Just before Chloë was born, I ordered a Fireside banjo kit from BackyardMusic.com. The kit consisted of a simple wooden ring for the pot, a neck with the frets pre-installed, and piece of plywood instead of a plastic or skin head, plus the necessary hardware. In the weeks after she arrived, I had a few minutes here and there to assemble the banjo, which I’ve been calling the “Chloë Special” on the theory that it would be a little lighter and quieter than the others that I have. Actually, this little one puts out a significant noise for its size, much like its namesake.
Assembly was pretty easy. I sanded all the major pieces, sculpted the headstock, stained the neck, and put a clear tung oil on the pot and sound disk.
Elmer’s Glue holds the pieces together. At first, I put steel strings on the banjo, but there was buzzing on the third fret for the lower strings. As I was putting in the fifth-string tuner, I split the wood and bent the fret up. I backed out the screw and repaired the wood, but the fret buzz remained, so I got a few replacement parts from Elderly Instruments, including a higher 3/4″ bridge and nylgut strings, a nylon simulation of old-fashioned gut strings. Just like gut, the strings are incredibly stretchy, and it took forever to wind and tune them. With the nylgut, the instrument is a little quieter, and it has a very different sound from either my Gold-Tone CC-OT or Hatfield Crushinator.
After everything has been finished and settled in, the Chloë Special looks like this:
And sounds like this:
And here’s Chloë on the Chloë Special: