A friend and bandmate of mine is an old-time banjo player but also a fellow into "weird stuff." I told him that someday I'd make him an electric banjo and -- whammy, just like that! -- a week or two later I was traded a 60s Harmony-made, Regal-branded plastic-rim 5-string banjo with a neck that had a crack right at the dowel joint of the heel.
So, being the wacko I am, I yanked the neck apart and trimmed the heel for bolting onto a Douglas fir body that I cut in the outline of an A-style mandolin. I then found an appropriate tin lid to be my "banjo head" and scrounged an Alnico lipstick-style pickup on eBay to be its engine. It turned out way cooler than I thought it would be and the lipstick pickup has just the kind of sound that will suit a clawhammer player's fingers as it's clear, sweet, warm, and articulate.
I'm hoping he won't mind the over-the-top image. It's kitsch enough to match the kistchy Harmony-made neck!
After a lube I was able to re-use the original harmony geared tuners, though the original plastic nut was junk so I swapped-in bone.
I had a cheap import geared 5th peg in my parts-bins and it even had the same cheesy "faux-pearl" grey-swirl button to match the headstock tuners. This neck has a "bluegrassy" cut (narrow nut) and has a long 26 3/4" scale length. These things tend to stay bang-straight, however, due to a healthy steel rod that Harmony installed under the board. This is strung up with 10s.
The neck itself is poplar with a stained-maple board. I added some 5th string "railroad spike" capos, too, at the 7th and 9th frets.
These drilled holes point towards the player's head and really give it decent volume (for a solid instrument) un-amplified. It was very hard to record something in this position, though!
One coat of gel stain was applied and that's it! I wanted this as rustic as it could be.
The funky black strap buttons are parts-bin finds...
I used the original tailpiece but strung the strings over the cover instead of under it. The red bit peeking out is the ground wire that's contacting the tail.