Mom asks me to play the banjo every time I see her. Just like I did as a kid. Except that I no longer have a banjo. Finally I set about to change that situation.
Scouring hundreds of online advertisements, I settle on a Conrad, build by a rather obscure Japanese company in the 1970s. The model was a “Masterclone”, a 10.0 pound copy of the famous Gibson Mastertone.
Yes, that is a rosewood headstock overlay. The tuners are not planetary, but they are a higher quality boxed offset geared tuner with a long ratio. A friction 5th string tuner has a learning curve, but “it is what it is”.
Disassembly and cleaning proceeded normally. I had a difficult time achieving the correct action; the neck was not cut quite right. To join the body at the correct angle would take some fiddling, but was an obstacle one commonly overcomes.
Assembly is completed. New D’Addario medium nickel strings are installed. The spa treatment with top-quality Behlen’s Fingerboard Oil upon the rosewood, now over four decades old, ties everything together.
After playing her birthday party, the banjo went back on the bench to address a wobbling tone. Its issue? The neck is not tight enough. As it wiggles, the banjo tone changes pitch like a Theremin.
The top lag will not tighten correctly because it was placed at the junction of the hoop and the tone ring. Duh! I replace that hanger bolt with a longer one, getting a nice tight connection against the heel of the neck.
The connection between the coordinator rod and the hanger bolt (lag screw, some call it) turns out to be the real issue. As I tighten the coordinator rod, the lag keeps turning. Eventually I discover it is not a screw at all! It is a “full thread stud” – also called a threaded pin, usually used in automotive assembly. The pin pulls out of the neck heel, as it is threaded into hardwood.
One would think replacing the threaded pin with the proper lag would solve the issue. It would, except that the coordinator rod has metric threads on the end. Unless I replace the coordinator rod with common USA-threaded hardware, I need to procure a metric hanger bolt M6 diameter x 1.0 thread pitch, 60mm long.
Found the metric rod hanger online, will calling them on Monday, and this job is nearly a wrap!
Sure enough, Bel•Metric has the exact part I wanted!
We’re on the home stretch, mamma!
Get the new lag in place, tidy up the hoop with a bit of stain …
And voilà! Done!
Finally, some info on the company …