Bill Reed's
  Mondello Plectrum Workpage

Commissioned 12/08
22 fret
"Prancing Horse" theme

This banjo is not  from my Accutone line, that is now completed.(10 banjos)

Neck-, Custom, Maple Construction, BD style laminated and truss in the heel.
Ebony fingerboard and peghead overlay/heel cap
Carved heel and paintwork by Ron Raymer

Inlay by Dave Nichols, Custom Pearl Inlay

 500 yr old Maple Rim (Old Growth Maple) BD configuration 24 bracket

JLS-12 20 hole Flathead tonering

   Gold /Nickel /Chrome plated  hardware

Custom Carved Maple Resonator Back- BDSilver Bell Style, custom flange cutouts,engraved tension hoop, engraved armrest
 and Neck carving Ron Raymer

Bill (And Barb) Reed hail from the Sunshine State of AZ, but spend much of their time on the road Rv'ing and seeing the USA
They are like family to me, they were the first people to get me to travel west and see what it was like to go to a High Powered banjo event.
That was a "BLAST" in every sense of the word.
We became fast friends over time (I  have even done surgery on Bill) and when he wrote to me and asked me to build him a banjo I was like ''''''''YEAH!
Reed can play the strings off of a plectrum, and makes it look like so damn much fun I want to convert from Tenor!
He and Barry Grant make a formidable team when they get together, and i wish I could hang out with them both more often.

Barb plays very well herself, and keep this old Dinosaur in line when he tries to veer into a Tar pit.

Bill playing on an Eddy
        Peabody Special, by Vega in AZ,2006
The Theme will be based on Bills career as an Amusement Park Designer.
He spent his life working while people all around were having a blast, and finally got to the top of the coaster and now he can sit back and do a little coasting himself!

Barry Bill and I on
          Strings, and Sly on Tuba, AZ 2006

He has always liked the beautiful design of the Carousel, and the intricacies that are from the period when nothing was left to the imagination.
Of course, I'm much too young to remember them :)

Before Reed left Rural
          Georgia, he was a Dentist

I have given our wishes over to Dave Nichols, Inlay Guru ,Custom Pearl Inlay, and Dave is old enough to remember when mules pulled a wheel that ran the coasters so we can depend on him to make something we will "WOW"

2005 Port Isabel, at Dan and Maxine's place

Bill, Dan,Max and Barb

That was the wildest ride
          in a canal Ive been on!Everyone was affected,...
          some, ...before the trip!

Bill in 2009, perfroming
          in AZ

Initial Hardware Pics

Flange will have custom cutouts, not "F" holes
Thinking about heel...carved or uncarved


Deciding on Backplate.carved or uncarved

Hidden truss, as with OME

Malone N.Y.
Dave was kind enough to send some pics of the progress and its starting to look really Rad!

Grab that brass ring Boy!

Complete with Wooden braced Roller Coaster!!!

Coaster will be level when banjo is in playing position
How cool is that?

Dave tells me the neck inlay theme is going with the thought of an amusement park in the eyes of a child
Once I put the fret wire in, it will look really cool.

I like the lion breaking out of bondage!


We will get some more looks soon, the resonator has been sent to Ron Raymer for more artistry.

Ron has sketched some drafts for us to look at

The pie sections will be separate stain patterns and the Scroll in the periphery will be painted in a multi color design, it is only highlited in red for detail viewing

The relief heel carving will also have some scroll work and figurehead

Custom Pearl Inlay


Once again, they folks up there in Malone N,Y at  Custom Pearl Inlay
 have outdone themselves.
The following pics do little justice to the actual work, Im telling you that right now
The colors in the pearl are vibrant, the mammoth ivory is creamy and I just love the theme of all of the Animals and figurines on the carousel breaking free and running/flying away.

When the fret wire gets in there it will break the pattern up properly.
This will be another of my banjos that...if the player cannot use side dots or no markers at all, then they will be lost in the Amusement Park forever.
Get ready to use that hidden talent Reed, I know you got it!

