Andy Banjo's News and Information Pages
A virtual tour of the Banjo Works.
Here we have a short video with a soundtrack to give you a bit of a "virtual tour" of The Banjo Works.
As you'll see from the video, we really do have workshops (plural) and our Banjos are in stock and ready for immediate dispatch.
Whilst we can't (for Health & Safety reasons) give actual tours of the manufacturing part of the The Banjo Works, this short virtual tour will give you a flavour of the sort of place this is. The actual machine shops are not illustrated in any great detail as some of the machines & jigs that have been developed here over the years effectively constitute "trade secrets"; what we do is advertised and public - exactly how we achieve such excellent results isn't!
The Andybanjo Set-up - some pictures & some music
Here is a very brief "step by step" guide to the sorts of things that we do during our professional standard set-up here at The Banjo Works. Our method is a very comprehensive set-up process - exactly the kind of thing that you would have got from one of the classic banjo shops in years gone by. Music retailing may have moved on from this sort of service but we're firmly attached to the old-fashioned idea that every instrument should leave here playing and sounding just as good as it possibly can (within its own limitations naturally - we can't claim to make a £200 banjo sound like a £2000 banjo; though we don't a bad job of making it play like a very much more expensive instrument than it is).
For those who are interested, the soundclip with this slide show is a mixture of recordings made here at The Banjo Works by two of the staff and a retired member of staff. 3 banjos (for the technically minded, it's a 6-string cello-banjo, a 4-string cello-banjos, (strung and tuned as a contra-bass) and a mandolin banjo. The tunes are all "old-time" standards - most old-time players would recognise them all. Not quite a banjo band but heading in that direction ......... Hope you enjoy it!
We'll hope to be able to do a few more slideshows like this over the next few months - it's one way of showing people the sort of things that we do and just why banjos from "Andybanjo" really do play & sound better than apparently very similar instruments from other suppliers.
April at the Banjo Works
A busy month with stock-taking at the beginning and the various "May Weekend" festivals at the end ......
The stocks of banjos are now reasonably good but there still remain some persistent "out-of-stock" problems - in particular with some Gold Tone products. Because of these general difficulties, lots of people phone or e-mail to ask whether or not we have particular items that we list physically in stock i.e. actually, really, available for sale & delivery.
Our policy is fairly simple - if a banjo isn't marked "out of stock", we've got it (though there are odd occasions when 2 people try to buy the last one in stock simultaneously - that one's tricky!).
There do seem to be a number of on-line retailers who will take your order (and your money) and then start the process of obtaining your banjo for you. It's sometimes wise to treat their "delivery estimates" with a degree of healthy scepticism ....
We use the expression "stockist" in its simplest form - someone who has the goods in stock - i.e. physically on the premises and available for a customer to take away. We probably are traders "from a bygone era" so we wouldn't regard putting up a website listing products that need to be ordered from another supplier (even in the UK, let alone overseas!) as being a "stockist".
Times change & new eras in banjo marketing may begin - but we are firmly committed to the kind of service that you would have got from a specialist banjo dealer 50 years ago. If that's old-fashioned, so be it !
Because of the amount of setting-up (or building) work that we do to each & every banjo that we sell, it isn't as simple as just getting in a new delivery from the wholesalers & putting them up on the website ("on the shelf", as it were). There is a lot more to it than that but we don't believe in sending out product that isn't absolutely as good as it can be (within its own limitations, naturally). The kind of job that we do takes extra time & effort - but we believe that the end result result is well worth having and often better value in the long run.
New stocks are arriving every week; as these are ready for sale, we'll put them up on the website. There will be one or two quite nice new products for 2015 but nothing very startling. Everything is going up in price - but try to find a retailer of any description where that isn't true! We've had a good long run of quite low prices - it's worth bearing in mind that even with this year's banjo price increases, the instruments are still (adjusted for inflation) cheaper than they were 10 years ago!
