David G. Hyatt
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Gourd Banjo Making Workshop

Date: March 18 - 23, 2007

Where: Ozark Folk Center, Mountain View, Arkansas. Ozark Folk Center Contact Phone: (870) 269-3851

Description: The workshop is a fairly intensive week during which you will create a professional grade tack-head gourd banjo. You will also meet and work with some great people, and participate in some wonderful music. This is early spring in the Ozarks.

The week begins with orientation on Sunday night where we cover the week's activities and then look for a pickin party.

With Monday comes the basic activities of cutting the top off of and cleaning the gourd and preparing it to receive the neck. We will inspect and adapt the neck blank if needed to intersect the gourd, and will begin rough shaping of the neck, including drilling the short string hole. Work will begin on fitting the neck through the gourd. Providing there is an ounce of energy left, we look for a pickin party!

On Tuesday this work will continue and the balance of the day will be spent shaping the neck. Evening - we crawl out to look for a pickin party.

On Wednesday we begin with a short meditation session where we affirm that this banjo can actually be completed in a lifetime. Then back to shaping the neck! We begin thinking about the layout of strings on the peghead and may drill those holes. We start to think about whether the gourd should have sound holes, and what we want the tack pattern to look like. We hope someone will bring a pickin party to us.

On Thursday we begin by attaching the skin head to the gourd with our tacks. Then we get back to the neck and continue scraping until we are very pleased with the finish. We would like to get a coat of finish on the neck. Thursday night is instructor concert night!

On Friday we would be making the tailpiece, bridge, and nut components, and begin fitting those to the banjo. More scraping and sanding. We fit the pegs through the holes in the peghead and neck. then we begin to string it up and slot the nut, adjust the action, and other fine tuning. Then we sit around wondering how we could have created something so awesome! We drift home wondering how it could have ended so quickly. (ps if you are flying, remember you are taking a banjo home with you!)

The cost of the instruction and materials for a basic banjo is $425, with $75 going to the Ozark Folk Center for sponsoring the workshop. They have lodging and meals available. There is also camping nearby. If you desire, you may have me prepare a neck for you with specialty woods, a fingerboard or peghead overlay at extra cost.

I will provide everything that is needed to build the banjo, including tools. It would be appropriate for you to have some understanding in advance on using rasps, chisels, and knives. I will ask you to sign a release form. You will be responsible for the tools when in your possession.

There is a lot of work to be done in advance of the workshop. You must decide what you want the banjo to look like in advance because I have to cut the neck out on equipment in my shop. You must complete the planning sheets and get them back to me in time to prepare your neck and put your kit together. The default neck material will be walnut or maple.

Want to sign up?

Step 1. Contact the Ozark Folk Center and register with them. There will be a registration form on their site with the details. Next door to the OFC is Ozark RV with hook-ups and camping. You will send them the $75 deposit. You will give me the $350 on the day of the workshop or before.

Step 2. Write a little mission/vision statement for the project: describe how you think you will use your banjo, the feelings you want to associate with it, what you want out of the workshop besides the banjo.

Step 3. Review and complete the two planning worksheets that are linked from the top right corner of this page in the resources area. If you want a different wood than maple or walnut, you can select from some of the other neck woods I have accumulated. A change in the neck wood is the only thing that can materially change the cost of the project (most of these woods are from other lands (Hawaii, Africa, South America) and are very hard woods in comparison to maple or walnut). An ebony fingerboard will also increase the cost, and it adds a very hard playing surface which will generally add volume to the banjo and may be easier to play. (As of August 2006 I do not know what other woods will be available.)

Step 4. Send the worksheets to me so that I may begin preparing the neck and putting the kit together.

Please note that you can contact me at any point during this process for guidance or advice. I am committed to your success in building this banjo.




Workshop Planning Sheet

Neck/Peghead Shapes Sheet

Image of Example Kit

Image of Workshop 1 Participants

Image of Workshop 2 Participants

Image of Workshop 3 Participants

Image of Workshop 4 Participants

Two Special Participants!!


Workshop 3 Banjomaker's Banjos

Neck Woods (examples)



Neck Woods (avail. at extra cost)

Brazilian cherry (2)

Figured Bubinga

Olive wood

Bubinga w/Rosewood