Head Option for Homemade Banjo




Introduction: Head Option for Homemade Banjo

    This is a way to make a head for a banjo on the cheap that I found whilst researching different ways to make homemade banjos.  Originally I was using a cookie tin bottom cut out and place in with sheet metal screws.  I found one guy that was using the p.e.t. plastic from soda bottles, but unfortunately, the world's soda producers seem to have quit selling those gigantic soda bottles, and the best I could get out of one would have been something like 8" tops.  I did happen to have on hand some x-rays, which are mylar, just like banjo and drum heads, so I used those to experiment with.  I also experimented with some HP paper that had a sort of mesh backing, that worked pretty well, but was again limited in size.

Step 1: Materials

 Old x-ray sheet, or large soda bottle with the flat surface cut out, or similar mylar or p.e.t. plastic you may have around.

Crochet ring, ring cut from a cookie tin bottom, or about any other ring shaped object that will fit into your banjo's "pot" (mine is an aluminum wok pan).

Epoxy glue- the 2 ton type worked better than 5 minute.

(optional clip lamp with warm bulb to speed curing time, and stretch the material)

Please note that this is just something I did for a junky homemade job.  I'm not too sure how well it would work installed on an actual banjo.  Of course I've seen some pretty weird stuff work, including a U.S. mail envelope, so...

Step 2: Cut and Paste

 Trace out your ring on the she sheet, and cut it out.  Mix up your epoxy, and paint it onto the rim.  Lay the rim on the mylar and let it do it's initial set so it can be handled.    You'll want a good flat surface, and will probably want to weight down the ring while it cures.  

Step 3: Curing

Once the epoxy was initially set, I put it under a metal clip lamp with a warm bulb to speed the drying time, and stretch the mylar slowly.  Take pains not to get the lamp too close, anything above about 150 f causes it to shrink very rapidly.  I hovered it above the center with 3 or 4 inches clearance I think, and for this one it was sufficient to cure and stretch it in about 12 hours.

Step 4: Mount It

For this one it just mounted into the pot with sheet metal screws.  Probably using something like a metal ring will work much better when using it with an actual tension ring.  On this, all you had to do was heat up the oven to 120 and stick it in there for a few seconds and it would re-tighten the tension- not the best way to make tension adjustments, but this is an early attempt.

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    Buy a carbon/kevlar ply "marching Snare head" i use one on my gibson banjo and it sounds awesome

    where did you get the developed film? I tried searching the fleabay, but only found undeveloped ones. Or do you need to get in such a medical emergency that necessitates large x-rays? ;)


    12 years ago on Introduction

    The X-ray film idea is brilliant! And how cool would it be to have an exposed X-ray image there too? I'd choose my own skull if I had a choice staring back out! (l'll just have to find the "How to make your own X-ray machine from a home microwave Instructable!")


    Reply 12 years ago on Introduction

    Thanks for the feedback wobbler, it's hard to see but this is a kidney x-ray. I forgot about this instructable, I need to redo it, since this was one of the first heads I made, and there are smarter ways to make the rim, and ways to form it much better for general use, but all in all, it's still a good material, and the tone is surprisingly good. Also they sell the same material as thick rose wrapping at the grocery store flower shop, it's clear, and you can paint on the backside.


    13 years ago on Introduction

    how much does the change of skin effect its sound? is it way off or can you just fix it by re turning it up?


    Reply 13 years ago on Introduction

    It will depend on how your banjo is made,  the one I was upgrading was a frying pan modular parted banjo, which had a cookie tin head.  For me it gave mine a very "correct" punchy banjo sound, rather than a tinny raspy sound that I had.  I would definitely use it first on something that was either a new build, or one that is not quite to your liking.  I will find the pages of the builder that showed me this and post them up.  If you have sagging in the "skin" that can usually be tightened back up with evenly applied heat, you just have to be careful with it.  I hope that sort of answers for you, I have yet to have enough coffee.