The Coffee Shop is an open thread-style discussion forum for human interest news of the day.
From Elaine McMillion Sheldon: “Coyote and Crow journey out for a day of busking in NYC.”
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What would you call the instrument she’s playing?
Good morning, Nona! It is a bass banjo ( https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bass_banjo ), and if I heard correctly, they made it. Hint hint to Chuck. 😉
Seems the girl saw a b&w photo of one and they decided build it. Built it at 16″, and later found out they were 22″, I think, so built another one. So I can only assume they also built the guy’s banjo. I’ve not seen that style before.
I had to look up that banjo too. Spent a little time learning about bass and cello banjo’s.
She’s playing a different one here.
Good morning, fish and Pete! Here’s more bass banjo:
Thunderbucket!!! I take it the round part is a drum?
The large part that looks like a drum is the ‘head’ or ‘pot’ of the banjo. It consists of the hoop, resonator, tensioners around the hoop, and the head, which is usually made of goatskin. Here is a link to a page with a diagram showing the parts.
After looking at that homemade bass banjo in the vid above, it’s hard to tell if he used a drum for the pot, or if he built it special for that instrument.
Speaking of building banjos. I was once invited over to the small garage workshop of a banjo luthier. He was a theology student at a local seminary, working on either his master’s or doctorate. He supplemented his small income by building banjos and selling them. Some on commission, and he also set up a tent at local street festivals. Learned something from him. That was in the day before Mylar vacuum packs, when coffee came in one-pound tin cans that opened by a winding key around the top rim.
He had taken a Folgers coffee can and screwed it to the side of his workbench, open end out. He took a ceramic heater element and fastened it to the inside of the can. It had nichrome resistance heating wire wound around the element. He simply plugged the cord into an electric outlet. When it heated up, he used the can as a form to shape the wood hoop into a circle.
Wood is a two-phase material. It consists of stiff strong fibers in a matrix of cellulose. When heated, the cellulose softens, allowing the piece of wood to bend. Once bent and allowed to cool, the bend remains. Some people use hot water to heat wood so it can be bent, but that is not good for musical instruments. Instrument wood needs to stay dry, so luthiers need dry heat. Commercial wood bending heating supplies from a woodworker supply shop can be expensive. His heater cost him about two dollars. The only thing he had to buy was the ceramic element and the resistance wire from a local electric supply store.