No backstrapping it will be carved by Mr Raymer next.

I was able to almost capture the pink lip pearl fingernails set in fossilized Mammoth ivory, and I did get the Brass ring!

I just got word from Bill, that Barb has been diagnosed with Breast Cancer and will be taking what steps necessary to fight it.
Please take the time to donate if you can, and please put her in your circle of Prayer
We are all pulling for her.
Captain Dan at the helm, Bill
        wanted some final photos just in case


Carving / metalwork......... By Ron Raymer

Once again, prepare to be WOWED...


It's just grand isn't it?
Ron will finish the fine cutting on the piercing's and then we will move ahead
The tension hoop will also be engraved, pics to follow
The metal will go for gold plating up at Poirier's and I will stain the wood and protect that with some clear then it back to Ron for detail painting and back to me for more finish and then on to the end.

The wood is back in from Ron, for tinting and protective clear,
I have a plan thats been evolving and I will just let it play out in front of your eyes.

I'll get some fret in, this will be an epoxy job, not compression fretted.
Dave Nichols is an expert on that method and gave his method of doing it which I will employ.

And Ron has the cutting done on the tension hoop so its all off to the platers

That's some kind of fine work, Thanks Ron.

Base colors-Resonator/Neck
After the base coats are completed and sealed, it will go back to Ron for detail painting

Shaded on the edge with a custom color, to a bright amber center

2 coats of sealer

Neck shading complete, I'll get the overspray off first.

Bindings and overlays cleaned, taking on 4 more coats of clear next

This will give Mr Raymer a good base to do his painting magic upon.

Time for me to earn some of my paycheck!

I will be using an Epoxy method taught to me by Mr.Dave Nichols
He was talkin 90 to nuttin, so lets see if I was a good study!

Ok, we picked up a little sawdust off the top of the wax can.......and will use both.
Dave has slotted the board so that no compression method  is used, only epoxy to fret tang to slot wall retention.
You have no risk of damaging this fine work by too tight of a fret slot and a compression tool cracking something that is best left beautiful.
This also aids in fret removal later on when it is time to replace, they can be heated and pulled easily

When this is all done PROPERLY, you get a full contact fret  and the rigidity of the epoxy makes the slot /tang as one creating a truss action in itself.
You MUST have a flat plane to begin with to end up with little or no leveling of the wires.

First  I filled the fret slots with the sawdust, to keep the wax I am applying out of the slot so that it will not be invasive to the epoxy.
Epoxies are something I have spanned 2 careers with and I have used and sold almost every high performance, low yield....... Fast, slow, you name it and this will give me a HUGE edge being that this is the first time for me to use it in a full on fret job.

Wax is dried, and now I am blowing the slots out to clear the sawdust packing

We will use Stewmac .080, a nice midsize comfortable to play on wire, with a good crown..

Preparation when using fast set epoxies is TANTAMOUNT.
My clamps have already been set where they need to be to clamp, and clamp fast.
The fret wire should ALWAYS be wiped with  Acetone or Lacquer thinner, Alcohol..something to remove the machine oil residue that is left from the mfg process.
The oil is not conducive to adhesion and can greatly lessen your chance of success

I will be doing an "over the binding" job, so I use my tang cutter to relieve the tang

The desired result
This allows the fret to go it, while the crown still is intact and over the binding
Nice to have that little extra and it looks cool.

Im sizing quite a few so I will be ready to make a run at it

My pressing caul is covered in wax paper and that will retard epoxy that squishes from sticking to it.
I have  sticky side up tape to retain the frets in order..right by the work area

Dave called for 10 minute set, but I have none and am used to 5 minute set so will use it  not doing too many at once
It can ruin your day not knowing your product so here is what you do....

First........its smart to test your set time
How old is the product?. fresh in this case
 5 minute set at.........whats your temp?
Im at 70 in the shop tonite.

After mixing 2 parts, its a solid mass in 5 minutes right on.
Now we know, you better be ready to "GIT IT"
And if its 95 degrees in your way you could use 5 min set.

