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renan banjos
handmade in Richmond, VA

what's on the bench in January 2023.

this last month I have been working on generating new conceptual renderings, gourd templates and RB37 which is a replica neck for a Ramsey Woody banjo, serial #1777, produced in his original shop in Appomattox, VA. This particular banjo is owned by a local friend and compatriot. The original neck unfortunately began to separate at the glue joint (2-pc quilted maple neck) years back and it has become an issue of reliability. Let long live Mike Ramsey, may he Rest In Peace.

For the most part all of the specs from the original neck measurements/ action and scale length was saved, the only aesthetic liberties that changed is the Abalone Inlay & engraving on the peghead. The new neck features a 'Mad Broccoli' deco inlay copied from the clients cell phone hard-case. Weird request but not at all out of my wheelhouse!

As I type on this sunny cold Friday morning I am in the process of warming my fingers over radiator heat and 'zening' out my brain to spatial tunes in order to begin the process of carving the quilted neck by hand. I only ever begin this task in the morning and in a certain/ measured state of mind bliss. Right mind, right focus.

Shop cleaned and tools laid out. I favor my Stanley spokeshave the first hand tool I ever bought as an adult. A purchase I made to build the first RENAN BANJO #001 back in 2009. My trusty calipers which really is the most used tool in a luthiers catalog, a hand-forged Large Japanese Dragon Rasp, 1- Nicholson Bastard File and my scraper of choice: Lenox Gold box blades. I fold/curl the edge with 2 strokes over an anvil. I have a catalog of English spring steel scrapers that I never use. They work great but I favor the Lenox gold blades, as they are the perfect size to scrap away imperfections and file marks even in the complex curves of a boat heel.

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Last October I hit year 40 head-on and with that came visions of the future or how I'd like my growth in the following decade to pan out. With this new decade and new year comes some changes both professionally and physically.

As of this Saturday Jan 28th I will have been sober 3-weeks. I am not competing in a Dry-January, that is not the goal. My goal is to be alcohol free for life. It will be a challenge but I take grace in knowing I have an incredible support community of family and friends.

I can't remember the last time I was sober for 2 consecutive weeks, it probably was 20 years ago. I've had enough drink to fill 2- lifespans and now is the time to quit. I will say that quitting so far has been a lot easier thanks to the new boom of Non-Alcoholic beers and Hop infused Teas that taste as-good or even better than normal beer. As an avid cyclist the post-ride beer(s) was always my reward but little did I realize that I over-abused and over-indulged; which if anything was counter-productive to my health and physical fitness! No more.

I've picked up the guitar again, my one true love and girlfriend. It has been a beacon of light as I relearn old tunes and celebrate generating the new. I've been picking the banjo 15+ years and my right hand technique & tempo far exceeds my youthful skills on guitar~ due in large part to learning to play and mastering clawhammer banjo. 18 years ago I put down the guitar and picked up the banjo and the rest is history.


Goals this year will be measured in what is built.

I hope to build:

2 Booker Spec'd banjos

2 Artisan Intermediates (less hooks, simple hybrid banjos)

2-3 Gourd Banjos

1-2 Electric guitars

A recording studio shed

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Spring has sprung!

Hadn't been many updates to the blog and a lot has happened, what gives boy-o?

Well I've been as of late in the recording studio, finally kicked my own tires and admitted to myself at the very least, that I couldn't do it all alone, got some much needed help. More microphones, more talent, more joyful music getting made. If and when that is released to the broader domain, it will be known. Most signs point to Bandcamp. No promises. Banjos featured on album are my current players, RB30, RB04* concept fretless, RB24 steel strung.

2021 Banjos Builds: RB31, 32, 33, 34 are still in the planning stages. RB31 'Booker' is pretty much ready to begin build, still tracking down remaining parts. RB33 & 34 will be custom orders from prospective clients, cross fingers that those pull through.

Patagonia Rosewood that will get re-sawn for peghead overlays, fingerboards and tone rings along with Curly Black Walnut for necks.

In the Garden:

We've got Deep Till Radish cover crops sprouting, Daikon & Red Ruby radish sprouts, Kale & Swiss chard on the way in the main garden. Eating arugula, deer tongue and other lettuces by the handful in the greenhouse. Tomatoes, peppers and herbs are in early stages under the grow lamps, we are fast approaching growing season '21. The chickens are back to rotational grazing, picking and scratching the dirt. Good times.

There are buds on the trees and that means TICKS! I've been scrambling to finish up all tree-felling, firewood production, Chipping while I still can before we are overrun by the bugs! The tractor and I have been working overtime. I've got a good assortment of cedar, loblolly pine and osage logs in store. By April will have the Alaskan Mill setup so I can be rough sawing. So damn much to do.

Let the chips fly.

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