Banjo rim making. Ripping strips on the table saw, note the feather board.

Banjo Rim Making

Mac builds his rims by bending long strips of wood and laminating them together using a form. Typically each rim has four strips laminated together. The two interior laminations that do not show are usually straight-grained maple, which bends well and is nice and strong. Hickory is also a good choice for the interior laminations of the rim. It’s okay to use different wood for the interior laminations than what is used for the exterior. This allows for better use of the figured woods where they may be seen. The exterior laminations that show usually match the neck. After all the strips are laminated, it is likely that the depth of the new rim will have to be trimmed up on the table saw. Then, it gets a rim cap that typically matches the fingerboard and peghead.

Ripping Strips for Bending

I have done this as a table saw operation and as a band saw operation. The aim is to get strips that are about 45″ long by 3″ wide by 3/16″ to 1/4″ thick. 3/4″ lumber is fine to start with, you can get about 3 strips of 3/16″ thickness out of a piece that thick, as some is lost to the thickness of the saw blade. In the case of the table saw I encourage the use of a feather board to help hold the piece against the fence. I also encourage the use of a push stick.

Thickness Sanding

After sawing, the strips are still pretty rough. They need to be a bit smoother for the gluing that will soon take place. They also need to have fairly regular dimensions. A thickness sander is ideal for this operation, however, they may be rare to come by. It is possible to make a holding jig for a hand-held sander that will also accomplish the job tolerably well. This job can be done with a block plane as well. They need not be super smooth. As a matter of fact a little rough might be good. I like to sand to at least 150 grit.

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