When I got my first banjo, a little less than a year ago, I also got a case and a strap. Guitar Center only had clip-on straps, though, which I thought was fine. But over time I realized that a cradle strap would, for me, be so so much nicer. Why? The main reason is that a cradle strap doesn't have those nasty little plastic clips that hook onto the metal clips on the banjo. They bang around and get twisted all funky and are hard to take off.
A cradle strap, on the other hand, has no clips. It's just leather and string. Instead of clipping it on, you weave it into the banjo, underneath the little-metal-peg-things-that-I-forget-what-they're-called-but-they-do-important-stuff-s. Well, that would also be pretty hard to take off—it's a lot more of a permanent setup—but I really hate the plastic clips, so it would be worth it. Also, it just seems like a cradle strap would support the banjo better than a clip-on strap, because it holds the whole bottom part instead of just two little pegs or whatever. Hence the name, ya know. It cradles the instrument.
So then! I decided to turn my clip-on strap into a cradle strap. Because: 1. cradle straps are like super expensive considering that I have no moneys cause I'm not old enough to get a job, and 2. nobody has made a tutorial for how to do it. Why don't I do it? How hard can it be? *jeremy clarkson voice* What could possibly go wrong?
Teachers! Did you use this instructable in your classroom?
Add a Teacher Note to share how you incorporated it into your lesson.
Step 1: De-Clip-Ing
First, lets's get rid of those nasty plastic clips! I got out my trusty purple scissors and just cut all the seams. There's actually only two, one on either end, holding the clips in place. Probably would have been easier if I could find my seam-ripper, but oh well. Then I picked all the little thread bits out of the leather.
Don't actually cut the leather yet; just the seams. Now we can take the clips off and throw them away or burn them or save them for some other project.
In the picture, you can see I disassembled the whole thing, and un-wove the smaller leather part from the bigger part. But you don't really have to do that if you don't want to. I just did so I could measure things and figure out the next step, because why on earth would I plan ahead? That's no fun :P
Step 2: The Part With Nasty Sharp Pointy Tools
A clip-on strap is a lot shorter than a cradle strap, because it doesn't have to go all the way around the instrument. Fortunately, my strap was like three inches wide, which is more than necessary. So I easily got the extra material I needed just by trimming 3/4 ish of an inch off either side. Those tiny leather bits will be the part that gets woven underneath when you install the strap.
Wait so how long should all these leather pieces be? Um well er haha uh you kinda just have to measure things yourself. I'm a tiny short person so the whole strap in general is gonna be a lot shorter than most people's. And also banjos come in different sizes sometimes, so it all depends on what you want personally for yourself.
Anyway, then I put some holes on either end of the two small leather pieces. Huh? What's this about now? Well I didn't want the thick leather to break my sewing machine needles, so I had to find a way to connect the bits together without sewing. And I found a great pair of old purple shoelaces! (I forgot to measure how long they were, sorry. Maybe a little longer than a "normal" pair? idk) So anyway I decided to do like hardcore-sewing and weave the shoelaces through the leather bits to hold them in place.
I put six holes on the ends that would connect to the great big rest-of-the-strap piece of leather (because there's gonna be lots of stress there so we gotta secure it real good). And then only four holes on the part that you tie underneath the banjo (because there's not as much space down there so we gotta make things smaller).
If you have a fancy drill or some other power tool, use that. I used an old swiss army knife that was my dad's when he was in college, because that's all I could find that was small enough to make such tiny holes. It was not exactly ideal. But hey whatever works!
Step 3: Hardcore Sewing
Now take the shoelaces (or whatever type of string or yarn you want, as long as it's nice and thick and strong) and start attaching pieces of leather together. It's kinda hard to explain, but actually pretty straightforward and common-sense-y. You can really do whatever you want here as long as you think it'll support the weight of your banjo.
Basically you just want to use one shoelace to attach the rest-of-the-strap piece with one end of the 3/4-ish-of-an-inch strip. And then do the same thing on the other side with the other bits. Not that hard.
So now (I forgot to get a picture of this) we have a cradle strap! It's not on the banjo yet, though, unless you did something really weird. *scratches head confusedly* We gotta do some more hardcore sewing to install it though. But again, it's pretty easy, just hard to take helpful pictures of.
Step 4: Weave-ery
Just google "how to install banjo cradle strap" and you'll see there's lots of useful pictures and videos and stuff. All you have to do is combine those instructions with your instincts and #skillz and figure out how to put it on your banjo.
We want most of the weight and stress and stuff to be on the leather, not the shoelaces. The laces are just holding the leather together remember. So you just have to hardcore sew in three places: the two you already did, and then a third time on the bottom of the banjo. This third time, the laces have to connect the leather bits, which should probably be overlapping, and then you can just tie the laces in bows or whatever you want to do.
Note: I've said "the bottom of the banjo" multiple times I think. But I don't mean the part with the tailpiece and stuff. I mean the part closest to the ground when you're holding it like you're playing it. So when the banjo is on a stand, like in a couple of the pictures, this part is now on the side.
Step 5: Y'all Come Back Now, Y'Hear?
Yay! Success! The nasty clip-on strap is now a wonderful cradle strap. Your banjo is very happy. And hopefully so are you!
If the strap isn't the right length, you'll just have to unweave some stuff to readjust it, but it won't be that bad. Then again I didn't have to do it cause I got it the right length first try :D so I wish you luck if you do have to fix the length.
Let me know if you tried this project too, and show how it went! This has been my first instructable. Hopefully I explained things well enough that you can follow along if you want to. And you don't have to do everything exactly how I did, of course. I'd love to see if other people take my ideas and make something super amazing from it!