Now enuf mix for the 1st six wires, they are close together and my clamp and caul are just right for it

Now quickly........I mean it
Dredging the wire,getting a goodly amount and encapsulating fret tang.

Then one after the other...too fast to photo......... squishing them into the slots ad making sure they are wetted out well....then caul and clamp 6 wires.....3 min.

True time....4 min......... whats left is starting to kick.

Like I said, not for the faint of heart with 5 min set....... but ok for the prepared mind (Thanks Dave), with prepared tools.

And after clamping 10 min, the "Squish" and residual leftovers can easily be removed with a razor.

Because you waxed that fingerboard SMARTYBRITCHES!

Taking the ends down with my Grandpa's fret file, it is all I have used for this operation since my first day in this business.

Steel wool taking off the remainder of residual epoxy

That is enough for now, until I go all the way up with fret wire and then I will meticulously clean and oil it ,then shoot 2 more coats of clear, and back to Ron for heel painting

Rounding the tips off

Moving on up

3 sequence started at the nut, to meet in the middle can see the carousel on the end with all the poles and only 2 figures left on it....the others have broken free!!!
 Good Show!

All frets crowned polished , fingerboard polished cleaned and oiled.
I'll clean the bindings now, and shoot the last clear coats

Peghead Detail

After many long hours of me thinking what it would take to make this peghead design "Pop",..... Ron came up with some ideas and this is the one I have chosen to go with because I feel it is tasteful, goes well with the inlay and completes that particular part of my theme.

This is only a "Rough sketch" and not fully detailed
I'm pleased that it "rounds" out the geometry of the coaster.
After the clear gets on top and some detail of my own planning when the tuners are installed you will see the full picture.

More detailed sketch arrives

This will be the final  draft, before returning for clear coat
Simply wonderful!

Detail painting

No words will be needed for this sequence other than thanks to Ron Raymer
"And the crowd goes wild"..


Now if that doesn't move you in some fashion, call 911 STAT


Plating returns from Paul and Steve, looking very stunning with a heavy gold plate, not shown well at all in this pic.
Thank you boys.
You can speak with them about plating at this email

Next we will be building up the rim
My plan for it is simple

500 year old Maple Rim
(Yes it was determined by experts)
Air dried 120 years as a gymnasium floor

 Cut for Silver Bell style flange
Cut topside  for special 20 hole FQMS flathead tonering , gold plated
Drilled for 24 bracket shoes, BD Silver bell spacing
I will use bi color in the metalwork from here on out
Chrome plated Shoes  Hooksets, Armrest, Tailpiece
This will really set off the gold and wear well .

I will be sending the flange and hoop to my woodchuck to get the rim made and then we will move ahead on the other work coming in from Ron while this all transpires.


Parts back from Ron, and I will protect this immediately with clear.


A night at the Amusement in the making!

Some shots in natural light, sunny day


I have cut an armrest from brass stock and shaped the ends, and will send it to Ron for engraving.
Thanks to Dale for this stock, it makes for a nice Silver Bell style armrest.

Mr. Raymer on task!


Now it is ready to mount hooks on, and I will do that when the tension hoop returns from FQMS
Then I will have it chrome plated.

Side Markers
I figure since the fingerboard is so "busy" and since Reed is now an Octagenarian.......eyes going and all you know......sad.........isn't it?.thats I'd better put some goodly sized side dots in her, with some visibility!.
I am using a style that Dale Small showed  me on a visit to his place, and since all of my talent is built on others laurels and injun tricks... his needs to be included, thanks Dale.

Brass tubing with red epoxy inside, dried and ready to insert and cut.

Super glued in, and then a saw cut then a filing and its ready for finish
The holes that look white are just filled with shavings still.

It's a nice touch  and easy to see.

