Reproduction 19th Century Tack Head Fretless Banjos

The Banjo Factory

Historical Accuracy vs. Modern Convenience
Options and prices are listed with each banjo type and again on the order e-form.  If you want an option that is not listed, please contact me and we can discuss it.

If you are looking to use your banjo in a living history context geared specifically to the 19th century, then most of my standard options would apply. Please feel free to contact me if you require any advice on what an appropriate instrument might look like for any particular character that you are interested in portraying.

In the case of Gourd banjos, things such as rosewood finger boards and special rosewood tail pieces or bridges might appear slightly out of place for the 19th Century, but in the case of wooden shell minstrel style banjos, just about any carving, inlay or other decoration might be completely appropriate.

If you have something very specific in mind, please contact me and we can discuss it. If you would like a copy made of a banjo that you've seen in a photograph and you can possibly send me a copy in either the mail or e-mail I am willing to attempt almost anything. I will make an exception here regarding brass fittings. When it comes to J-hooks, tension rods and the like, that is beyond my shop's present capabilities and not something I am willing to pursue at this time.

I can do frets, but they involve a fair amount of extra labor and that is why I avoid them. However, everything has a price and if frets are what you are interested in, then let's talk. Frets were not all that common on banjos before the Civil War, but they did exist. There are examples of fretless banjos being fretted for the first three, four or five stops. It was not common to have frets down the entire neck until the 1890s. This is about the same time wire strings begin to proliferate.

You have to realize that the placement of the fret is contingent upon multiple factors. It is not just the length of the string from the nut to the bridge that matters. (Once you have frets, your bridge placement is fixed and you can no longer move it around.)  Equally important is the diameter of the string and the tension required to depress it to where it engages the fret. The first and second string of the banjo are not that different in diameter and therefore will fret at about the same place. The third and fourth strings however, are usually a heavier gauge and would accurately fret in a different place.

In establishing fret placement on any instrument without an adjustable bridge, a compromise has to be made on where to place the frets and accurate fret placement is dependent upon the type of strings used. A significant change in either diameter or in tensile strength of strings would mean that the frets would be in the wrong place. Though gut or low tension nylon strings are less affected by these factors, steel strings are very susceptible. This is the reason why modern electric guitars often come with individually adjustable bridges for length at each string.

Peg Head Shapes
Except for my kits, there is no charge for any of the following common peg head shapes.  If you have another shape in mind just send along a sketch or a picture.