Monday, November 5, 2007

Of Pecans and Such

Working in the shop around a job and a life makes the banjo building go slowly, but I finally reached a point when I looked at the neck and the pot together and it actually looked something like a banjo.

The weather is still amazing. Nice mild days with bright blue Skies. Today it was cool enough to wear a sweater in the morning. Later in the afternoon I had an old metal box fan roaring over the Shirley Collins/Davey Graham cd.

The pecans are beginning to fall from the trees and I've been collecting them as I find the time. I'm beginning to believe that the Easter tradition of searching for hidden Easter eggs was created by southerners wanting to condition their children to find and gather pecans in the fall. While picking pecans today I had a strong memory of my Grandmother in the backyard, sitting at a wooden picnic table, shelling pecans and singing Amazing grace. The memory made me smile.

This week was very productive. I began by working on the contour of the neck. It's very important that the curvature of the neck is correct and fits tightly against the pot, otherwise there will be movement in the neck as it is being played.

Earlier in the week I began to create the curve on the neck as I did on the other banjos, by roughing out the curve on the bandsaw, then using a chisel and the dremel to get the exact curvature. This method does not have predictable results, and is based on trial and error, for the most part. I carve a little, test the fit, carve a little more, and on and on. It seems to end up o.k., but I would rather get accurate and predictable results from the start.

So I spent a couple of days designing and building this neck jig. It allows me to carve the neck accurately, so that the neck fits perfectly on the pot.

Here I am sliding a neck through the jig. I slide the heel of the neck against the curve of the jig and the bandsaw cuts the correct curvature. It's a simple design, but I've learned that the simplest designs are often the most accurate.

I glued the fingerboard and peghead overlay in place, then began to shape the neck. After making good progress on the neck, I shaped the peghead on the bandsaw. I have a jig that I use for this process that keeps the neck in position with the blade.

Next I roughed out the dowel rods to be fitted onto the neck

And steambent some more wood for the pot.

And here we are so far. If you squint your eyes and tilt your head just right, you can make out the faint impression of a banjo. I believe there's hope for it.

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