ID#s for neck


Armrest back with fresh chrome

 500 yr old Maple Rim (Old Growth Maple)
This rim is special, and was designed especially for me.
The wood is from an old Gym floor from Upstate, which was laid down in the early 1900s.
The floor stayed in use until modern times and when the Gymnasium was demolished, the wood was purchased and the wood was taken to a Lab and analyzed and found to be in the 500 yr old range, some of the very early Old growth maple that was standing in the pristine forests of that era, now long gone.
So lets do those trees justice by recycling them into one of the hardest banjo rims on the market bar none.
Steamed and rolled into a 3 ply rim drilled for BD spacing, 24 brackets.

It was a difficult task to cut to profile even using one of the best lathes on the market , and the drilling was just as difficult.
I expect a powerful but controllable tone with he tone ring selection that goes with this rim.
The small dark spot you see is a nail hole, where the floor was nailed in its life and this is part of the patina and history of this rim, not a defect.

It will hide under its washer just fine

The flange fits perfectly, nice and snug
The tone ring is cast, and is in the shop being turned to specs and plated

First, the bottom stain

Then serial #s on the top which will be hidden by the tone ring, and the Vintage Amber to match the rest of the build.

Ready for sealer

Sealed and first clear coat

Next to a real BD6 rim you can see a substantial size increase, I think the density of this rim warrants that.
Its a bit taller too, because my resonator is a bit deeper.

A little thicker in wall dia. as well.

Taking on clear and waiting on tone ring to arrive

Lets mock it up while we wait, just for a look.

Now when the new Prototype tone ring arrives and the Chromed Anchor shoes I can get the first assembly so I can obtain my neck set



Nickel JLS 12 Tone ring has a super snug fit, no problems there.
Nickel Anchor shoes and screws, Gold washers

Renaissance head chosen for this setup.
Tension hooks are my test hooks, the actual hooksets will have a Bacon style nut

Head at full tension, nice tone , big tone.....while doing tap tuning.

Measuring the dimensions for setting coordinator rods, and just looking at a few mock up pics to see how it all looks together.


Gotoh tuners, small shaft with Spanner nuts , and I removed the Perloid and added Amber buttons.
Thats a match.

Getting ready to mount the armrest,  Soldering hooks

With the Oettinger, I can get the best adjustability.
If Bill wants an engraved up version, or some other choice I will change it out, this will be good for setup.

Now we are getting somewhere



Single co-rod setup, with bottom lag

Nice neckset, good clearance over the rim

I will try many bridges, starting with this Farquhar

Next to our Buddy Barry Grant's rim, coming up the line

Action is nice and low on 5/8" bridge so we are in the range I wished to be there.

The near Trujo depth rim  at 4-1/4 "is making some nice tones already with no real tweaking, I feel confident it will do the job now, and until you hear a banjo, you do not know what you have created.
They can fall anywhere in between great.....and " a Drum with a neck on it"
Chance favors the prepared mind however :)

I will let it settle in to see how the truss is set and how the neck performs and then it's back apart for final buffing, resonator mounting, etc. and then back together for final setup and fine tuning.

I am happy with the look overall, and the colors are nice and warm.

Final Setup

All buffing completed and going back together.
I just love the detail Ron built into the artwork.

Resonator mounted
Only 2 small screws are needed, its already a snug fit.

MOP nut and Farquhar non inserted 5/8" is giving me the tonal projection I am looking for and this combo is FORMIDABLE.
I have heard alot of plectrum banjos, and made a few myself and this banjo is making some power and had a robust full deep tone.
I can say it is somewhat bigger than a Trujo in power but with that same big bass and treble.
I'm pleased as punch.
I'm ordering up an engraved Oettinger for it, Reed and I agree..."too plain"

So we ordered one in from Tanya at, and she was swift it getting one out to us, thanks Tanya!

It goes well with the theme.

The nameplate is glued, not screwed to the resonator back and it has two rhinestones over the screw holes.
It is placed at the backside, and will set under the heel and there is a slight indent on the flange to line it up whenever someone wants to pull off the resonator.

You can see the indent here.

Well that completes this project, and it will ship off to Bill real soon.
Its been a pleasure working with Bill and all of my great subcontractors, you know who you are.
I love you brother.
And the rest of you....Thanks for watching