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History : Recipe For Banjo Skin Heads

Little Neophyte 17 Jan 01 - 07:18 AM
Naemanson 17 Jan 01 - 07:57 AM
bill\sables 17 Jan 01 - 08:01 AM
Les from Hull 17 Jan 01 - 08:03 AM
GUEST,Matt_R 17 Jan 01 - 08:03 AM
Little Neophyte 17 Jan 01 - 08:08 AM
Bud Savoie 17 Jan 01 - 08:42 AM
Allan C. 17 Jan 01 - 08:42 AM
Gern 17 Jan 01 - 08:57 AM
GUEST,Les B 17 Jan 01 - 02:08 PM
GUEST,Ernest 18 Jan 01 - 01:57 AM
Banjer 18 Jan 01 - 06:32 AM
Little Neophyte 18 Jan 01 - 06:45 AM
Little Neophyte 18 Jan 01 - 11:10 AM
Butch 18 Jan 01 - 12:02 PM
Little Neophyte 18 Jan 01 - 03:56 PM
Butch 18 Jan 01 - 08:52 PM
Sorcha 18 Jan 01 - 10:45 PM
kendall 19 Jan 01 - 10:04 AM
MMario 19 Jan 01 - 10:12 AM
Capt. John 19 Jan 01 - 02:37 PM
Rollo 19 Jan 01 - 08:05 PM
Margo 19 Jan 01 - 09:01 PM
Little Neophyte 19 Jan 01 - 09:33 PM
Allan C. 19 Jan 01 - 09:46 PM
Gypsy 19 Jan 01 - 11:41 PM
Jon W. 22 Jan 01 - 11:15 AM
GUEST,J Salicco/ the Banjo Factory 25 Mar 16 - 10:24 AM
GUEST,DrWord 25 Mar 16 - 11:51 AM
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Subject: History : Recipe For Banjo Skin Heads
From: Little Neophyte
Date: 17 Jan 01 - 07:18 AM

'The material for the skin seemed to vary some; in the American south the "groundhog" or woodchuck has always been favored. This method of preparation does not seem to have changed in 200 years.

After getting a hide, he tans it himself. He sets the hide in a trough with the hair side up, and puts two to three inches of ashes over that. Then he pours water over it until it comes up over the top of the ashes. He leaves it for three days, and by then the hair will pull right off unless the weather has been too cold for the lye to work. In that case, it takes a little longer. He then tacks the skin up on a board to dry. The skin is tacked so that it is up off the board enabling air to get under it and allowing the skin to dry quickly and thoroughly.

When the skin is dry, and he is ready to put onto a banjo. He soaks it in salt water overnight, washes it in strong soap, and lets it soak for five minutes in warm water. He puts it on the banjo wet, and it tightens up as it dries.'

From 'Ring The Banjar - The Banjo in America From Folklore to Factory, Robert Lloyd Webb

Next banjo history lesson will be on selecting the appropriate size gourd to be hollowed out and cleaned.


Little Neo


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Subject: RE: History : Recipe For Banjo Skin Heads
From: Naemanson
Date: 17 Jan 01 - 07:57 AM

Cool! Keep it coming, L'il Neo.


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Subject: RE: History : Recipe For Banjo Skin Heads
From: bill\sables
Date: 17 Jan 01 - 08:01 AM

I have it on great authority that the best skin to use for banjo heads is the skin from a grayhound. Is seems you can play much faster on grayhound than you can on pig skin. I wonder what recehorse skin would be like.
Bill


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Subject: RE: History : Recipe For Banjo Skin Heads
From: Les from Hull
Date: 17 Jan 01 - 08:03 AM

These Banjo Skinheads sound real scary.

Les


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Subject: RE: History : Recipe For Banjo Skin Heads
From: GUEST,Matt_R
Date: 17 Jan 01 - 08:03 AM

Banjo skin heads are those sickos who want to burn electric guitars, aren't they?


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Subject: RE: History : Recipe For Banjo Skin Heads
From: Little Neophyte
Date: 17 Jan 01 - 08:08 AM

Well along Bill's line of thinking I figure gazelle skin would make a mighty fine head. Maybe I would avoid tortoise though.

Little Neo


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Subject: RE: History : Recipe For Banjo Skin Heads
From: Bud Savoie
Date: 17 Jan 01 - 08:42 AM

Bill/Sables: The horse skins sometimes go lame on you.


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Subject: RE: History : Recipe For Banjo Skin Heads
From: Allan C.
Date: 17 Jan 01 - 08:42 AM

Bonnie, if you ever want to try this, just let me know and I'll ship you a groundhog hide. There are zillions of them here in West Virginia. We don't have any gazelles, though.


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Subject: RE: History : Recipe For Banjo Skin Heads
From: Gern
Date: 17 Jan 01 - 08:57 AM

One of the craftsmen in the famous FOXFIRE series notes that choosy pickers prefer cat skin, and that rural Georgia as a result has no problem with strays.


