Forum - Banjo Ben Clark

Has anyone built a 5-string from a kit?

Hi All,
I want to learn clawhammer, and want to get an inexpensive open-back banjo to learn (it’ll be my 2nd banjo, my first had a resonator).

I thought it might be fun to build one from a kit. I see a few online, and some don’t look like utter junk. There’s even one kit that’s fretless with a scooped neck (appealing, especially after watching the first episode of Ken Burns’ awesome documentary).

Any ideas as to whether I’d end up with something marginally playable, or would it be a waste of time and money?

Thanks in advance, as always.

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A friend of mine built a banjo from an Asian kit, I wasn’t overly impressed by it. It was a wood rim open back and the neck was quite heavy (dense wood) and seemed to put the banjo out of balance. I think it may have had a brass tone hoop and the tuners were those cheap worm gear that fall apart easily. On top of that I felt it was pretty expensive when compared to factory built banjos. He bought it mail order. I have only seen one and I am sure @Jake would be better able to advise on what kits are available.

Thanks. I’m looking at Carver Banjos. They have a fretless “Minstrel” model that’s pretty but needs nylon/gut strings for $125. For a few more dollars ($175), you can get a “vintage” model, that’s not quite as good-looking but has frets, metal strings and better hardware. They also have a gourd kit.

Looking for videos of somebody playing one, nothing yet :neutral_face:

And, of course, for $199 I can get a new Washburn that’s ready to go…

Or, for a few MORE bucks, I could get an open-back Savannah from @BanjoBen!

Setup by @Jake would be worth way more than the extra dollars.


After thinking more about it, I’ve decided that if I want to learn clawhammer, I should do it on something that I know will be playable. Building from a kit will be fun, but I’ll save that for later.

Thanks, everybody, for all the input. Happy picking!

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@Michael Also, check out the Nashville Banjo Company.

I don’t have any connection except that I hear the guy is a super great guy and he’s building some for very prominent players.


Thanks, @BanjoBen! Still fingers crossed for that Gold Tone “Natural”…

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