11. The liner is made of ripstop nylon, to loosely fit the wooden form. Pin it around the form, and then sew along the line of
pins. It is big at the end of the neck, so that it can be brought back to cover the outside of the case at the end of the neck.
The plug at the end and a little bit of duct tape keep it in place at the end of the neck.
12. The cover is made of coated nylon around the outside of the case. After the case is made, use seam sealer on all of the
seams. The only place water can get in is at the edge of the end cover, and if the banjo is in a vertical position then the water
can’t run into the case. Assembled with the liner inside, the cover outside, and the banjo inside you can see where to trim
the body end of the foam, liner and cover. The cover and liner are then sewn together by hand.
1. The Banjo: Buy some “5/4” maple wood at your local Hardwoods store (1 ¼” thick before it gets thickness planed). Mine
was 1 1/16” thick. Cut out the neck in two pieces, so that the halves glued together will be 2” wide for the widest part of the
neck. I used a saber saw, but a band saw would be better. It is helpful if the two pieces are laid out in mirror images on one
side of the board, and glued so that the same faces of the wood are against each other. This way, the grain is matched like in a
mirror, and possible warping of the neck is minimized. Glue the halves of the neck together with woodworker’s glue like
Titebond or Elmer’s yellow glue.
2. Cut the neck’s sides. I used a table saw, with small pieces of wood taped to
the side of the neck to guide the wood through the saw at a slant and cut the
correct paths of the sides. A band saw would work well. A saber saw would do
the job, but give you more work in the shaping of the neck.
3. Cut the slot for the carbon fiber reinforcement rods. I used an adjustable dado
blade to cut the slot, but a router could do it, too. Two rods 1/8” x 3/8” are
glued together into the slot.
4. Cut out the fingerboard, and glue it to the neck. Then shape the neck, except
where it will attach to the body. It will be easier to handle for the shaping if the
body is not yet attached, and if the frets are not in place. I had a “real” banjo to
help me copy the correct size and shape of the neck behind the fingerboard.
scale drawing, click for a printable enlargement.
Click here for drawing with dimensions.
neck with slots cut for
1. Ripstop 1.9 oz. nylon for case liner (#FRU Uncoated Ripstop #3480)
2. Coated nylon for case cover (FC5 500 Denier Cordura, #3460)
3. ¾” Black Nylon Webbing (#0015)
4. Seam Grip Seam Sealer (1 oz) (#MCNSG)
top and bottom views
of plywood form for
making foam case
foam case ready to
5. The body is glued to the neck in blocks, and then cut out with a band saw. The armrest is cut from
the same piece, so that it matches up against the body when folded up. A saber saw will work, but give
you much more work in shaping the wood after it is cut, since it has trouble cutting vertically in such
hard wood. The pieces that hold the tuning devices are glued up into an end block, but not glued into
the body until the body is cut since you cannot insert a bandsaw blade through a hole in the wood.
Wood dowels and the aluminum axle for the tuning devices hold it in place temporarily for cutting it out,
and then the dowels are also used in gluing it in place.
6. After the inside is shaped and sanded, the back and sides can be glued on, as well as the struts for
supporting the can.
7. After final shaping and sanding, I used musical instrument lacquer with finishing methods I learned
from Stewart-McDonald’s web site.
9. The Case: First, I made a form out of scrap wood that is the size and shape of the banjo, with the
neck’s 1 ½” x 1 ½” fir rounded a lot at the end and a little toward the body. Wood pieces block out
areas for the strings, armrest and bridge, so that there is space over these vulnerable areas when the
banjo is in the case. Then tape some waxed paper over the form, to keep from accidentally gluing
the foam to the form.
Drawing of case plans
outside of case pinned
to form, and the sewn
inside of the case
10. The ¼” foam is laminated in two layers. I got it at a surplus store, as a pad for a sleeping bag. It is helpful to have at
least one piece of it going the entire length of the case. Everywhere else, make it so that the seams of one layer do not
occur in the same places as the seams in the other layer. Spray the surfaces to be glued with 3M “90 High Strength
Adhesive”. The areas not needing glue should be masked with masking tape. Spray one coat, wait two minutes, spray a
second coat, wait 5 minutes and then stick the pieces together. It sticks right away, but after several hours it is much
stronger. In some places, the next layer can be prepared right away. Other places under more stress should be clamped
gently and the glue is allowed to harden more. Leave extra foam at the open, big end to be trimmed later. After the cover
and liner are made, the extra foam can be trimmed to fit the banjo. A foam mushroom-shaped plug is made for the end out
of a piece of one of those big foam “noodles” that are used as swimming pool toys.
Blocks of maple glued up
to cut out the body,
8. The tuning devices are made of aluminum. If the holes are started with a center drill, it is
possible to get the holes within .006” of where they should be using your eyesight. A center
drill is a wide drill body with a short small-diameter drill at the end. I used a 6-32 gun tap to
tap the threads. A gun tap pushes the cuttings out the end of the hole, so that you can use a
variable-speed electric drill to tap the threads.