WORK PAGE 12-14
"The Manhattan Minstrel" Eddy Davis,
Professional Tenor Banjoist
13-1/4" rim with 12" arch
21-3/8 scale, 21 fret extended fingerboard
Oettinger tailpiece, Tuners and Bridge
Fingerboard is pressed hard against head, causing muting,
will elevate 1/16
You can see extension running downhill, that's better than
Dowel was cracked and repaired in the past, Ill touch it up a
little but it is very stable
Crude heel cut, common on Orpheum's and other old banjos of
All frets dressed, crowned, sealed and board taking on some oil
Some divots 1 thru three, and a few places down the neck
Well played instrument
Lacquer touch-up to dowel top after block sanding the repair
Elevated 1/16, good clearance now
New shims made from ebony
Eddy D, decided he wanted
me to experiment with this banjo.
The skin head will come off and the Irish tuning will go
He likes big rimmed banjos with short scales, and this
We will go to REMO for a custom head in 13-1/4, that's not
a common size
We ordered extras, that seemed prudent.
My thanks to Mike Amato at Bedfordbanjoshop.com
my Rep for Remo heads and for Tina at REMO, she came thru for us.
That's a sign REMO is on the way back to caring for Banjo
Also, they began to stamp info on the SIDE
No more pesky stickers. yessss
Heck, Remo even signed it :):)
Here it is mocked next to a nice Epi Plectrum, to show the
Massive head size.
Now to "Eddy Ize " it.
What was good
enuf for the old tyme Irish setup will not suffice here.
At the Very Least... We need modern frets, not the
These play OK, but they are not comfortable as
I will use 147 StewMac Wire,and
work on the divots in the fingerboard.
And some form of non metallic armrest, I should be able to
fabricate a wooden one.
A nicer tailpiece than the plain Presto
Maybe an Oettinger Reproduction, I know where some are
that are reasonable.
It could use some refinish or not, some plating or not.
I'm more about mechanics than looks so Ed can dwell on
Repairs and upgrades
OK..Side Dots....Big ones.........
Removing 1/16, double to 3/32
That is as big as this binding can take
When your eyes get old, your dots get BIGGER!
Now to defret it
Ready to pull
After leveling the board , all divots except up in the 3rd
position are gone, and the others not bad enough to use
Slots cut for modern Stew Mac 147 fret wire
Frets will be full width over the binding, because of this
tool and technique
Oiling the board, Ill keep doing that until its
revitalized the Pearwood
Dyed the peghead, I will scuff it to clean the MOP
end dressing file
Fine wool, then back to machine buff it all
Peghead ready for finish, now for the back
Dyeing the black parts that need it.
I will scuff the old finish up and add Lacquer when I get
the rim ready
Pulling it down for finish
Now for the fence staples
I will strip it first
Parts taking on Mohawk Classic Instrument Lacquer
Some Honey-dos next to it.
4 coats clear, hardware has been Machine buffed.
As always a little oxidation on the arch ring
Moisture from skin heads all its life.
I placed the bad spot where armrest will be, to hide it/.
New head tightened to proper tension, crown is OK, they
did a good job at REMO on this custom head.
With its design factors in mind, I'll need to come up with
a tailpiece that can rest on the hoop yet clear this big
I will probably start with a No Knot and go from there,
testing different types.
One must remember, we are making this into a modern setup
for a Pro player, things cannot just be as they were in
So some new advances may help to make this Big rimmed job
speak in voices that were not available to it before.
The synthetic head is a big start.
Neck work ready to try out.
GHS Strings and Custom Remo head provided by www.bedfordbanjoshop.com
I am going with an Oettinger tailpiece because I like the
air gap distance from bridge to finger.
The 034 does not seem too tight at this scale for my
tastes, and makes for a big Bass on the C
Tone..............very nice, I am happy to be one of the
first if not the first to have one of these on a synthetic
Bridge does not sag as it does on any skin, the bigger rim
may just be happy with this setup!
I have placed and glued a 1/8" shim under the tailpiece to
allow it to ride up to the right height.
Good down force at full tension.
Action on a 9/16" bridge is right about 5/32 at the
beginning of the extension, thats acceptable.
As you can see, the build is very tight around the rim
skirt, and plenty of clearance for final head adjusting
Heel fit is tight but...
As with all of these old production banjos, I see many
small things that were just looked over in the old days.
The strings want to ride to the Bass side, even with
tailpiece drifted over to the treble so some work will be
done here to correct that
It can be seen if you have the eye, that the neck itself
is about 1/16th closer to the Bass side .
I will adjust the mortise in the rim both front and back
to re-align it better.
We tend to think of these old beauties as "unassailable"
but after over 1500 banjo repairs in my stead, I can say
that this is just not true.
They were built well as far as production instruments and
then it was left to the player to dial them on in.
But not perfect every single time!
I will get these small defects lined out and go back to
the setup phase.
Banjo has been disassembled and altered as needed to get
the neck into proper alignment with rim .
It has only settled in a few hours but I can tell its
acting properly, and plays well.
I'm working on getting an armrest that suits me (and
I need a wood top because Eddy has a metal allergy.
Doug at Thinline cannot make me what I want so I'm looking
into other options.
I want a 120 degree armrest
Scale Small Rim Vega Style S/ M
This allows you to play comfortably up on the neck as well
as down low.
I will think on it
whilst I figure out what plastics I will be using for a
Ed likes to have a plate so I will make him one.
I do NOT wish to drill into the bottom rim trim.....I need
a dowel mounted hardware driven device.
can make stand off bushings to space it off the back
as I wish, and have no drilled holes into the rim.
I would "Prefer" something in a blond or black plastic to
match the theme, but I think Eddy wants clear.
This is the old style neck hardware
It works well, ebony shim blocks hold things tight.
Ok, Armrest and Backplate..Onward!
I made my own bridge from Rosewood and ebony top
I wanted a wider stance for the big rim and this is a good
1/4" wider stance than a standard bridge
Now I will reduce the top so that it is 5/8"
The insert is wider on the top on the bass side and
tapers to the treble
Tone seems better at full volumes than before, really nice
up by the extension
Will leave it to Big Ed from here, see what he thinks.
Now that I am set up in Austin to do some work, I'm back
on ERD's stuff.
We had a Plastics place cut a circle of Plexi.
Will use these dowel pieces for standoffs
Placed in these positions. glued to the backplate
Some Maple colored lacquer to tone them.
Hole drilled for center hardware
I will place felt circles on the tips touching the
rim bottom to assist them in conforming to rim
One thing good about moving, I found an actual
Orpheum wrench that would have came with this
A good gift for a patient customer!
Tall enuf to clear the backplate too, BONUS!
Making a template for the top.
one will be Eddy's choice.
I took a radius using the extra remo head as the
gauge for the inside, and made a 1" rule to space
off for the armrest width
Black Walnut planks arrive
Adding the second layer for strength
Trying Doug's hardware
It comes out further than I wanted it to,
making me need a wider top so I'm going another
I will steam a sidewall for it first.
Allowing some dry time
Built onto the top, then I will make bracing on
the underside for drillings and mount to tension
Adding stain and tung oil, burnishing as I go
Drillouts and threads tapped, 3 screw mounting
After final burnishing, good to go.
OK, now I will sweat bullets until it is home with
Fixing up an old banjo is one thing...But fixing
one for the "Manhattan Minstrel", that's another
Eddy sent me a couple YouTubes of him working with
Thanks for watching