WORK PAGE  12-14

For  "The Manhattan Minstrel" Eddy Davis,
 Professional Tenor Banjoist

13-1/4" rim with 12" arch ring
21-3/8 scale, 21 fret extended fingerboard
Oettinger  tailpiece, Tuners and Bridge

Repair Pics

Fingerboard is pressed hard against head, causing muting, will elevate 1/16

You can see extension running downhill, that's better than uphill.

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 this era

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 Bye Bye..

He likes big rimmed banjos with short scales, and this qualifies.
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 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 heads!

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 original.

These play OK, but they are not comfortable as modern wire
 I will use 147 StewMac Wire,a
nd 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 these things.

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 fillers
Slots cut for modern Stew Mac 147 fret wire

Compression fretting

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 before refinish

Leveling wire

Recrown file

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 arch ring.
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 the 20s.
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
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 head.
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 E.R.D)
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

EXAMPLE (In Nickel)
My Short 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 backplate.
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!

Custom Bridge

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 model
A good gift for a patient customer!

Tall enuf to clear the backplate too, BONUS!


Making a template for the top.
The real 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 way.

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 hoop

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 the Maestro.
Fixing up an old banjo is one thing...But fixing one for the "Manhattan Minstrel", that's another ball game!

Eddy sent me a couple YouTubes of him working with it.

Thanks for watching