Getting to the Banjo Works .......... and what to expect
We're sorry but it seems to be necessary to repeat - "Appointments really are necessary!" The Banjo Works is not a Retail Shop as such - it's an Industrial Unit full of banjos and bits of banjos. The major part of the business is Internet and Mail Order Sales - and we spend a great deal of our time building and setting-up banjos - or on the phone to customers .... Whilst we are happy to receive visitors, we can only deal with personal callers by prior appointment. The Banjo Works is now so busy all the time that an appointment is absolutely necessary. If you call in without phoning first, you quite likely will have had a wasted journey ..............
How to make an appointment:- by phone - call 01795 590374 between 9am - 5pm Mon - Fri (please use the phone for short-notice requirements) by e-mail via the website or directly to firstname.lastname@example.org (fine for making appointments a few days in advance) Last appointment is usually around 4pm as we close at 5pm. It is often possible to book at quite short notice - but if you need to make an appointment less than 48 hours ahead, it's best to use the phone rather than e-mail.
Finding the Banjo Works We can give you simple directions over the phone from Junction 7 of the M2 - or you can look at the map and directions on the website. There is now a Google map to look at as well! These directions seem to be working fairly well and most people are finding us pretty easily ........ though some SatNav systems seem to be a bit flaky. Some of them don't appear to recognise the roads inside Industrial Estates. As we are clearly visible from the entrance to the Estate, this doesn't seem to be too much of a problem .....
STOP PRESS : Love Lane has Road Works during April 2015 - please follow diversion signs
What to expect This place is a combination of craft workshop and factory and is often described as a sort of "Aladdin's Banjo Cave" .... there are piles & piles of bits of banjo, large numbers of "jobs in progress" and innumerable cardboard boxes of "bits" - not to mention hundreds and hundreds of banjos ... We can make visitors reasonably comfortable in one of our Stock Rooms - these aren't plush but the acoustics are good. We always talk to visitors first as we really need to have a clear idea of what's required so we can get out a selection of the appropriate instruments to be tried out. There are no display racks or showroom arrangements as such - browsing through the entire stock simply isn't practical here; there's far too much of it. The range of banjos that you can see in the picture on the Home Page was put out purely to make a nice image for that picture; they aren't normally kept like that. We can do demonstrations if required but generally leave visitors alone with a rake of banjos and a cup of tea. For many people, that's close to their ideal ............ but if you really want the "glossy showroom" & "attentive salesperson" approach, that's not us!
Grafton Clipper banjos - the best there is and now more models available
The next grade up in the "Grafton" banjo range - In addition to the "Gems","Pops" & "Pop #2's", we now offer the "Clipper".
There are a wide variety of types available in the "basic model" range. All are variations of essentially the same basic banjo rim - each one constructed and set-up specially for the particular sort of music for which it is appropriate. The "basic" specification is rather higher than the "Pops" - this is a maple banjo with a 5/8" thick rim, twin co-ordinator rods, a rolled brass tone ring and 24-bracket heavy-duty hardware. All Clippers are available as open-back, convertible resonator or resonator & flange models. The necks are (as at 8/4/15) 22-fret 5-string, 18 fret + cutaway 5-string, 19-fret tenor, 17-fret tenor and 22-fret plectrum. Other necks should be available later on this year.
It would make an excellent first instrument - but the sound and build quality are so good that this banjo will be an ideal intermediate grade banjo too ... frankly, it knocks spots off any other product in this price range ... no matter where it comes from ....
Specifications & pictures can be found on the website. If you want a run-down of how this product compares with other well-known banjos in this price range, just give me a call .... Prices are £325 for the open back version, £355 for the convertible resonator version and £385 for resonator & flange "#2" version. Please note that there is no extra charge for the open back "old-time" 5-string model with a cutaway fingerboard.
These banjos are of such quality that it is perfectly feasible to fit them with a high-quality tone ring - you'll find various versions on the website with "White Lady", "Tubaphone", "Archtop" etc tone rings. The versions with upgradetone rings are broadly "#3" types - those with an upgrade rim and bracket band as well as an upgrade tone ring are broadly "#4" types.
The design of the Clipper banjo is such that it's perfectly possible to do "retro-fit" conversions on existing standard "Clipper" models to upgrade them from "basic" specification to #2, #3 or #4 specs. The idea is pretty simple - you start with one very well-made basic Clipper banjo (which costs about the same as many other entry-level products) and then you upgrade the banjo over the years as your playng progresses. It's a very much more economical way of doing the job and buying an seeling 2 or 3 banjos to get from "entry-level" to "pro" grade .............
