This page provides information for schools that may be interested in running a workshop.
A maximum of five pupils is recommended. With the assistance of one of the school’s technology teachers, it is possible to accommodate more pupils. A workshop has been run successfully with pupils as young as twelve years of age.
This year, I’ve offered to run a workshop over several months, after school two afternoons a week, at Forfar Academy. If this format works well, I may offer it to other schools in future.
A two week holiday break is probably the best time to run a banjo building workshop. There’ll be no need to rush the work as pupils should complete their instruments in between six and nine days. The Easter holiday break is therefore the ideal time. Some schools take two weeks holiday in the autumn and this is also ideal.
To run a workshop in one week is possible, but demanding for teachers and pupils. Some pre-building of components is needed and the school will require to dedicate at least one of its teachers to help me full time during the week. It is possible, therefore, to run a workshop during a suspended timetable week, as I did at Royal High in 2012.
A lead in time of around six months should be set aside. This allows time for the Local Authority to address disclosure and allow me to attend any mandatory safety courses.
It will be necessary for me to be covered by the Local Authority’s insurance.
The technology department will ideally have:
- A crucible, to allow aluminium components to be cast. If not, an alternative construction technique can be substituted to hold the banjo’s rim (pot) to the neck.
- A linisher, to finish aluminium components. If not, an alternative construction method can be employed.
- At least two wood lathes, each capable of accommodating a 310 mm diameter blank on a face plate. Without suitable wood lathes, it is possible to substitute square rims, instead of round. An example of a square rimmed banjo is available on this site.
- If school policy prohibits the turning of brick built blanks, then a square rim is an alternative to the standard circular one. See above.
- A brazing hearth. This is not necessary if a tone ring is omitted. A tone ring is a brass bar, formed in to a hoop. It is located immediately below the banjo’s skin and gives the instrument a brighter sound. A banjo without a metal tone ring will still play well and have a more ‘woody’ sound.
- A sanding machine with a usable belt length of at least 350mm. It is possible to use a hand held belt sander instead.
As mentioned above, if the workshop is to be run over a single week, a teacher is required to assist full time.
Teachers Who Wish To Make Their Own Banjo
Technology teachers from the school and the wider local authority who would like to attend the workshop to build their own banjo are welcome, subject to adequate space and machinery being available.
It will be best if the school sources the 4mm birch plywood, timber and sundries, and have them cut to my requirements. I will provide specialist items such as guitar tuners, calf skin, furniture tacks, strings, shoulder straps and fret wire.
The total cost of materials for each instrument should be around £45. I will require to be reimbursed for the materials that I purchase. What proportion of the total cost that is passed on to pupils and their parents is a decision for the school. For workshops run in state sector schools there will be no charge for my time.