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Subject: RE: History : Recipe For Banjo Skin Heads
From: GUEST,Les B
Date: 17 Jan 01 - 02:08 PM

I went to our local leather shop and found a good deer hide to put on a banjo. It tightened in well and is very resonant. It also was about half the price of the calfskin heads that Stewart McDonald had in their catalog.

The only problem with some deer hides is they have scars on their backs from crawling through barbed wire fences.

I imagine goat skin would do as well (they use them for bodhrans don't they ?!?). The only horse hide I ever saw was pretty thick, probably have to do a lot of thinning down before you used it.


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Subject: RE: History : Recipe For Banjo Skin Heads
From: GUEST,Ernest
Date: 18 Jan 01 - 01:57 AM

A bodhran player told me once that in the old times they used greyhound skins - until they discovered that goats were much easier to catch!

Go on with the thread, I like it

Ernest


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Subject: RE: History : Recipe For Banjo Skin Heads
From: Banjer
Date: 18 Jan 01 - 06:32 AM

Skin Heads carrying banjos.....what a scary thought....I bet if someone took the time to research origin of the name 'BANJO', they would find it is Swahili for 'slow antelope' or something similar....


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Subject: RE: History : Recipe For Banjo Skin Heads
From: Little Neophyte
Date: 18 Jan 01 - 06:45 AM

Yes Sir Ernest, on with the thread we go!

Well in this book 'Ring the Banjar' they did go on to say......
With the early players most of the banjos had tacked-down heads of woodchuck or sometimes domestic cat. The overpopulation of cats in the mountains suggested this source of supply. Banjo makers have used cats for a very long time for heads and strings.
Usually "chicken-killen" cats.


Little Neo


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Subject: RE: History : Recipe For Banjo Skin Heads
From: Little Neophyte
Date: 18 Jan 01 - 11:10 AM

I'm going to learn the 'Turkey Trottin'. A tune I heard on the Walt Koken CD Finger Lakes Ramble.
I'll play 'Turkey Trottin' on an old banjo with a 'chicken killen' cat skin head. That ought to be a meaningful moment in time.

:)


Little Neo


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Subject: RE: History : Recipe For Banjo Skin Heads
From: Butch
Date: 18 Jan 01 - 12:02 PM

I am afraid that I must disagree with Dr. Webb in "Ring the Banjar". The best skin heads for the early banjos are very thin calf skin. Although cat was used by Joel Sweeney on his first banjo in the 1820's, most of the best banjos of the 1830's-1870's used a form of calf called "slunk". This comes from still born and premature calves and is tranparent. It gives a very clear tone and a very strong voice to the banjo.

Groundhog is a later developement in the banjo. It was and is used on banjos but the sound produced is not as clear as thin calf. Also, the thin calf does not work well on steel strung banjos. As for Webb's claim that this has been done for over 200 years, all of the 19th century writers on making banjos (pre 1875) would dis agree with this statement. They all used calf.

So far as goat goes, it works well when new, but looses it sound rather quickly after a few months. If you like the earthier - tubbier sound, goat is a great way to go. Cat & groundhog work best on banjos with smaller heads.


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Subject: RE: History : Recipe For Banjo Skin Heads
From: Little Neophyte
Date: 18 Jan 01 - 03:56 PM

Butch, I'm quite sure you are correct about the best skin heads for the earlier banjos were very thin calf skin but I have a feeling way back then still born and premature calves may not have been stock piled for the use of banjo skin heads. I'm quite sure calf skin creates a very clear tone & strong voice for the banjo. But if I lived in a remote area with not much available to me on hand, if I had a 'chicken-killen' cat that was pissing me off, guess whose skin I'd be using?

Bonnie


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Subject: RE: History : Recipe For Banjo Skin Heads
From: Butch
Date: 18 Jan 01 - 08:52 PM

Bonnie,

I agree with you 100%. I always wanted a banjo named "Fluffy"!


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Subject: RE: History : Recipe For Banjo Skin Heads
From: Sorcha
Date: 18 Jan 01 - 10:45 PM

I can't help it any longer--every time I see this one, I read it

Recipe--Banjo Skinheads........

and I can't help wondering if they are better baked or braised........sorry Bonnie! Either the Banjo kind or the Skinhead kind.........sick, sick, sick.


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Subject: RE: History : Recipe For Banjo Skin Heads
From: kendall
Date: 19 Jan 01 - 10:04 AM

Matt, why do you call those who would burn electric guitars sick? Sounds like to perfect solution for someone who hates noise. Volume will never replace talent.


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Subject: RE: History : Recipe For Banjo Skin Heads
From: MMario
Date: 19 Jan 01 - 10:12 AM

sorcha - I know what you mean! I am so tempted to post something along the lines of:

Take 2 lbs of fresh Banjo heads, saute lightly in olive oil until just golden brown. add 6 cloves of garlic (minced) 2 tsp of tarragon and 1/2 cup white wine. Cover and braise for 1.5 hours or until tender.

But since this is a serious discussion I won't.


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Subject: RE: History : Recipe For Banjo Skin Heads
From: Capt. John
Date: 19 Jan 01 - 02:37 PM

Maybe we could get more support for the local Ob-Gyn clinic if we sold it as a recycle center?


