I'm creating a 5-string out of an olive oil can and a poplar 1x3:
At first, I was thinking of doing a simple neck-thru design, like I would with a standard CBG, with a cutout in the neck for the body, elevating just a bit above the can surface. The can would be glued or screwed to the neck:
It occurs to me, however, that I'd get much less of a banjo sound this way, as opposed to a variant where the neck-thru portion didn't directly contact the top of the body. Given that I don't have much neck depth to work with, what's a good option for this? Could I just thin out the area under the bridge?
Please bear in mind that I have a limited selection of handtools, no shop space beyond my small Brooklyn living room, and precious little woodworking skills! I'm totally experimenting here.
I'm hoping to end up with something similar to Flatfoot Johnny's Golden Syrup canjo. Any advice is greatly appreciated.
You might want to add (glue on) a thin strip of wood to the under-side of the neck where it goes through the can to compensate for the wood you remove on the upper-side so the "sound board" side of the olive oil can. The gap between the neck and the "soundboard" doesn't have to be more than 1/4", so it shouldn't weaken the poplar neck very much should you decide not to reinforce the under-side of the neck-thru.
As another pointer, you may want to tilt the neck downward by a couple degrees so the strings coming off the neck will rise up (a bit higher clearance) off the sound board to meet the bridge. You can trim off a triangular cross section of the tail end of the neck to allow you to mount it a bit higher to achieve the slight downward angle of the neck. Let me draw a diagram...Hope this helps...
Thanks for the reply, Rand! I think I'll have enough wood left over on the end to fashion a little wedge and give the action a boost.
One question: in a design like what you illustrated above, what's actually holding the neck in place? is it just string tension?
Sorry for not getting back to you sooner. The CBN discussion group called the Canjo Consortium has at least one discussion about how people attach a neck to a cookie/cake tin. Here is the link I was thinking of.
The neck needs to be held in place typically by a couple of wood screws strategically located around the two places where the neck intersects to cookie/cake tin. When cutting the one (or two) hole(s) for the neck, cut the metal using an "X" cut and bend the 4 triangular metal "tabs" back into the tin. You can use one or two of these tabs to secure the neck to the tin by drilling a hole in the middle of the tab and then use a wood screw (or 2) to hold the tin in place. You'll be fastening the wood screw(s) into the neck. You can do this twice for a true "neck-thru", ore just once for what I call a "neck-almost-thru" design. In this later design, the end of the neck does not penetrate the can, but usually a couple of wood screws are used to hold the tin to the end of the neck. It helps if the end of the tin is rounded to conform with the inner surface of the tin. Since the junction at both these "points" are the weak points, most builders try to reinforce the sides of the tin with a wooden collar to help spread the load so the tin has a better chance of surviving rough handling. But the string tension itself should be fully handled by the neck. This means you want to either use the tail end of the neck as your tail piece, or in the case of "neck-almost-thru" designs, firmly secure your neck piece by fastening it into the end of the neck. Other builders may use different attachment techniques, so a bit research and experimentation should go a long way. Hope this helps.