Custom Banjo Options
Just as no two songs are the same, each banjo also has its own personality. Varying textures in wood grain, density, and skins coupled with the careful and confident lines of each hand-carved neck, ensure that no two of our banjos feel or sound exactly the same.
Apart from these finer differences, there are a number of more visible options to choose from that affect both sight and sound. There’s a lot here to choose from, so please let us know if you have any questions. Our desire is to craft a banjo that’s unique to only you.
Please visit the “gallery” link under each section for more pictures and options.
Neck & Rim Wood
Choose either Cherry or Walnut hardwood for your banjo neck and rim. Both are dense hardwoods and create great sounding banjos. Walnut is our most popular wood, with a good balance between projection and warmth and presents a rich, dark-colored hardwood when finished with natural beeswax. Cherry tends to produce a slightly warmer and softer tone in a light-colored hardwood with a red glow that will deepen with time and sunny days.
Other wood types available include beautiful Osage Orange (Bois d’arc) and Eastern Hard Maple. Also, we can use special wood you’ve saved from a family farm or home place to build an heirloom banjo.
All our necks are built from two-piece book-matched blanks to give a stable, attractive grain pattern, and each neck is accentuated with a crisp and attractive center stripe from heel to peghead.
Perhaps the most recognizable feature of any banjo is its head. All our custom banjos are fit with natural goatskin heads, with a wide choice of shades, textures and patterns ranging from clean and crisp to rugged and mangy. We often soak the skin in dark coffee for a truly unique and aged look.
Natural skin was once the traditional, if not only choice, for banjo heads up until about 1960. They produce a wonderful thumpy, breathy tone that distinguishes their sound from more modern synthetic heads, but they are more sensitive to changes in weather and humidity.
All our banjos are assembled with brass hardware made in North America. We offer a variety of choices regarding rim shoes and tension nuts on our custom models, allowing you to further personalize your banjo.
Our standard hardware includes 2-point style brass-plated zinc shoes, with the option to upgrade to premium solid brass hardware in a variety of styles.
We can also antique your instrument’s brass hardware for a distinct vintage look with a patina ranging from mild to heavy, a particularly attractive choice when paired with a dark walnut rim and neck.
We can design and install custom inlays for your banjo peghead, fingerboard or scoop. Our unique specialty is brass and copper inlays, but other materials are available. Some of our clientele have offered their own designs, while others choose from a variety of designs we help them develop to select.
If you are interested in a custom inlay, let us know and we can help prepare a design proof and cost estimate for your review.
We offer two hand-carved heel shape styles. A “vintage” style heel has a traditional classical look, and features an ebony heel cap overlay.
Our modified “Dobson” folk-style heel presents a more old-time, folk flavor reminiscent of many banjos from the late 1800s.
Our custom banjos are fitted with S-style scoops that can be customized with a variety of scoop plate materials and designs. Most players choose a brass scoop plate personalized with their name and our Nashville Banjo Company logo.
We can also fashion the scoop plate out of copper or matching hardwoods, both attractive options to consider.
We offer several finish options. The most popular is a natural beeswax finished neck, with a hand-rubbed satin poly finish on the rim, but we can apply either finish to both the neck and rim.
Our heat-infused beeswax finish brings out the deep beauty of fine hardwoods with a satiny sheen. You can feel the natural wood beneath your fingers, and it bears the faint scent of honey. The only caveat with a natural beeswax finish is that it’s not impervious to moisture and may need a short and simple polishing from time to time with wax we’ll give you. Most players enjoy this caring relationship with their banjo.
Because the banjo rim is fitted with so much hardware and can be harder to shine, we prefer to finish the rim with a more durable hand-rubbed satin poly finish, which also looks and feels great on the neck if you prefer a more maintenance-free option.
Another great option for both the neck and the rim is Tru-Oil, a hand-rubbed polymerized linseed-based oil that yields a natural wood feel, slight sheen and very durable surface.
We offer premium quality Gotoh planetary tuners on all our banjos, with the option to upgrade to the new precision 10:1 high ratio Rickard Cyclone tuners.
Brass tuners with cream knobs lend a traditional look to your instrument, whereas brass tuners with black knobs help create a more crisp and classical look for your banjo.
The “neck profile” refers to the shape of the back of the neck where your fretting hand (typically the left hand) slides up and down as you play. We hand carve three different neck profiles.
Our personal favorite, a “V-Profile,” has a distinctive ridge along the back of the banjo neck that anchors your hand and lends a vintage-era feel to your instrument. A “C-Profile” neck offers a more common feel, similar to what most guitars or other stringed instruments offer. Our “Semi-V-Profile” bridges the gap between the two, offering the clear hint of a neck ridge line, but with softened curves arching back to the fingerboard.
We offer full-fretless and half-fretless versions of all our custom models. The full-fretless version has an ebony fingerboard with an optional brass “S” scoop plate.
The half-fretless version features a brass fingerboard “S” plate 1st through 7th frets, with an optional matching “S” brass scoop plate.
Fretboard marker dots can be inlaid on the face and/or side of the fingerboard. Some players like to have both, while many prefer the sleek and classical appearance of a solid black ebony fingerboard with no markers on the face, choosing instead to have only small brass side dots.
Our mosaic brass or mosaic brass & copper fret dot markers can add to a truly unique and custom look. We also offer matching hardwood (walnut or cherry) inlay fingerboard dot markers.
Each nut is individually shaped and slotted by hand to fit its banjo with a choice of two materials. Black buffalo horn lends a distinctive and refined look to your banjo, as the nut tends to unify the ebony fingerboard and ebony peghead overlay into a single visual element. Unbleached bone has a light creamy color, and is the more traditional choice for instrument nuts.
We offer two types of string choices for your banjo. Our custom gauge set of standard phosphor-bronze wound steel stings produce a clear and recognizable tone optimized for our wood tone ring openback banjos. For a markedly softer tone, we offer Nylgut Standard or Red Series strings from Italy. Imagine “classical guitar meets banjo.” They will stretch, stretch, stretch when first installed, but can be well worth the wait.
Installation of Nylgut strings requires wider string slots in the nut, pip and bridge, so a few modifications would be required to change to regular steel strings at some point in the future.
5TH STRING SPIKES
We can install 5th “railroad” capo spikes, typically at fret 7 and sometimes at fret 9, if you need them.
Spikes enable you to “capo” or raise the pitch of the shorter 5th string to play in higher keys with less risk of breaking the string.
As an option, we can install an integrated linear transducer pickup designed and built specifically to fit and capture the unique sound of openback banjos. The sound quality is remarkably authentic, and a great option for players who perform on stage or want to make sure their neighbors can hear them!
We also carry a line of Fishman acoustic amplifiers that produce a warm, clear and quite natural sound from our banjos fitted with this pickup.
Additional custom options are available. Please let us know what you’re interested in:
- 4-string Irish Tenor Models
- Left-hand Models
- Decorative Hardwood Overlays
- Synthetic Heads