|Foxfire's Sweeney Banjo and|
Ring the Banjar! Catalog
I had a nice plank of walnut that would suffice for neck material. I improvised a tube-like box to serve as a steam chamber for softening a strip of oak that would become the hoop. I knew enough to thin the ends of the oak strip for a lap joint. That lap would eventually be tacked together with copper tacks.With no real knowledge of scale, I traced out the neck design, based solely on the Foxfire pictures. With the neck carved to form, I started on the hoop. The hoop was bent around a large can I had, then the ends were tacked together. It was close to round. This was a primitive banjo after all.
|My first Banjo with present owner|
For some reason that crude banjo stayed with me through life-changing events. It eventually ended up decorating the wall at the Carpenter's Shop that my wife Lindy and I opened in Columbia State Historic Park in 1998. It was a topic of converstation to many visitors and occasionally a musician would try to play it. My wife wondered why I never really learned to play and wouldn't accept my excuse that it was the banjo's fault. Being the practicle and generous person she is, she gifted me with a Minstrel Banjo kit from Bob Flesher .
|My Flesher / Boucher Banjo|
|Ed Sims, Banjoist / Bonesman|
|My sketchbook and the Exhibit Catalog|
|"The Banjo Player" by |
William Sidney Mount
courtesy Banjo Clubhouse
|Some of the data collected by Ed Sims|
As with many of the projects I've undertaken, there is considerable research before any actual work. I needed to do a lot of digging and experimenting, before I could gain the confidence to pull this one off. Like, practicing hammer veneering with hot hide glue.Yikes ! As always, other people were involved, who kindly shared their knowledge and expertise. George Wunderlich and Jim Hartel were both extrememly helpful in explaining their views on the mysteries of Boucher's construction methods, like the offset dowelstick and three piece neck. Both of these guys have handled enough original banjos to become leading authorities on the subject.
Gathering the neccessary matierials was next. Curly Woods of McKinney Texas turned out to be the best source for select birdseye maple. Pricey but worth it. Certainly Wood of East Aurora, NY supplied the maple veneer. These banjos deserved nice round hoops and I decided to let the experts do the bending. Sean McGinnis at Cooperman, in Bellows Falls, VT came to the rescue with two beautiful, white oak hoops, built to my specs. I decided to use existing violin pegs that could be altered to match the originals. I located a Hill style peg from Dov Schmidt of English boxwood. I eventually dyed them with India ink to resemble ebony. In order to have the bracket shoes reproduced, I carved a model to be sand cast by Roller Foundry of Missouri. An anonymous donor gifted me with replica Boucher wingnuts. That I am grateful for. My friend Nick Kane traded me some rosewood for the nuts, tailpieces and peghead buttons. Last but not least, my friend George Cantrell, a great blacksmith, helped by bandsawing out the sheet steel needed for the tension rings.
|The Classic Boucher Peg Head|
|Finished Double-Headed Boucher Banjos|