How to Build a Banjo

Things You'll Need

  • Banjo parts, including:
  • Head
  • Rim
  • Tension hoop
  • J-bolts and nuts
  • Tone ring
  • Flange
  • Armrest
  • Tailpiece
  • Coordinator rods
  • Resonator with mounting hardware
  • Finished neck
  • Tuners
  • String nut
  • Bridge
  • Strings
  • Tools, including:
  • Wrench
  • Mallet
  • Small flat head screwdriver
  • Small Phillips screwdriver

Building a banjo from scratch can be a rewarding experience that will not only give you a sense of accomplishment and knowledge of how your instrument works, but will save you money too. You can control the quality of the parts that go into your project and select distinctive parts that give your banjo a customized look that will stand out from off-the-shelf production instruments.

Buy all of the necessary parts for your banjo. You can buy them separately or as a kit.

Buy a finished neck with all frets and inlays in place. Building a neck from scratch is very challenging, requiring advanced techniques. If you are skilled at woodworking, you can purchase unfinished necks and resonators at considerably less cost.

Obtain the best possible parts you can afford. This will produce an instrument that will be easier to assemble and more enjoyable to play.

Start with the rim. The rim is the laminated wooden ring that acts as the foundation for the pot assembly. The rim will have pre-drilled holes for the coordinator rods.

Position the flange on the rim and align it to the pre-drilled holes. The flange acts as the anchor for the tension hardware that will hold the tension hoop in place.

Attach the flange to the outside of the rim with screws.

Place the tone ring to the top edge of the rim. The tone ring is the heavy metal ring that fits on the rim and provides a foundation for stretching the head across the pot assembly.

Place the head on the tone ring. The head is the membrane that forms the drum head of the pot assembly.

Place the tension hoop on the head and align it to the hardware holes in the flange.

Insert the j-bolts through the holes in the flange and hang the hooks of the bolts in the slots provided in the tension hoop.

Thread the nuts onto the j-bolts, finger tight.

Tighten each nut opposite to each other, working your way around the flange until all nuts are sufficiently tight to stretch the head to the correct tension.

Place the heel of the neck at the appropriate location on the rim, aligning the holes with those in the rim.

Thread the ends of the coordinator rods through the rim into the neck.

Place the tailpiece bracket onto the end of the lower coordinator rod at the end of the instrument.

Attach the nuts to the ends of the coordinator rods, ensuring that the tailpiece bracket is aligned properly and secure.

Adjust the coordinator rods by turning the center piece of the rods until the neck fits snugly to the rim.

Attach the tailpiece to the pot assembly by threading the tailpiece bolt through the tailpiece bracket and securing it with the the nut provided.

Attach the wall lugs to the inside of the resonator, aligning them with the correct holes in the flange.

Unscrew the cover rings for the tuners and set them aside.

Insert the tuners through the holes in the neck head and thread the cover ring onto the tuners.

Attach the tuning pegs to the back of the neck head with the screws provided and replace the cover rings.

Insert the fifth tuner, if necessary. Gently tap the tuner in place with the mallet.

Insert the string nut at the top of the neck.

String the instrument by threading each string through the tailpiece and inserting the end of the string through the hole in the side of each tuner.

Wind the tuner until the slack in the string is loosely taken up.

Insert the bridge between the strings and the head of the pot assembly so that the string grooves are facing out.

Tighten each string until taut, ensuring that the strings align in the grooves of both the bridge and the nut.

Adjust the tailpiece to the proper elevation.

Adjust the coordinator rods to fine-tune the proper distance or "action" between the strings and the fingerboard.

Align the resonator to the back of the pot assembly.

Attach the resonator by threading the thumb screws through the appropriate holes in the flange into the wall lugs in the resonator.

Attach the arm rest to the side of the pot assembly.

Tune your banjo and play.


About the Author

In Jacksonville, Fla., Frank Whittemore is a content strategist with over a decade of experience as a hospital corpsman in the U.S. Navy and a licensed paramedic. He has over 15 years experience writing for several Fortune 500 companies. Whittemore writes on topics in medicine, nature, science, technology, the arts, cuisine, travel and sports.

Photo Credits

  • / CC BY-SA 2.0