1960s/2016 Harmony/Wildwood Electric 5-String Banjo

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.


guitarhunter said...

Love it!

Nicholas Ratnieks said...

Good to see the Guardian Angel of the Junkyard has bestowed her favours on your magnificent effort!