Gourd Banjo

Baling Wire Fix

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I have found some time to fix my exploded banjo. Someone half-joking suggested to me that I might as well just use baling wire to secure the tailpiece onto the stick. But after thinking about it, baling wire is not that bad an idea. It would be conceivable that an original gourd banjo might be held together with baling wire, after all baling wire was the "duct tape" of the 19th century.

So I dug through my parts drawer and came up with this:

Baling wire

I think that 19 gauge steel wire ought to be able to hold the tailpiece against five nylon strings. So I estimated how much I would need and snipped it off.


I bent the wire double at the halfway mark and pushed the ends through the tailpiece.


Then I wrapped the wire around the tailpiece and twisted it in place. I also snipped off the extra parts so that I would not get stuck. Boy, that is an ugly knot!


Then I tried to put the strings back into the pegs to bring it up to pitch, however I found that I had mounted the tailpiece upside down! Look at this:


You can see that the knots in the strings are beneath the tailpiece, and the wound 4th string is on the wrong side. In the end, I could not safely untwist that ugly knot, so I just cut it off. I was somewhat nervous about accidentally puncturing my banjo head with that sharp wire.

So, I cut it off and pushed the useless wire up out of the tailpiece.


I cut another length of the wire:


I bent it again and pushed it through the tailpiece, taking care this time that the tailpiece was oriented correctly.


I twisted it around the tailpiece again, this time a little bit neater. I left the extra length this time just in case I had to take it off again. I never know what is going to happen. Sometimes I can do stupid things all evening.


I put the nut back into the nutslot


This time the strings lined up with the pegs nicely. So I tied all of the strings back onto the pegs and put a little bit of tension on them. I put the bridge down flat under the strings.


Twist the bridge up into a standing position.


Move the strings into their slots.


After that, I just used the pegs to bring the strings up to pitch. Here is a photo of my wired tailpiece. From the top:


From the bottom:


Finally, here it is, all strung up again and ready to play.


It took me about one hour to fix the tailpiece and get the banjo strung again.

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Last updated December 2, 2007