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Subject: RE: History : Recipe For Banjo Skin Heads
From: Rollo
Date: 19 Jan 01 - 08:05 PM

STOP IT NOW! NO MORE FUSS WITH US POOR BANJO SKIN HEADS!

isn't it enough we look like arses with ears on it (and the hole in it got the same smell too), isn't it enough we had a bad childhood and are now forced to partake in acts of violence against foreigners, isn't it enough banjo sounds even worse when you use distortion effect on it?

We got a right to be treated as every other group of mindless brutes in this society! We don't deserve to be fussed at in a mudcat thread!

By the way there is only one skin fitting for a skin head banjo. mastiff or pitbull hide.


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Subject: RE: History : Recipe For Banjo Skin Heads
From: Margo
Date: 19 Jan 01 - 09:01 PM

OK, so we know they had skinheads, but have any of you heard what they sound like? Mine is just a generic plastic what have you head. It's wearing away clear where my thumb hits the head. Is a skinhead better than the plastic whatever? Margo


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Subject: RE: History : Recipe For Banjo Skin Heads
From: Little Neophyte
Date: 19 Jan 01 - 09:33 PM

Margo real calfskin heads can be pretty tempermental. Unless you are really, really particular about having calfskin, I think a mylar fibre skin synthetic type head would do you fine.
There is an Elite banjo head that has the look of vintage calfskin, without the vintage shrinkage.
Here is the advertisment:
'Elite banjo heads feature a modern material with the feel and appearance of calfskin, for a warm old-time sound. Unlike a calfskin, the Elite is unaffected by moisture - no shrinkage, stretching or splitting due to humidity'
Make sure before ordering a banjo head you measure for correct diameter and crown height of your banjo
Stewart Macdonald's Guitar Shop Supply is a great place to order stuff. 800-848-2273
They will send you a free catalog

Sorry folks I haven't come across any good recipes for a mylar fibre skin heads.

Bonnie


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Subject: RE: History : Recipe For Banjo Skin Heads
From: Allan C.
Date: 19 Jan 01 - 09:46 PM

Tracking the wild mylar is your first problem, Bonnie. They keep to the rocky slopes where they leave few traces. Keep your eyes open for small, white fibers that have traces of a powdery substance on them. If you are successful in tracking one to its lair, the next thing to do is to set a snare or deadfall and then smoke it out. This serves two purposes. It brings out the mylar and it helps to cure the skin at the same time.

The rest of the process is much the same as with groundhogs.

At least, this is the way the process was taught to me. I have never yet located the trail of a mylar, but I keep looking.


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Subject: RE: History : Recipe For Banjo Skin Heads
From: Gypsy
Date: 19 Jan 01 - 11:41 PM

Now remember, you cannot saute a vegetarian banjo skin head. It will melt and fuse to your pan. Try a light steaming, just until al dente, served with a mild, nonacidic sauce. Same goes for the wine, no guewerztraiminer, please, a nice dry chard.


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Subject: RE: History : Recipe For Banjo Skin Heads
From: Jon W.
Date: 22 Jan 01 - 11:15 AM

Back to the serious stuff - the cat/groundhog vs. calf skin argument can be explained by realizing the difference between homemade folk banjos (such as are described in Foxfire 3) which use the former (or whatever else was available, including wood and cookie tins) and commercial, manufactured banjos from the mid-19th to mid-20th centuries, which used the latter.

My cousin has recently made several drums from hollowed out logs, and deer hide or elk hide. They sound great.


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Subject: RE: History : Recipe For Banjo Skin Heads
From: GUEST,J Salicco/ the Banjo Factory
Date: 25 Mar 16 - 10:24 AM

Calf skin, as mentioned in the comments above, was the most common. Any rawhide will work. The fine vellum skins easily tear when wet and are not conducive to being tacked on. For gourd banjos, laced or tacked on, vellum is not a good choice. Vellum requires a modern tension hoop system.
I have made over 200 gourd and wood shell tack head banjos and I personally prefer natural deer skin. It it strong enough to be tacked on, yet thin enough to provide a bright sound.
"Catgut" strings are a misnomer. Gut strings have been made primarily from sheep intestines for centuries. It was a highly specialized skill practiced by guilds dating to the middle ages. Because of the popularity of the violin and other similar instruments, gut strings have been readily available wherever fiddles were found. Even fur trade posts on the Missouri carried gut strings in their inventories. The best quality gut strings were and still are from Italy. The early banjos were all strung with violin gut strings.


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Subject: RE: History : Recipe For Banjo Skin Heads
From: GUEST,DrWord
Date: 25 Mar 16 - 11:51 AM

Thanks, J Salicco, both for the definitive skinhead info, and for reviving a thread I missed first time 'round. I wonder, Allen, if you've found any mylar, or even tracks? A clockmaker just west of me found clear nauga tracks by the Pembina River ~ maybe naugahyde would work for banjer, with a bit of skiving? If not, Bill has receipts for nauga stew and spicy naugahyde jerky… and YES! if you're ordering a skin get the measurements EXACT.
keep on pickin'
dennis


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