Making Joe's "Father Jack"

"Father Jack"

 

I'm making my third banjo "Father Jack" for Joe Wadsworth. It will be an 11" open backed mandolin/mandola harp banjo with a Birdseye Maple rim capped with Macassar Ebony; a Birdseye Maple/Macassar Ebony three piece neck; a Macassar Ebony tonering; calf skin head; a Macassar Ebony fingerboard and chrome fittings and tuners. The main neck will have multi-scale lengths of 375-405mm and five courses of paired strings. There will be four sub-bass strings.

 

Last updated 22/4/2016.

 

Here's the start of the cunning plans.

The neck is made up of two book-matched pieces of Birdseye Maple with a central Macassar Ebony strip. After applying lots of fish glue some serious clamping is done and the neck blank left to dry overnight. The blank will yield two banjo necks when cut.

The two neck blanks are cut from the block and the headstock with rear volute formed. Here's "Father Jack's" neck.

The American Black Walnut rim blanks that will make the core are cut out on the bandsaw and shaped using this jig and my circle cutter jig.

Here's the result.

The American Black Walnut segments are held in position with 6mm dowels and then glued using hot hide glue.

A bit more progress.

The last segment is glued in.

The Birdseye Maple outer veneer is then glued on using fish glue and lots of clamps.

The Birdseye Maple inner veneer is then glued on using fish glue and lots of clamps.

The outer binding channels are routed out of the rim.

The rim is cut for the outer end graft.

Macassar ebony binding strips and black /pear/black side purflings are glued on using fish glue.

The second set of bindings and purflings are glued in using hot hide glue.

The inner binding channels are routed out of the rim.

The rim is cut for the inner end graft.

Macassar ebony binding strips and black /pear/black side purflings are glued on using fish glue.

The second set of bindings and purflings are glued in using hot hide glue.

The Macassar Ebony outer end graft together with black /pear/black purflings is then glued in using hot hide glue.

The Macassar Ebony inner end graft together with black /pear/black purflings is then glued in using hot hide glue.

When dry the bindings and end grafts are scraped flush with the rim.

The Macassar Ebony bottom cap ring segments are then rough cut and glued onto the pot using hot hide glue.

Here's the last bottom segments glued on.

The Macassar Ebony top cap/tone ring segments are then rough cut and glued onto the pot using hot hide glue.

Here's the last top segments glued on.

The cap rings are then trimmed flush with the pot.

The bottom Macassar Ebony ring edges are rounded over.

The outside edge of the top ring of the pot is rounded over and the inside edge chamfered to form the wooden tone ring.

Here's the result.

The holes for the 18 brackets are marked on the rim and then drilled with a 5.5mm drill. The holes for the tailpiece brackets are also drilled.

Two 6mm holes for the neck bolts are then drilled.

The truss rod channel is then routed in the neck.

The slots for the twin carbon fibre bars are then routed either side of the truss rod.

The carbon fibre truss rod is fitted in the slot and the twin carbon fibre bars are also glued into the neck using fish glue.

A small piece of Birdseye Maple is glued on to the headstock following the line of the nut. When the glue is dry this is sanded level with the headstock plane.

The Macassar Ebony headstock veneer is then glued on using fish glue.

The neck will be attached to the rim using two bolts through the rim that will screw into threaded inserts in the neck heel. The dowel stick will fit over the lower neck bolt head and be secured to the rim using a dowel stick brace. The other end of the dowel stick will be secured to the rim by the tailpiece bracket/screw that will screw into a threaded insert in the dowel stick. First job is to make a 20mm square dowel stick from Birdseye Maple and then shape the tailpiece end to 15mm square to accept the nickel ferrule.

Here's the ferrule test fitted. The M5 threaded insert is fitted to the tailpiece end of the dowel stick and a 9.5mm hole drilled in the neck end to fit over the neck bolt head.

The 4mm hole is marked and drilled for the metal pivot that holds the dowel stick brace.

Here's how the dowel stick will be held in place.

Finally a Macassar Ebony cap is glued on the tailpiece end of the Dowel stick to cover the threaded insert. The tailpiece bracket can be seen screwed into the dowel rod.

The rear Macassar Ebony headstock veneer is bent on the hot pipe to match the volute and is glued on using fish glue.

