Workshop: Steel String Woes on Gut/Nylon Banjo Neck

For those of you thinking, "what harm can come of light-gauge steel on my old XYZ 1900s-era banjo?" -- stop it! The tension is 30-50% more than the gut/nylon set you'd otherwise use!

This Bacon Professional FF had one of the heaviest warps I've seen on an old 5-string and it was a real hassle to get out of it. You can see the amount of warp-evident airspace under that straight-edge after I've pulled the frets.

My process for this one included rough leveling with my radial sander and then final planing with my big old StewMac board/fret leveling bar. I then deepened the fret slots and reglued the binding. See how much material from the board was lost in the above pic near the nut?

...and more down here near the heel.

I then level the binding with the board (with the frets off), snip all my new frets to the size of the slots and gently press them in -- then go over to my fret-press caul and press them in fully.

Here you can see how dramatically the binding was sanded-down compared to the middle-of-the-neck shot.

After a final level/dress job on the frets, the banjo's looking and feeling great. It plays like a brand-new, boutique instrument, now.

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