August 2013 - Banjo prices & value for money
A lot of people ask about pricing (is that your best price? being a common question) - we've never tried to be the cheapest supplier of anything (though it sometimes does turn out that way when due allowance is made for things that are done/included here without extra charge) but we do aim to offer the best value for money.
The standard of set-up on all the banjos that we sell is outstanding - a short film/photostory showing you what is involved is done - you've possibly already looked at it (it's 3 or 4 articles up the list above this one)
There are banjo set-ups - and then there are andybanjo set-ups! Although every instrument that leaves here is indeed played and tested before it goes out [between the various members of staff here, there are fairly competent players of every type of banjo that we sell] that is only the very last stage in an extensive setting-up process which, in many cases, involves virtually dismantling an instrument and then rebuilding it.
In some cases, it's actually faster for us to build an instrument from components than to set up an example of the same type that was built in an overseas factory. Apart from the quality of the "andybanjo set-up" [which is worth a fair bit!], it's always worth looking carefully at exactly what you're getting from a "best price" supplier when comparing the figures on pricing. Any putative saving on the price of the banjo itself can easily be wiped out if you have to pay for all the little "extras" (like getting a decent quality bridge & brand new good quality strings actually on the banjo, a couple of spare sets of strings, a capo, a couple of capo spikes, a fitted padded banjo strap and so on) - and then have to fork out for a proper set-up job as well when you discover that it isn't anything like right!
There have been occasions when customers have come to The Banjo Works to try out banjos and have spent some time picking out the precise model they require - and have then "gone away to think about it". There is no problem with that and clearly some of them go away to try to find what they think will be the same banjo at a cheaper on-line supplier. Most of them return to buy, having done the arithmetic involving extras, set-up work etc. Every now & again, we get a phone call accusing us of having "special banjos in the showroom" which are nothing like the ones sent out by mail order; such callers have usually purchased elsewhere and got an instrument that didn't measure up wonderfully well to our standards. We really don't do this at all; all the banjos here are routine stock items and they really do play & sound that much better than banjos that haven't had the benefit of the "andybanjo set-up"!
We're not suggesting that there aren't other luthiers in the UK who are capable of doing set-ups to the same standard that they are done here; but we do think that very few of them would do it for nothing.
Similarly, if there is a promotion on any particular item or range here, it's simple and 100% genuine; you'll get exactly the same goods as you would have got at the previous higher price. The promotion is always limited (it's a number of instruments rather than a time limit, usually) and the goods go back to their former price once the promotion is finished. We simply don't do the constant juggling of prices and "best price" offers that other traders do - the offers here are always worth having but they don't happen very often .............
Fedex carriage charges for UK & Republic of Ireland
The Banjo Works only delivers to addresses in the UK & the Republic of Ireland. At the moment, we cannot offer a realistic and worthwhile after-sales service and guarantee for customers outside this area. Even if customers were prepared to do without a guarantee & after-sales service, there are substantial difficulties with safe & economical delivery.
We send instruments [and other articles which are too large for Royal Mail] by Fedex.
Parcels for addresses in Delivery Zone 1 [which covers the vast majority of the UK] are delivered overnight by the NextDay service which costs £15.
Parcels for addresses in Zones 2, 4, 5 & 6 [Scottish Highlands & Islands, IOM & Ireland] take 2 to 5 days and cost £25.
Parcels to Zone 3 [Channel Islands] take 3 to 4 days and cost £40.
Fedex isn't the cheapest parcel carrying service available [there are lots of small franchised services that are considerably cheaper] but we believe that it is the best value given (a) the degree of care that they take with fragile musical instruments and (b) their excellent service in the event that a problem should arise.
Anyone who claims that their carriers never have accidents is being economical with the truth - every carrier service encounters such things every now & again. The true measure of the quality of a service can be gauged by their resonse to, and handling of, a problem.
