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Re: Calling All Luthiers

>From: Pete Barbella <Pbjrun@aol.com>
>I am attempting to lower the strings on my flea market find..  It's an
>"Audition" 5 string banjo.

There are repair people who would probably be happy to service your banjo
to put in in good shape for play.  Try the yellow pages for musical
instrument retailers, those that sell bluegrass and other folk instruments
will likely know of good repair shops if they dont have one on the

But, since you seem to be budget minded and inquisitive, perhaps you are
also handy, in which case it may be time to screw up your courage and take
the little monster apart.  Be sure to use tools which are well fitted to
the various nuts you will be dealing with, many will be brass or plated
brass, and are easily marred by an ill-fitting wrench (dont even think of
using pliers).  Do take photos and make sketches before you forget which
way round the bits go, and use an ice-cube tray or divided plastic box to
keep things in order.  Add numbered slips of paper to the cells to
coordinate with your notes.  Use bits of masking tape and a marker to label
large parts for orientation.  Be sure to work someplace where you can leave
it should you be interupted without concern for toddler, cat, or curious
adult meddlers.

I suspect that this adjustment was considered a normal bit of maintenance
for the handy musician, but then that was contemporary with Car and Tractor
owners who would think nothing of replacing a broken axle more or less on
their own.

Replacing the membrane that is the "top" of a banjo is a periodic
maintenance necessity which complicates the design of the head/neck joint.
I suspect that any competant manufacturor must build in some form of
adjustment for the angle of this joint, as it is critical for setting
string height, and the specifications are probably beyond reasonable
manufacturing tolerance, thus manual adjustment would have been required
for every instrument that was built, and likely for every instrument after
it has been given a new head.  Some banjos have necks with extended
"dowels" that pass thru the rim and project from its bottom.  yours sounds
different to me, and I havent seen one like it, but I suspect that you have
a "patent" mechanism for adjusting the neck angle.  You could go to the
library and seek out books on the history, care, and feeding of banjos,
hopefully some one on this list can suggest something.

Be careful when making "adjustments" until you are sure of their effect.
Much as you should always sound a string while tuning (to be certain the
peg you turn is the peg for that string).  Its easy to bust a string or
possibly even damage the instrument by getting confused, so always look for
what is changing, and stop until you find it.

It may be possible to locate a copy of the orignal manufacturors
instructions for the instrument from a collector.  The average luthier is
more likely to be concerned with his own line of instruments, but some are
also colectors or specialize in repairs, so one never knows.

Good luck.

Dana S. Emery, Computer Specialist
Smithsonian Institution
Laboratory of Molecular Systematics
4210 Silver Hill Road
Suitland, MD  20746

(301) 238-3444     (voice)
(301) 238-3059     (fax)
emery@onyx.si.edu  (internet)

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