Boucher Style Minstrel Banjo II


I finally got my poor neglected benchtop bandsaw out of the attic after nearly four years, and built a quick and dirty circle cutting jig; nothing adjustible, just a nail six inches from the blade with its head clipped off, for cutting a diameter of 12 inches.

Photo of negative banjo rim form

From a piece of 3/4” thick MDF I cut six half circles, then stacked them to make a negative form. I got that idea from John Peterson’s build; it made sense to me to use the natural outward pressure of the bending wood.

With daylight fading I fired up my steam apparatus, and put a length of 1/4” oak in to steam. I left it for about 40 minutes.

Photo of steam bending apparatus

This was one of those times when you realize how wide the gap between reading about something and actually doing it is; I had every reason to expect this to work, but it still seemed like magic when I was able to take out that piece of oak and bend it like a sapling.

I suspect that I should have flipped the wood halfway through steaming and/or left it in a bit longer, maybe even soaked it in water overnight; I was not able to bend it sharply enough all at once to fit into the negative form. I could tell that it would readily form a 12 inch hoop without splitting, but I couldn’t bend it evenly enough to get it to fit inside the form. In hindsight the benefits of using a band clamp around a positive form become clear; it provides even force all around and probably lets one perform the initial bend a bit more gracefully. Good thing I have the positive cut-outs from the negative form.