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Banjo Ukulele

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Okay, I'll open this one up to you guys. I work with this guy who asks me if I do stringed instrument work. Naturally, I say yes and hand him my card. He starts asking me about violins and how he has one and wants to give it to me. Okay, so now I can get my feet wet on working on violas and such. He brings me not a violin, but a tiny banjo, no bigger than a ukulele. I'm at a loss for words to describe this instrument. Its says Slingerland Maybell on it. I did some research on the net and came up with hits for a 1920's concept called a Banjo Ukulele or Banjulele (??) Right, so the thing is in pretty good condition except 1) its dirty, and 2) the skin head is broken. The budding luthier inside me says to fix it up and rock out (if thats possible on a banjo) but the collector in me tells me to do nothing and sell it as is. Any thoughts here guys?

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they are pretty neat..i've worked on a couple and own one..they really aren't super collectable to the point that working on it would ruin it's value. there were millions of them made and if you do a search on ebay you'll most likely find a lot of them. i also have a banjolin from the same era..and little 8 string banjo that plays like a mandolin..mine has a split head on it and i'm having trouble finding a replacement..it's an odd size.

anyway, they're fun to play but in my opinion you're not going to hurt it by fixing it up and enjoying it.

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I've owned a few banjos and had to make some repairs along the way. Both of you guys have instruments with split heads. Of course, when I was to change a banjo head I would just go out and buy a new plastic one. But I DID dabble in stretching my own. I don't know if music supply stores still carry skins ( calfskin ) but if so you can replace those oddball sizes.

Buy a chunk o' skin that is approx. 3" greater than the rim diameter of your banjo or banjo-like instrument. Soak in water until it is completely soft and pliable. Let it lie on a folded towel to soak up excess moisture. Take the ring (called a flesh ring) out of the old head and lay it centered on top of the skin. Fold the margin of the skin back over the ring toward the center of the circle and then lay the tension hoop over the fold, making sure the tension hoop is bottom side down. Also make sure that everything is tucked in and you've taken up all the slack in the folds. The flat surface of the head should be free of looseness and wrinkles.

Pick up the whole works and lay it on top of the rim and tone ring (body) of your instrument. Slip the hold down brackets over the tension hoop and tighten 4 corners first. Tighten the rest of the brackets in the same order as you would tighten lug nuts when changing a wheel on a car. Always across and over one.

Don't tighten them down all the way because when the skin dries it will tighten further on its own. Wipe up any excess water that squeezed out and then let it dry over night. When dry, carefully trim off the excess folds around the tension hoop with a razor, avoiding at all costs, cutting into your new head.

Edited by Southpa
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I saw StewMac sells an unmounted head in their banjo supplies section.  Well, now I know that I wouldn't be destroying a rare antique or nothing.  Guess its time to clean her up and get her going.  UncleJ, fancy a "Dueling Banjos"?

can i be the guy with the most teeth? :D

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