Bob Flesher Minstrel Banjo Kit

Try Again

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It is now a month later, and I have received a new tension hoop. I put all the shoes back onto the rim and now I am ready to try mounting the head again. Here is a photo of the parts:


The new tension hoop can be seen on the left side of the photo. It appears to be made the same way as the other one was, the two ends of the hoop are butt jointed and silver soldered. I am hoping that it will hold this time. Here is a detail.


The head has dried out completely during the month, and is stiff as a board again. It is a bit more disheveled than it was the first time through, but I think that it is still serviceable. Here it is:


Following the procedure in the directions, I soaked the head for 10 minutes. This time, I used spoons instead of knives to hold the edges of the head under the water. I am not a superstitious person, but anything that will improve the mojo of this operation is worth trying.


Once again, the head comes out of the water limp and flexible.

Limp head

I put the wet head onto the rim and pushed the flesh hoop down over it. It is a tight fit, but it does go down over the head.

Flesh Hoop

I do not have any photos of the next step in the operation because it takes all of my hands to keep it going. I found that the new tension hoop is also a tight fit over the rim. There is no way that it will fit over the rim other than straight down. The instructions say to put it over the skin and then tilt the back end up slightly to make room to pull the edge of the head between the rim and the hoop. There is no way to do that.

I ended up having to just rest the tension hoop lightly on top of the rim and then wiggle the edge of the skin up between the hoop and the rim, working my way slowly around the rim. I did manage to get all of the head wrapped around the flesh hoop and pulled up through the gap. All I needed to do then was to seat the tension hoop down square onto the flesh hoop.

I pushed gently down on the hoop, trying to keep it square to the rim... and........ busted!

It busted again.


Dang. It separated at the joint in the back again. This is exactly what happened last time. Here is a detail.


The solder joint has failed and the hoop is wrecked. I am beginning to believe that it is not possible to make this kind of joint strong enough to bear up under the tension. I have read that a properly made brazed joint is stronger than the metal that it joins. This is certainly not the case here since it is obvious that I have not pulled on it hard enough to break 1/2 inch of brass, and it is clearly the joint that has failed.

I recently looked closely at some minstrel banjo reproductions especially with regard to how the tension hoop is done. All of the tension hoops were made of thin steel which was overlapped, riveted, and soldered at the tailpiece. This brass hoop is very pretty, but it seems to be a bit odd.

Well, I am not going to send this back to California again just to end up with the same result. Maybe my technique is wrong, but that is all I have to work with so I will attempt to come up with a fix for this joint myself. I need to make sure that this will not happen again. I also might try to make the hoop a bit larger since it seems to be a rather tight fit over the rim. I might spread out the flesh hoop a bit too.

It took me about an hour to wreck it this time.

Stay tuned.

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Last updated June 3, 2006