cutting banjo neck heel

Acoustic Box LLC Fiddles, cellos, guitars, and yes, even banjos have a small angle built into the neck/body joint. Some companies offer a service of making this cut for you on a banjo neck that you are building or as a service to a neck blank that you order from them. Richie Dotson You should work slowly and carefully. The sharper the blade, the less sanding will need to be done. 3 degrees allows for a bridge height that I find to be ideal for clawhammer playing, not too high or too low, about 5/8″ tall. I make several cuts from the outside to the deepest part of the flange beed cut and take care of cleaning that cuts up with a chisel. Cutting the banjo neck heel radius is complicated because the neck will be attached to a round hoop. The banjo neck heel radius is a subtle detail that makes all the difference. It consists of a plate that screws or clamps onto the saw table of a band saw. Learn how your comment data is processed. The plate of the jig has two halves, one half has a convex arc and the other has a concave arc. I start this cut by using a 6″ profile contour gauge in order to record the profile of the pot on which the neck will be mounted. This jig can cut the heel contour and drill the coordinator rod holes while maintaining a constant angle. The arc should have a diameter a tiny bit less than the diameter of the rim you intend to use. You must watch your angle as you go and even after you think you are done, you’ll need to install the lag bolts and attach the neck and sacrifice at least one set of strings while you double-check all the lines and to make sure the centerline is where it needs to be as well as the angle that you need to accommodate the bridge height you need for your banjo. The most difficult cut of the more common neck heel profiles is that of the Gibson one-piece flange. The banjo neck heel radius jig is used to assist in cutting the heel of the neck so that it will mate cleanly with the rim. If you’re doing the sanding by hand, take good care not to modify the radius or the angle. It isn’t the easiest way to make this cut, but it will work. Most people who start building banjo necks have a difficult time fitting the heel of a banjo neck properly to a banjo pot. It is best to wait for this part of the job until the rim has been turned on the lathe. This neck is constructed from curly maple. I trace the rim on the top of the heel then set the bandsaw table at 3 degrees and cut along the mark then cut the neck notch using handsaws, dremels and chisels or a milling machine. I can then start my cutting with a band saw being as careful and observant as possible. Although it may still result in a playable banjo, people will look at you funny ; ) It is a good idea to have a good sharp blade on the band saw for this job. I have to take into consideration where the last fret is located, how much fingerboard I want extending past the last fret and get the markings of the heel cut aligned the same on both the bass and treble sides of the new neck. If you have a table top band saw with a blade on it that came from a box store like Lowe’s or Home Depot you will need to extra slow and careful. Work carefully into each cut’s corner from the outside and don’t attempt to make tight cuts with the band saw. The most difficult cut of the more common neck heel profiles is that of the Gibson one-piece flange. Too sharp an angle is not so good as it can result in an instrument sounding too “lively”. It has worked several times now to cut or re-cut a previously miss-cut banjo neck. First, one needs to cut the proper angle of relief to get the desired action (how high or low the strings are on the fretboard) and proper down pressure from the strings to the bridge to the banjo head. On the side of the plate that has the concave arc there should be a wedge that will hold the neck at 3 degrees from the plane of the plate. I also use various dog-leg chisels, nut setting files and sandpaper to further refine the profile as perfectly as I can before tentatively testing the fit against the banjo pot just before cutting the radius into the profile, which is the trickiest part of this operation. If you choose to use a sanding wheel, it is usually best to use one that is of a slightly smaller diameter than that of the rim. Just make sure that the lines connecting both sides of the neck are perpendicular to the centerline of the fingerboard. This is a mistake I have made. The cross slide moves either tool in position as it is needed. The cross slide effectively creates a horizontal drill by moving the spinning drill bit into the heel. because the shoulders of the heel were already profiled, I need to make the narrow area of the heel the same width as the fingerboard in that area by adding a shim block to either side of the heel so I can cut it on the band saw without compromising the symmetry of the cuts. That will be taken care of near the end of the process. It is very important that these jigs be constructed well and used properly. After cutting the banjo neck heel radius with the band saw a sanding wheel jig may be used to get all the saw marks off the heel of the neck. Chesterfield, Virginia. This is a very hard wood to work with, especially when dealing with the end grain as we are in this case. You may need to correct the angle of a taller or shorter bride also. It consists of a plate that screws or clamps onto the saw table of a band saw. This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. The banjo neck used in this example was already shaped and the heel wasn’t cut at all. This jig can be made from wood or it could be made from metal. My jig, however is intended for fitting the 11 inch pot. I transfer that shape to a piece of brass and cut the flange bead shape slightly over sized then use the more permanent brass template to transfer that shape to the side of the neck. There is no substitution for experience and being off, even a little bit, while making the heel cut this way will cause you a ton of grief. I have also done the job by hand with a piece of sand paper attached to the waste cut off the heel of the neck. This also allows us to adjust our radius and angle a little bit. Both are mounted on a cross slide. I drill shoe holes and neck holes with a portable electric drill. So, even if you call up someone as order a neck blank with a one-piece flange heel cut for a 5/8″ bridge, you can still expect to make some adjustments for it to perfectly match your pot. This small angle allows for adjustment to take place. Note that the heel is too tall at this point. You will automatically be entered for a chance to win BanjoCraft Giveaways! June Apple and other Favorites by Bob Browder, How to Make a Banjo Neck Pattern – Side Profile. It helps cut an angle and a radius at the same time. Even if the rest of the neck is excited perfectly, this cut can make or break an otherwise great banjo. Using the profile contour gauge I carefully transfer that mark to the top and the bottom of the neck and then, using a common bench sander, I start very carefully working my way to the line.

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