November 14, 2009

Meeting - November 14, 2009

We met at Jack Gellerstedt's shop in Forest, VA.

Image: Jack Explains Banjos

Jack Leads the Banjo Project Discussion

Open Back Banjo Project

Jack Gellerstedt continued a discussion of a banjo project. See the previous discussion from the meeting on October 11, 2009).

The primary focus of the meeting was on open-back banjo construction techniques and plans for a possible club banjo project.

Options for the Rim

Drum Shell

Woody's right foot is pointing to a drum shell that can be sliced into banjo rims.

Jack showed us some options for making the rim. One is using a drum shell, slicing off a piece of the desired size. Another is steam bending the rim either in one piece with a scarf joint, or in multiple sections. He steam bent some small pieces as a test (quarter circle pieces seen in the drum shell picture). Still another option is building up the rim in multiple, thin laminations. This is the way the drum shell is built. A potential disadvantage of this method is that multiple laminations require a large amount of glue that may adversely affect the sound.

Cutting the Neck Profile

Cutting Neck Radius

Jack shows how he cuts the neck radius.

Jack demonstrated his technique for cutting the neck profile at the neck to rim joint. This is a curved cut, with radius to match the radius of the rim, and it is angled to create the correct "back angle" of the neck. He normally uses a back angle of 2.5 to 3 degrees. Jack uses a radial arm saw with the blade set horizontal to make this cut, and the neck is anchored to a pivot fixture to create the correct radius of cut.

Detail of the setup is shown below. The pivot point of the fixture is centered under the arbor shaft. This technique will work for any radius larger than the radius of the saw blade.

Neck Jig

Project Decision

We decided that in lieu of a club banjo project we will work on individual banjos together for each member who wants to build one. The primary work will be done by each individual in their own shops, and they will buy their own parts. On certain things we will work together to make use of special equipment and to allow common setups. So far, we have three members who will make banjos: Dennis McKim, Larry Sakayama, and Jack Gellerstedt. Work will start soon, but probably not until after the holidays. Dennis, Larry, and Jack will confer to get things started. Also, we'll try to do some of the common operations at a regular meeting so others can view techniques and participate as well.

Lynchburg Hardwoods

Larry Cagle at Lynchburg Hardwoods

Visit to Lynchburg Hardwoods

Lynchburg Hardwoods

Jack listens as Larry Cagle explains the 10" jointer

After the regular meeting we went to Lynchburg Hardwoods, a supplier of hardwood lumber and services operated by Larry Cagle. He specializes in domestic and imported lumber, kiln dried and graded. He had some exotic woods - bubinga, purple heart, zebrawood, mahogany, as well as maple, oak, walnut, cherry, and others. He also provides custom furniture, repair, refinish, molding, planing, sanding, and lathe work services. He has a well equipped facility, but his business is small enough to provide personal services to the hobby wood worker and luthier, as well as professionals.

You can contact Lynchburg Hardwoods - Larry Cagle by phone at 434-239-1344 or email him at

Lynchburg Hardwoods

Jack's Trailer

Inside Trailer

Jack and his brother built the trailer.

The photo shows B.B., Jack, and Dan inside the trailer.

More information on the trailer is coming if Jack ever decides to send it.