" Behold the Lamb of GOD which taketh away the Sins of the World." John 1: 29
David makes Banjos that are period Correct for 1790-1890. He uses Gourds, Cigar Boxes, Cake Tins, Local Hardwoods, Deer Skins, and other natural materials to make an instrument that will play Great Music.
Check out my newest Banjo, a period correct reproduction of a 1790's South Carolina Gourd Banjo. It is a copy of the Banjo depicted in the painting "The Old Plantation" housed at Colonial Williamsburg. It is the earliest known painting of a banjo in America.
The Banjo I made was donated to the Upcountry History Museum here in Greenville, SC.
This Banjo is a period correct instrument for the 1790-1840 time period for the South and specifically for South Carolina. It is a replica of the banjo illustrated in the watercolor painting “The Old Plantation” on display now in the A. A. Rockefeller Folk Art Center in Williamsburg, Va. This painting is one of the only two known original period paintings of a banjo before 1800. “The Old Plantation” is a painting from South Carolina painted likely between 1790-1800 in the low state between Orangeburg and Charleston.
This banjo I made with period correct tools, and practices. The Head (skin covering on the top of gourd) is made of local upstate Whitetail Deer. I harvested this deer myself 5 years ago, and fleshed out the hide with a fleshing knife and then removing the hair by an old method. Taking the hide, I put the hide in a vat and dumped hardwood ashes on top, and covered that with water. After letting it sit for 3 days, the hair just pulls right off. Then I took the hide and tacked in on the barn to dry for about a week. The banjo neck is made from local upstate Cherry wood harvested by us several years ago. We sawed it up into planks. The neck was worked down with a hand plane, draw knife, chisels, files, and rasps.
To put the smooth finish on the neck, no sandpaper was used! I scraped the wood with a scraper, and burnished it with a deer antler. The burnishing compresses the spongy fibers of the wood on the surface and makes them tough and glossy. This is a time tested method used for hundreds of years. The finish isn’t as smooth as sandpaper, but under close inspection gives slight streaks, or imperfections with are pleasing to the eye and a more historically correct finish.
The Friction pegs and Nut are made from local walnut, and hand whittled which probably would have been the way a farmer, and part time instrument maker would have made it. The Bridge is also of local walnut, and the tailpiece is made of local apple wood. The gourd we grew in our garden a few years back. Strings on the instrument are genuine gut strings which would have been made either from the dried intestines of a cat, or some sources say certain type of grasses. Gut was the more prevalent string. The tacks to hold the head on are of copper.
The skin head was soaked overnight, and placed on the gourd wet. When dried it tightens up on its own. I even left a few hairs on it to show it was a real animal! The whole instrument was finished with Linseed oil which would be historically accurate. To maintain the finish a few drops of Linseed oil rubbed on with the fingers should suffice, maybe twice a year.