I finally finished my mountain banjo. It really wasn't that difficult, but it took a while because I didn't have access to tools. Here you can see me playing an old song called "Sweet Sunny South." It is fretless, so I'm still training my fingers to fall exactly where the notes are, but considering I've only been doing it for a few days, I'd say I'm doing alright. I still have to write about constructing the banjo. Those posts will be up soon.
As you can tell, it's not the best instrument, but it sounds alright. It's also only my first banjo. It does have a nice authentic old time, mountain sound. This particular banjo is modeled after the Stanley Hicks and Frank Proffit style banjos. These old banjos were typically tuned lower (perhaps to reduce string tension that could warp necks) and had gut strings (I substituted nylon for gut strings). I usually play this particular tune in G modal tuning (gDGCD) but for this banjo it is tuned down a few half steps (eBEAB). The combination of the nylon strings, lower tuning, and goat skin head give the banjo a nice plunky sound.
If you are interested in making one of these, click here to see how I built the banjo. Finally I would like to thank everyone who contributed to this project by providing insight, tools or materials. Randy Cordle of Bluestem Strings provided free plans. Steve Matechik provided tools and scrap material. Mr. Syzdek happily let me use his bandsaw on two occasions and a nice, new workbench. Carol loaned me her drill. Thanks everyone.