Gourd Banjo Making Workshop
Date: March 18 - 23, 2007
Folk Center, Mountain View, Arkansas.
Ozark Folk Center Contact Phone: (870) 269-3851
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
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
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
I am committed to your success in building this banjo.