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Help Topics for Banjo Players

Some guidance on the fitting of capo spikes to banjo fingerboards.

25/09/2013

This is a relatively straightforward job but requires care to get it right. These notes reflect the way that I fit them. They do not purport to be the only (or necessarily the best) way to do it - just what I do. As conditions vary enormously from banjo to banjo, no responsibility can be accepted. If you are unsure about what you doing, please take expert advice before proceeding. First of all, decide where you are going to put them - most players like 7th & 9th frets but other positions are possible. Bear in mind that the 5th string will probably "wind-up" by a semi-tone (or even 2!) so that spikes at every fret are unnecessary ( and undesirable, in my view). Spikes placed 2 frets apart are rather easier to do .............. Give this some thought before you get the hammer out! I use the following tools:- a Dremel mini-drill, a 0.8mm drill, a piece of .015" feeler gauge with a slot cut into it, a small hammer and a small drift or punch with the end made concave. I mark the position of the spike by drilling a shallow hole about midway between the frets (lay the drill bit alongside the 5th string on the "inboard" side i.e. between the 5th and 4th strings). Take care not to push the string sideways whilst drilling the shallow "marker" hole. Unwind the 5th string and move it out of the way. Now drill down through the "marker" hole until the bit has passed right through the fingerboard material. Stop as soon as you get into the wood of the neck beneath the fingerboard. Trim the spike until it is just a little longer (about .030") than the depth of the fingerboard. Gently tap it into the hole to get it started. Once it is reasonably firm, tape the piece of feeler gauge to the fingerboard with the "hook" sticking outwards from the slot towards the edge of the fingerboard on the 5th string side. Then, using the drift, drive the spike down until the "hook" gently catches the feeler gauge. This will give you the correct clearance of .015" underneath the hook. Polish the top and edges of the "hook" with a suitable abrasive (an emery board works quite well) to remove any sharp edges or burrs caused by the fitting process. Remove the piece of feeler gauge and check that the string goes in & out reasonably freely. That‘s about it ........ If you fit 2 spikes, you may find that the string "buzzes" against the top of the second one when the first one is in use. This is usually cured by either polishing the top of the second spike down a bit (to lower it.) or by moving it closer to the fret beyond the spike. You may also find that a replacement 5th string nut becomes necessary at this time - there’s nothing like trying to fit spikes for showing up the defects in 5th string nuts!

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