Gourd Banjo III

Making the Nut Blank

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Today I made the nut blank. I will be making all of the accessories (nut, tailpiece, pegs) out of black walnut. I started with the nut blank. I have some pieces of wood left over from my previous banjo, and I like the look of the walnut against the maple.

The first thing I needed was to know how big to make the blank. So I measured the size of the nut slot. First I measured the width


That turned out to be just over 3/16", so I bumped up the width of the blank to 1/4" to get some extra wood for shaping. Then I measured the depth of the slot.


That turned out to be 1/4". The nut has to extend above the finger board for the strings to rest on, and I like to keep the strings up about 1/8" off the finger board. Add in another 1/8" for extra wood above the strings and all together that adds up to a blank that is 1/2" tall. I already know that the width of the neck is 1 1/2" at the nut.

I have a small piece of black walnut that is 1/2" thick so I will cut the nut blank from that.

My little panel saw appears to be used up since I cannot set the teeth any more and it always binds in the kerf, so I got out my back saw to do this work.


It is a little bit of overkill for this little job, but I tried it anyway. I measured 1/4" on the piece of wood and cut it off.


The saw made quick work of the walnut. Here is the rough blank.


I cut the blank larger than I needed so that I can get a tight fit into the slot in the neck. Next I had to trim the blank down so that it would fit into the slot. The cabinet scraper takes off wood quickly.


I cut off some wood and then tried it in the slot.


When I got close to the proper size I switched to 60 grit sandpaper to finish sizing the blank.


I sanded and then tried the fit.


I just kept doing that until the blank fit into the slot.


Once it fit, I marked the ends and sawed them off.


Here it is stuck in the neck slot.


You can see in the photos that the cross section of the blank is not rectangular. It tapers to fit into the slot. I chamfered the top edge of the blank nearest the peghead so that I can remember which way it goes into the slot.

I have deliberately left the blank a bit too tall and a bit too wide to give me room to finish it off later. I can always take wood off; putting it back on is more difficult.

I only spent 1 1/2 hours on this little chore. The day was so nice that I put aside the building project and sat down in the shade and played some tunes on my minstrel banjo instead of working so hard.

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Original post date July 13, 2009

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Last updated July 20, 2009