The headstock is then shaped. The holes for the tuners are drilled using this spacing jig.

Both sides drilled.

The rebated holes for the tuner inserts are then reamed.

Here's the tuners and insets test fitted. The "harp" headstock will be made later and fitted to the top of the headstock as a detachable part. Final headstock shaping will be done then.

The neck is rough cut to the rim shape on the bandsaw with the correct neck angle.

It is then sanded against the rim to fit.

In order to find the correct height of the neck on the rim, the calfskin head needs to be fitted first. The rim is sanded down and sprayed with pre-catalysed lacquer.

Here's the flesh hoop that came with the calfskin head. The hook brackets have been fitted to the rim.

The calf skin has holes punched around the perimeter and string threaded through the holes. It is then soaked in water until pliable.

The wet skin has the flesh hoop fitted inside and the string drawn tight to cover it.

The skin and flesh hoop unit is then placed over the rim and the tension hoop fitted over it. The tension hooks are then loosely fitted and tightened to bring the skin to the right tension leaving it slack enough to tighten more as it dries.

The skin has dried nicely and has a nice "ring" to it under tension. The excess skin was carefully cut off with a scalpel.

The end of the neck is rebated to allow the tension hoop to fit using a pattern router . . .

. . . following this template . . .

. . . with this result.

The neck is positioned on the rim so that the fingerboard will project over the skin at the right height. The position of the bolts are marked on the neck heel and drilled for the M6 top and M5 bottom insert which are then fitted.

Here's the neck fitted with the top bolt to check the neck angle.

The fret positions are marked on the Macassar Ebony fretboard and the slots cut using this jig.

The fingerboard is then tapered and the end shaped.

A piece of Macassar Ebony binding with black / pear / black purfling is bent to the shape of the fingerboard end and glued on using super glue.

The Macassar Ebony binding strips with black / pear /black purflings are then glued on using fish glue.

The white side dot markers are then installed.

The fingerboard is then glued onto the neck using fish glue.

Neck carving is now done.

The fingerboard is radiused.

The frets are pressed in.

The Birdseye maple sub bass headstock has Macassar Ebony veneers glued on front and back using fish glue.

The headstock is shaped and the 10mm holes for the Gotoh ukulele tuners drilled.

The rear of the headstock is drilled with a 1.5mm drill for the tuner lugs.

The tuners are then test fitted.

A hole for the connecting bolt is drilled with a ¼" drill bit.

The hole is reamed so that the M6 stainless steel bolt fits snugly.

A threaded insert is fitted in the rear of the main headstock.

Here's the sub-bass headstock bolted on.

The back view.

Two book-matched Macassar Ebony pieces are glued together with hot hide glue to form the heel cap.

The heel cap together with black/ pear/ black veneers are glued onto the neck with hot hide glue.

When dry the heel cap is shaped flush with the neck.

The main neck was strung up as a dry run and revealed a problem with the string paths for the outer strings.

The solution was to plug the string holes with dowels, take off the Macassar Ebony headstock veneers, glue Birdseye maple/Macassar Ebony "wings" to the sides of the headstock, reshape it, fit new Macassar Ebony veneers and re-drill the tuner holes. Here's the result.

Here's the back view.

The neck, sub-bass headstock, dowel stick and arm rest are now sprayed with pre-catalysed lacquer.

The Macassar Ebony cap is glued onto the Birdseye maple bridge blank using hot hide glue.

5.5mm holes are drilled below each string position.

The bridge is then shaped.

Set up involves fitting the harp arm onto the neck, fitting the Rubner and Gotoh ukule tuners, bolting the neck to the pot and fitting the dowel stick, fitting the armrest to the pot, fitting the two no-knot tailpieces, making and fitting a bone nut to the neck and fitting the stings. The nut and bridge slots are then cut to dial in the playing action. Here's the finished "Father Jack".

Back view.

The marquetry Celtic knot inlay made by Quentin Smith is glued to an Ebony backing piece using fish glue.

Here's the result.

The piece to be inlaid is cut to shape and checked for fit against the heelcap.

An ebony border is mitred and glued on using superglue.

Using a specially made jig the channel for the inlay is routed into the heel.

Here's the result.

The channel ends are squared off using a chisel.

The inlay is then glued in using superglue.

The heelcap is scraped flush.