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PostPosted: Fri Feb 19, 2016 11:11 am 
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My neighbors used to do "rescue dogs," which was another way of saying you never knew whether there would be five dogs of all breeds, shapes, and sizes barking 24/7 in their yards or fifteen.

Frankly, I think doing "rescue banjos" is better. Even if you don't like hearing the sound of a banjo coming over the privacy fence, it's not 24/7. I've done several 5-string banjo "rescues," but this is my first six-string.

This project is related to my desire to have a 6-string backless "beach banjo" that I can take on trips to play as a 6-string banjo, but also as a travel guitar. I have a Martin Backpacker ("guitar"), which is fun to play, but the short scale and odd neck shape don't exactly keep my left hand in shape for the "hard stuff" I play on guitar and 6-string banjo.

My first effort in this direction was a like-new Rogue, which, after about 15 hours of work was very playable, but whose neck was too narrow for me to practice my fingerstyle songs (most of what I do on 6-string banjo). So I traded it for a dulcimer. Still, since it was like-new, meaning that it needed serious setup, it didn't really "count" as a "rescue" 6-string.

After I got a professional 6-string (a Deering Deluxe), I thought about taking the back off of my Dean Electric/Acoustic Backwoods 8 and using it for a travel banjo. But I never got around to it. Then this one came along.

Struck with a serious case of cabin fever, and a need to pick something up at WalMart, I stopped by two pawn shops near the WalMart on my lunch hour yesterday. One had an electric/acoustic ukulele in great shape, but I can't play uke and didn't want to start. The other one had two Celebrity guitars in playable condition for a price that didn't suck - I've considered getting another Ovie to leave at church for those times when I'm called upon to play at the last minute. But the cheaper of the two had cracks in the face, and I thought the other was overpriced. At the other end of the rack was this off-brand six-string banjo.

It was a slightly abused Davison (cheapo import) 6-string banjo at a pawn shop for ~$125, strung for left hand (go figure). Changing a 6-string banjo over to right hand isn't hard. Though it will require a new nut and strings, those are easy to come by. It will also need a good cleaning. But the rest of the work, adjusting the head and neck, placing the bridge, etc., is all stuff you have to do on a new cheapy anyway. The color is an ugly caramel, but that will be less obvious without the salad bowl, er, resonator, attached.

I realized later that this was made by "Jameson," another importer. If I'd realized that up front, I might have been more hesitant. I test-drove Jameson's first 6-string banjo way back when, and it was a canoe paddle.

I took the resonator off last night. The reason I said "abused," not "used" is that the first owner did a crap job of tightening the head, so it isn't even sitting on the pot right. Should I blame the owner, or the chain of companies that ship "instruments" right from the Chinese factories to your door without any measure of setup or quality control? I'll try to pick up a new nut today. Fortunately the nut is a commonly used guitar piece I should be able to get for a few $. And the bridge doesn't really have to be replaced right away - I can just turn it around. That will defeat the "compensation" of course, but it will give me time to decide if I really need a compensated bridge anyway. Often "compensated" bridges on cheap 6-strings are really "overcompensation."

I may swap out the non-coated head for a coated head I bought for another banjo and never used. We'll see.

More to follow.

PostPosted: Fri Mar 25, 2016 1:42 pm 
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Okay, I got a replacement nut for about $4 from my local music store (Guitar Attention Center, in Springfield, OH), and I ordered and received a replacement bridge $4 from China. It got here in about ten days. I took the back off, loosened and retensioned the head and moved the arm rest around. I also popped off the nut and popped on the new one, without gluing it down in case it didn't work out for some reason. I had to file about 1/16" off the "back edge" of the nut to get it to fit; now it's quite snug even without glue. I strung the thing, with a set of round-wound electric guitar strings that correspond in weight to the average "Light" acoustic set. The "light" six-string banjo set I have is lighter, but it's made for a 26" neck, not a standard guitar neck.

I positioned the new bridge and started adjusting the nut slots - the "stock" replacement nut just had little notches to let you know where the string slots should go. I nudged things down as far as I felt safe without having any precision tools handy, and the strings were too high. So I went to Sears hardware to buy a new set of feeler gauges (they're usually used for cars, but many of the gauges sold for musical instruments are exactly the same). I got the gauge with the maximum # of feelers, which cost about $10, but I had $10 in points from something, so it was free. I also bought a finer triangular file than the one I was using.

So, combining feeler gauges until I got the exact height of the first fret, I slid the gauge up under the nut and used the file to get things down as far as I thought was safe. The banjo is playable now, probably about as playable as they usually are new. Probably if I put the 6-string banjo string set on it, it would be quite playable. But the banjo does not have a very bright sound now. I'd rather get it as playable as I can with the strings I have on it. Putting the lighter set on would make it even quieter.

At the moment, it's in a gig bag awaiting another filing pass at the nut. In the meantime, the neck is straight enough without any adjusting, except for one half-turn of the coordinator rod. Now that I've played it and played with it a while, I have to say that the neck is a little "baseball batty" for me - shades of the old Harmony guitars. But I can adjust, of course.

One result is that I've gone ahead and added it to the Six String banjo page on the RiverboatMusic.com site, with due caveats, of course. http://riverboatmusic.com/banjos/six_st ... banjos.htm

Last Saturday, I played a Banjo gig that I wanted to take this along in case I needed to play any of my "guitar songs." But it wasn't quite playable enough, or loud enough. I did order a pickup thingie I wanted to use on it, but it didn't come in time. As it turned out, it was just as well that I left it home, as there was no good place to set up an amp where we were standing. And my GoodTime Classic Special Openback 5-string was plenty loud for the room we were in. Now I'm petitioning Deering to make a six-string equivalent. (Classic is brown, not blond, Special includes a tone ring which really does make a difference, even without a resonator.) In the meantime, I have a Deering D-6 I can always use if I need to really make an impression, and a Dean Electric-Acoustic Backwoods 6 I can use when I don't. Why do I need this one? To take to the beach, leave in the car on hot and cold days, etc.

I'll keep you posted. :-)

PostPosted: Tue Jun 28, 2016 11:06 am 
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Here's an update on the Davison "rescue banjo," published on my music blog..

Title: My New Travel Guitar is a Banjo:

http://www.paulracemusic.com/musical-in ... s-a-banjo/

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Paul Race playing a banjo. Click to go to Paul's music home page.Whatever else you get out of our pages, I hope you enjoy your music and figure out how to make enjoyable music for those around you as well.

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