure!

Fingerboard fade on the edge like an 11, and I took my fine wool and cleaned off the centers, I like the look
Still thinking on inlay or painted scenes

Found a good Co-rod for the job and lagged the neck, drilled the rim and bolted her up.

Nice geared tuners, new bone nut

I will either add small emerald stones in the old tuner screw filled holes, or if I have Ron Raymer paint it up with an Irish  theme I will hide them in that manner.
These are not the final clear coats and I can protect any artwork with the final 4 clear coats as per usual when working with Ron's painting's.


I have made maple blocks and radiused them, to take up the places where a flange would be for the  Gibson style cut of the heel.
Im not willing to ruin the Gibson heel cut, I may want to use the neck on another project if no one buys it, and these work perfectly top gain full heel contact.
If I finalize it with custom art I will make them permanent and hide the addition in normal fashion.

Strung to pitch on these gauges
GHS, purchased at
Simple downforce tailpiece making for a good footprint onto the new skin head.
Nice and warm, with good bite when playing up by the bridge
Medium high action at 5/8, can go to low at 9/16, ultra low at 1/2"
Will experiment during the tweaking stages and while I work on the resonator back.
A Vega Armrest will fit this hook spacing, so that is coming too.


I decided I wanted a close fit that would setup on Stanchions, so I jigsawed the periphery of that sidewall

Bound in Ivoroid

 Tinted to match 

Now to make the stanchions and get my finish washers and fancy screws out.

Fine line tape to mark my drill spots

Wood screw pilot for the countersunk screws

3/8" stanchions from aluminum tubing

That will give the standoff I wish for

Now I will take it back down to do the final work that is temp'ed, add 2 more coats clear, then send it off to Mr. Raymer for Artwork.
I feel the banjo looks and plays well enough to carry it forward.
I will be talking to people about gold plating vs nickel in the interim.
We have a plan in motion.

Filling the flange relief that was required for Gibson and adding 1/4" to length of fingerboard to adjust the scale and land the bridge 1/8 closer to center.
You can see fresh finish removal and say"why have any finish on it in the first place"
Sometimes when I create, I like to see how things will look first because the minds eye is my only "greenprint" :)
Its a prototype, not some decided upon finished product.

All ready for a top cap

I added onto the end with celluloid from a 30s Trujo
Color match not important
Adding 2 small binding strip tips I will fade in later

New heel fitted to rim, action will be adjustable
Starting tint on final fret block top

All wood added, stained and shaped to profile and painted taking on some clear

New tiger maple heel cap added for style

Full color now on  all the wood , last coat of clear until Artwork is applied



I gave Ron free reign to add whatever artwork he could on my budget, and once again he did a great job, much more than I was expecting.

Once the clear coats star building on the acrylic, it should really "Pop" with color.
Im so pleased with the outcome.

I can't wait for it to get here so I can get to work on the final finish

After about 10 coats of Mohawk it will get a deep look about it.


And when the metal gets on the rim to break up the color, that's when it will begin to look like the whole package

To see many more projects Ron and I have worked together on, go here


Paintwork done, ready to go together

Armrest, Gibson Style, thru mounted into rim

Ready to string up

Tuned GDAE
Strings and Remo Renaissance Head  from Mike Amato



Playing well up and down with a nice action on 5/8" bridge

Plenty of downforce from the window style tailpiece

Will let it settle in and dial in the setup 







Cheers, and thanks for watching my crazy project!