Making a Gourd Banjo
Sculptor and artist Jeff Menzies used the skills he aquired in school to learn the ancient art of gourd-banjo making. He refined his craft during an apprenticeship with a Pennsylvania banjo maker. Since then, Torontonian has produced over 200 gourd banjos, hailed around the world for their craftsmanship. Not only is each piece musically robust, it is also a stunning piece of art that takes on the unique shape of the gourd.
These banjos are meant for hootenannies. Hear how they sound at Jeffrey Menzies’ Listening Parlour.
Here the minstrel style gourd banjo is well under way. The figured walnut neck is fully carved and ready for finish. The gourd has been fit to the neck and awaits the calf skin to be stretched onto it.
The gourd banjo neck is secured firmly in the vise as Menzies continues to carve, rasp and continue to refine its surface.
Here we see a little more of the back of the neck. Notice the curly figure in this eastern black walnut
Here the gourd banjo is completed and fully set up. Menzies has based the peghead pattern off of a Stradivarius cello scroll. The gourd banjo is approximately 9″ in diameter.
Menzies now uses domestic woods almost exclusively now for his banjos. The neck on this banjo illustrates the beauty of the woods that grow here in Canada. The violin style friction pegs are custom made out of Ebony. The violin scroll has been very influential to his work.
Photo courtesy of Jeff Menzies.