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Banjo #09 - finishing

On arriving at the workbench to complete last week's sanding and move onto applying a finish, I noticed yesterday that the back plate of this mountain banjo had ever so slightly cupped in my absence. As the weather took a colder turn and humidity levels in the garage changed, the wood had turned a little upwards at the two lateral edges along the grain.

When I first started working with wood this was the kind of thing that frightened and frustrated me: worked material should stay where it's put! But that's not the way that wood behaves, and actually it's one of the things that makes the creation of wooden instruments feel a little magical - the wood needs to be animated and reactive rather than fixed and inert.

So the first order of the day was to plane the back plate flat again, so it sits comfortably against the rest of the banjo. In all, about a 15 minute job.

Then onto the final round of sanding:

I love the way that a pass with really fine grit sandpaper starts to bring out a contrast and shine to the grain, just through making the surface smooth. That is further enhanced by the oil finish, which I didn't take any photos of yesterday. But there's still another couple of coats to do over the course of the week.

Having gotten as far as I could with banjo 09, I spent the rest of yesterday's daylight taking a look at a side project from earlier in the summer. Back in May I made two attempts at steam bending two-ply laminated ash rims for an open-back banjo, but then set them aside to start this commission. Looking over them, they had held their shape nicely, so I decided to tidy them up a little:

Neither is perfect - I need to continue refining my technique here - but one of them is definitely useable, at least as a learning project. On the other, the outside join is too messy to get properly tidy, so it might be destined for the scrap bin. Hopefully I'll get to do a little more work on the one I'm taking forwards before too long...

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