The Lurcher Banjo

Lurcher Banjo Video Nominated for Film Award

A film crew came by the workshop to make a documentary about the new range of Lurcher banjos and the work that I do. It has been nominated for a Sony Production Award. You can see the banjo and it is played in the documentary by Lurcher owner, Chris Aggs.


‘The Lurcher’ – a film about a banjo maker from fly on Vimeo. 

The McLeod “Lurcher” Range of Open Back Banjos

*** Currently I am fully-booked with orders but will be releasing new Lurcher banjos for sale January 2016. If you’d like to be put on a waiting list for a Lurcher (no deposit required) please use the contact form.***

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Lurcher Banjo Videos

Our good friend and old time player Mo Jackson kindly agreed to make a video to show the Lurcher in action. If you’d like to see how it feels and sounds firsthand, just call: 0787-0505-662 and we’ll set up a time for you to pop into the workshop and have a play.

Coloured Aristocracy

Bucking Dunn

The Lurcher banjo range from McLeod Banjos

As with other McLeod banjos, the build follows a formula I’ve refined for a decade or so to build the most responsive banjo I possibly can.

Each instrument is built by me from start to finish. They’re all hand-finished so you can expect each one to its own subtle characteristics.

Do you have a few moments? If so why not pop the kettle on while I talk a little bit about the methods I use to bring the Lurcher model to life.

If, after reading this you get an urge to order one you can join the waiting list (no deposit required) here . 🙂

About the rim

When I’m building a banjo, one of my main concerns is that there’s nothing that can soak up the tone. When it comes to the rim, this influences my choice of timber, grain orientation, and design and construction of each join and fit.

With a block rim, I’m looking to make each join snug with each mating surface designed to make the best possible contact. Personally, I’ve found that with block rims, there’s no excess glue, or stresses between parts fighting against each other, both of which can dampen the sound.

Lurcher production pics 004

The first Lurcher Rim

One of the things players like about this style of rim is that you can see every join and fitting. This is one of the big things that gives your Lurcher banjo its tone.

Choice of wood

Something which I think sets the Lurcher apart from current banjos is the choice of American Walnut.

I’m extremely careful about where the timber is from using one local supplier who imports this high-quality timber. I’ve worked with David Dyke for more than a decade and use him for the wood on all my instruments.

American Walnut has excellent resonant qualities, a real pop and plunk to it as well as an understated beauty that emerges once the finishing is applied.

Neck attachment

The dowel stick on a Lurcher banjo is fitted into a hand cut, close-fitting square mortice, and secured in place with a wooden dowel beneath the heel cap.

Again, this is to get the best possible sound transference. Compared to coordinator rods it provides much more plunk and resonance in my opinion. Because each Lurcher banjo is inspected at each stage by me, there isn’t the need for adjustment later on. Co-ordinator rods are definitely useful for mass-manufacturing. With large scale production you need a way to make any last minute adjustments and tweaks as the banjo has been built and assembled through a number of different departments.

Because there’s only me making your banjo, I can spend time making sure each stage is just as it should be before I move onto the next stage of the build.

That means, once I’ve positioned the dowel stick so it’s just right on your banjo, it’s maintenance-free. You’ll never need to touch or adjust it again.


The sound of your Lurcher banjo is warm and full with enough projection to hold your own at even a fairly noisy pub session.

The first range of Lurcher banjos are 11 inch rims, and in the past there’s been some surprise at the sound you can get from the 11″ banjos I’ve made:

I almost got my measuring tape out, because for an 11″ banjo it sure sounded a lot like a 12″-er! That impressed me right off the bat… Even when tuned up! – Dan Levenson’s Banjo Newsletter review of an Islander banjo, handmade by Malcolm McLeod

The Lurcher uses a plain brass tone ring which is simple, traditional and sounds great. It’s not overly heavy which means you hear more sound from the rim of the banjo rather than just the head.

The sound is clear and balanced all the way up the neck. These banjos are designed to have those notes popping even high up on the neck.

Neck construction

When fitted right, a non-adjustable truss rod sounds great in part due to the fact you don’t have to remove as much wood compared to steel truss rods. I use carbon fibre truss rods because they’re light, stronger than the wood you remove and transfer sound a lot more efficiently than steel.

This gives you the best sound while again making your Lurcher banjo maintenance-free. Everything is designed to be set and played so you don’t need to make constant adjustments.

The finish

With a beautiful wood like American Walnut, I’ve given it a tough protection while letting the grain of the wood come through. The Lurcher is sprayed with 4-5 very light coats of acrylic lacquer, and then rubbed back with a burnishing cream to polish the surface.

The finish looks quite similar to an oil rubbed one, but without the slightly sticky feel and maintenance often associated with oil or wax.

What’s the name all about?

Illustration of a Lurcher by Martin whitmore

Illustration of a Lurcher by Martin whitmore

My in-laws are very fond of Lurchers, a breed of dog which, in very simple terms is usually a cross between a sighthound (like a greyhound or a whippet) and a terrier or a pastoral dog (one used to guard livestock).

They’re a pretty lovable breed. Loyal, faithful, fun, hard-working and sociable…

There could be some comparisons there to a banjo but really we were discussing names for a new range, this came up and the more we talked about it, the more we liked it. Hopefully you will too.

Full Spec of The Lurcher Banjo:

Malc and Dougal the Lurcher. Dougal is a Deerhound, Greyhound and Saluki cross. (As well as a food-thief and a softy)

Malc and Dougal the Lurcher. Dougal is a Deerhound, Greyhound and Saluki cross. (As well as a food-thief and a softy)

Below is the full spec for the Lurcher. If you have any questions, just get in touch.

  • American Walnut neck

  • 11” or 12” American Walnut block rim – 3 layers of 6 blocks

  • Dowel stick

  • Ebony fingerboard

  • 26 and 3/16 scale neck

  • 24 nickel plated brackets

  • 5/8 maple, ebony top bridge

  • 11 inch elite amber head

  • 5 star planetary tuners

  • Solid Nickel silver engraved heel cap

  • Rolled Brass tone ring

  • Bone nut

  • Carbon-fibre, non-adjustable truss rod

  • Vega style nickel plated arm-rest

  • No-knot tail piece

Price: £1,475 including delivery to mainland UK (for quotes on US shipping, please contact me) and hard case.

For more details and to join the waiting list, click here.