#340- Walnut and Pistachio Five String Banjo

As a maker, I am in a constant dialogue with my customer, my present self, my ambitions for the future and my past decisions.  This is most clear when building a second instrument for someone.  In this case, Steve Varney, who plays as Kid Reverie and with Gregory Alan Isakov, needed a second banjo.  I built the first in 2011 and it reflected my skill set and capabilities at the time.  Since then, I have had it back for updates and repairs as Steve has traveled the world with Gregory.  His input on what he needs and what works on the road has influenced this build, as well as my current values, knowledge and capabilities.  

For the numbers people:
-11 3/4 walnut block rim with rolled brass tone ring. This was the first big rim I ever turned on my new lathe.
-Walnut neck with 25.5” scale, 20 frets on a pistachio fretboard. 
-24 hooks with and nuts, with special SS Stewart style shoes from Brooks Masten. (He made the custom tension hoop and tone ring too.)
-Hawktail tailpiece from Balsam Banjo Works for extra downward pressure.
-Mini humbucker pickup, contained in a custom wooden block behind the dowel stick. 
-Fiberskyn head, GHS strings, Gotoh tuners.
-Walnut from Goby and Pistachio from California orchards.

Many of these design decisions were outside my norm, but led me to new places.  What feels special about this is Steve’s place on the stage in front of thousands of music fans.  He connects me to this energy and I put more into it, realizing the stakes are higher.  Of course, I want my couch strummers and weekend warriors to get my full attention when their instrument is on the bench, but this symbiosis with a touring pro radiates our to their build as well.  The extra effort is worth it.  If Steve feels better playing the banjo, Gregory feels better singing the song, the crowd has a better experience and some person’s heart is healed from the beautiful music.  We road dogs and dust devils just keep trying every day, maybe tomorrow will be better because of it.