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A long neck and its little sibling

These are two block rim banjos with mahogany necks, bocote fingerboard and accents, cherry and maple rims, and all American-made hardware


Continuing with the experimenting that comes from building two banjos at once, these very similar instruments have proven to be a real pleasure to play.

Build #13 is a long neck banjo. The full standard scale long neck can get to the 32 inch range, which is something of a beast. So this is just over 30 inches. I set it up so that when playing with a capo at the third fret (playing in G), it comes out to a 25 1/2 inch instrument. This short scale matches my Telecaster Thinline build and is growing in popularity for open backs right now. Build #14 is a standard 26 3/8 scale. Here are some of the features (they're pretty much all the same):

  • Mahogany neck with a bocote fretboard, peghead, and heel cap. There's an ipe and maple accent under the bocote throughout, it makes for a really nice subtle-yet-fancy stripe. Both have truss rods and a truss rod cover made from the overlay wood, so it blends right in. These have bone nuts and fifth string pips.
  • An 11 inch block rim from cherry and maple. Something else snuck in there, too, but I didn't notice until later. So there are a few mystery blocks. It's a bit softer, which you can see on the inside where I hand sand, but they blend right in.
  • Both rims feature an ipe cap, or a "wooden tone ring." Ipe is a very hard wood and as a result, these have a great warm tone to them. There is a matching rim cap of ipe, maple, and bocote.
  • These have brass Gotah tuners. All of the hardware is brass and handmade in Ashville, North Carolina by the Balsam Banjo Works folks. There are grooved tension rings, 10 hooks, and Balsam's Hawkeye tailpiece. The heads are Remo Renaissance heads with the Balsam/Pigsah logo, since that's where I got them.
  • The long neck has railroad spikes (fifth string capos) at all of the useful spots: 6, 7, 8, 9, and 11. This makes for easy playing in singing and banjo keys.
  • #14 (the standard scale) does have something of a blemish. I got some tear out at the neck joint on the inside of the rim. You can see it in the last photo. I was considering some coverup options to hide it, but decided not to. It's handmade and I'm not a factory. Such is life.
The two banjos side by side

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Demonstration of banjo #13, the long neck

Demonstration of banjo #14, standard scale

Banjo # 13, the long neck

(Photos of this one have a Pigsah Eclipse bridge, but after some more tweaking, I swapped out one that I made myself.)

Full view of #13
Front of banjo #13
Back of #13
Back of peghead for #13
Peghead of #13

Banjo #14, standard scale

Banjo #14, full view
Banjo #14, front close up
Banjo #14, side view
Banjo #14, back
Banjo #14, back of peghead
Banjo #14, peghead
Banjo #14, inside of pot (shows some tear out)