First banjo I ever sold

Matt Lewins from the Brighton old time band , Chicken Shed Zeppelin called over to see me a few weeks ago. He had with him a banjo I’d made for him about fourteen years ago .


This banjo has been his main instrument in that time and is on its third refret , but still going strong !
I was looking at the wear on the frailing scoop and remembered I’d changed the binding last time I saw this banjo. You can still see a little piece of the original stuff where the neck meets the pot.

I was strange seeing it again after all this time . This was the first banjo I ever made to sell. Obviously , in the last fourteen or so years , I have changed the way I do things and there are aspects of this banjo I would approach very differently today but I felt very proud seeing it again and even more proud that Matt is still wearing out frets and enjoying it.
I was working as a tig welder in a stainless steel firm at the time , notice stainless steel tail piece ?


The string posts on this tail piece were made from stainless welding rod with the ends carefully heated to form a ball.





I was surrounded by stainless steel at the time and was keen to produce my own banjo hardware using it. I’ve got to say, it’s a wonderful material but doesn’t always lend it’s self to banjo parts ( at least in my opinion ) . I made tension hoops , hooks , nuts , tailpieces…etc it’s much tougher to machine than brass and obviously , you don’t have to plate it. Although I personally , prefer the look of nickel plate on banjo parts ( I like the way it dulls down and ages too ) .
Now in this banjo I rolled up and tig welded a brass tone ring but I was still experimenting with stainless steel.
As a matter of fact , Just to satisfy my own curiosity and because I had access to lots of it . I decided to roll up, weld and machine flat head style tone rings out of stainless steel (316 if anyone is interested) These took forever to machine . I fitted the first one to a bluegrass style banjo I was making ….and …well…you live and learn ! 🙂 . This thing was the loudest harsh sounding banjo I’ve ever played. It could have stripped bark off a tree ! ..I’m not kidding . It was like a Stanley tone on steroids 🙂 .


This banjo is fitted with a Fishman rare earth pick-up. As these pick ups are designed to fit on 2 co-ordinator rods, I had to make up this adapter.

At this point I decided to curtail my stainless steel adventures and go back to brass and bronze etc :-). All good fun though and if you don’t try something out , you can’t always be sure your not missing out .




  1. I like to see banjos that have seen some action and not tucked away in fluffy cases never seeing the light of day. A lot of fun and entertainment has been had on that instrument all thanks to you Malc…here’s to many more. xMo

  2. Nice instrument and clearly shaking off the wears of time.

  3. A work of art Malc!!

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