Thursday, July 21, 2011

Installing a new 5th string peg on a 5 string banjo.

  Here we have a humble Westbrook banjo. Obviously,it's not the most expensive banjo around,but it plays and sounds pretty good. More importantly,the banjo owner likes it,but would like it a whole lot more if it would stay in tune! Read on to find out how we solved this problem...

  The tuners on the headstock are about as cheap as you can get,but they're still working great,so there's no need to change them.

  Here's our culprit. The 5th string tuning peg has started to misbehave. We'll replace it with a much better tuner.

  The knob and bushing puller,available from Stewart MacDonald,also works for pulling out the old tuner.

   Here's our sad little old tuning peg,next to the nice new tuner,made by Gotoh.As you can see,the part of the tuner going into the banjo is not only bigger,it's also tapered.

   We'll use this special short reamer,available once again from the ubiquitous Stew-Mac.If you don't have this fancy reamer,with a bit of finesse and the right size drill bit,you can make it work,but why ask for trouble?

   Once the peg hole is reamed to the correct size,we'll need a safe way to get the new tuner to go in straight.We'll remove the tuner button and washer,and use this piece of scrap wood with a hole drilled through it.

   Over to the bench vice! The exposed shaft of the tuner goes into our scrap wood,allowing the pressure to be spread over the tuner,not on the shaft. With one side of the (padded!) jaws pressing on the neck and the other pressing the scrap wood,our tuner eases gently into the neck. If there's any doubt the new tuner will stay put,a couple drops (drops!) of Original TiteBond glue can help.

   I like to angle the tuner back just a bit to help with the behind the nut string angle. Here's our boy,safe and sound.


John said...

I noticed that the banjo that your fixing in the tutorial is a Westbrook. I too have a Westbrook banjo and wanted to know how would you go about replacing the head for it. I have tried to fit on a couple of 11 inch heads but they seem to be just a hair to small and refuse to fit. Is the head size 11 1/4? The head that my Westbrook came with has a solid ring holding the patch on. The ring for heads that I've tried to replace have a small gap where the two ends of the metal meet to form the ring.

any information you could provide me on westbrook banjos and replacing a head for one would be greatly appreciated.


Phil Clark said...

Thanks for your question. It's possible your banjo is slightly bigger than 11". The only source for odd-size banjo heads I've found is Stewart MacDonald. Give them a try at It's also possible your banjo is out of round and it just needs more elbow grease than is normal.

Chris O said...

I know this is much too late to be of help to John, but for those out there using these forums as a way to learn about our own fixes, I recommend Elderly Music. Their shipping is more reasonable and they have far more odd-size heads in different varieties than does stewmac (which at last check has a fair number of Weatherking sizes, but that's about it, unless you have an 11" which, like me, you don't).