Forum - Banjo Ben Clark

5th String Capo

Any Preference? The Railroad Spikes or the little rail with the damper attached?

 If you recommend Spikes, which direction do you prefer having the open end? 

Thank you,


Spikes, open end facing towards the centre of the neck.


I second Archie’s post. That rail just gets in the way.

Please do not do a 5th string capo/rail. You can install spikes. My boy Jake has the best instructional video. I learned to do it with this video and installed them perfectly the first time:


Cool video! Sure had me sweating when he was tapping a nail into the fretboard, though. :astonished:


I could not find anyone to spike the 5th professionally in Pensacola so I did it today on my open back. I used a dremel drill press. It made the holes nicely. I had 3 of them install without problems. The ninth gave me fits getting the spike head below the fret height without bending the spike open tip down. The spikes were from Stewmac.
After the install Every single one of them still play sharp if the open G is in tune. Same problem I was having with the pen cap capo.
I got the compensated bridge from Stewmac to see if that would help. Strings 1 through 4 keep tune better up the neck with it but the 5th is still sharp up the neck with a capo or spikes.
A luthier here said he installs the spikes open up to keep the down stroke when picking the 5th from moving the string out of the spike capo unexpectedly.

Hey Cliff,

Even Earl’s 5th string was sharp when he spiked it…it is going to be. You’ll see every banjo player check and adjust their tuning after spiking it. Main thing is that it doesn’t buzz and the string is able to be tuned (pass under the spike) while spiked. If done right, the string will not come out of the spikes even if they face down…it’s okay to face them up, though.

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That happens because the spike has to stretch the string moreso than just fretting the string at the same position. That’s because the top of the spike has to be below the frets. Add to that the thickness of the spike itself and you get more string tension on a spiked string.

It’s the same as if you really bear down on a string rather than lightly fret it.

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How hard is it to retune the string if it’s a little on the shape side ?

As to the Luther’s comment’s I would say his opinion is valued. But I would add, my string never pops out no matter how hard I pick it. However in my case my RR spikes were fitted by Geoff Stelling. and he knows a thing or two about building banjos and I have to say I value his expertise more than most. :sunglasses:

It is easy to tune while the string is spiked. I got one of the string gauge files from Stewmac and left that under the spike while I tapped them down. If I spike and do not retune, unspike and the G goes back fine. I am pleased with it all but the ninth. The more I fool with it the uglier it gets. The results of the compensated bridge for strings 1 through 4 were the biggest improvement. Open to 12th frets are much more consistent.

Jake mentioned to me that a capo rail can diminish the value of older Banjos that normally go up in value because of the side holes that are put in the neck. Just thought that was interesting and wanted to share it.


Thank You everyone for your help!!!

  Thank you... Banjo Ben for the video.

I ordered RR spikes from StewMac.

Will let you know how it goes.

All the best,



Get the router bit too from them. If the hole is not tapper too much friction binds the spike and mine kept bending over.