In this respect, Fedex score top marks - our experience (both past & present) is that many other carriers score poorly. We get a significant amount of repair work from customers who have received banjos in less than pristine condition via other delivery networks. The bottom line, as usual, is that you get what you pay for - a top-class service at £15; or paying £7 or £8 for a "budget" service that may only be adequate at its best.
In terms of the cost of a banjo, a difference of £7 or £8 on the carriage charge isn't very large; compared to the cost of sorting out even minor damage to the instrument, it's irrelevant - barely the cost of a set of strings & a bridge.
For most people, the £15 option will be most appropriate - though you can come here by appointment to pick up (or choose) an instrument if you are really worried about damage in transit.
Royal Mail postage increases
Royal Mail 2013 rates came into effect on 2nd April - there was also yet another change to banding of the system.
They've now moved from a 3-tier pricing structure (First Class Letter, First Class Large Letter, First Class Packet) to a 4-tier system (First Class Letter, First Class Large Letter, First Class Small Parcel, First Class Medium Parcel).
Anything over 25mm thick once packed (a big percentage of everything we send out) will now be a "Small Parcel" - and the minimum postage band is 0 - 1kg. Even though an item may weigh only 100gm, we have to pay for 1kg. This means that the postage will increase quite a bit on lots of items.
The larger items (resonators, gig bags etc) will fall into the "Medium Parcel" category and the postage rates are now such that we may consider sending such things via the Fedex Economy Parcel system.
We've now sorted out the details but the bottom line is that the April 2013 Royal Mail increases have added a significant amount to our annual postage bill - so prices have risen to cover this. Some things have gone up a bit and others have gone up rather more (especially things in the small or medium parcel categories). We have kept the rises to a minimum but bulky items really are costing a fair bit more to post now.
We're very sorry about this but, at the moment, there seems to be no other practical way that small parts & accessories can be easily & safely delivered within the UK & Ireland.
Banjo technology & jargon
With banjos, there is a lot of engineering in the construction which inevitably involves a certain amount of technical detail.
Huge numbers of banjo players become fairly proficient technicians [at least in a maintenance sense] during the course of their playing career.
A certain amount of understanding of the basic principles on which banjos work is immensely useful, even to beginners. An appreciation of what makes a banjo sound good & last a long time really is pretty useful.
Some people might compare this knowledge to the kind of "techno-babble" that the computer industry and other related trades employ to describe their wares. If one were to work in such an industry, it might be supposed that you would need to have a technical language to describe the rapid and on-going developments that are taking place - and that outsiders would have difficulty in understanding or keeping up with it [though the younger people who work here seem to cope with it just fine ....... ]
Banjo technology isn't like that - it hasn't changed significantly for many decades; we would all be delighted if we could make banjos as good as those made by our grandfather's generation. The innovations since 1945 have been few; ready-made synthetic heads, proper double-action truss rods in the necks, rims made from other materials than laminated wood or cast metal - it's hard to think of any more.
Armed with a glossary [and I'm working on updating that to include better descriptions & pictures] and a bit of technical information, it's perfectly possible for even a new beginner to gain that appreciation of what makes "a good banjo" that will enable him/her to talk sensibly with the sales person in the Music Shop [who will probably know considerably less].
An article on this subject will be posted on the "Help Topics for Banjo Players" [on the "Advice" menu] sometime during the course of the next few weeks.
Meanwhile, beware the sales person who tells you that "you don't need to know any of that banjo-babble"; it could just be that that sales person doesn't really understand banjos at all well
Although much work has been done to the website to bring it up to date, there remains a fair bit still to do.
First priority will be the completion of the soundclip library (that's getting close!) and the updating of the glossary.
These are only two of the remaining outstanding projects; there are about half-a-dozen more waiting on the time and resources becoming available.
Whatever cosmetic changes are made, the basic premise of this website remains the same; clear, honest advice to enable you to get the product that best suits your needs.
I try to get as much information as I can onto the website but no website can ever be 100% comprehensive however much work is done to it - that's why you can always e-mail or phone for advice.
Bargain Corner - best to keep an eye on it !
For some 12 or 13 years, we've been disposing of various odds & ends via Ebay. With the latest changes to their rules and the ever-escalating costs of using their & Paypal's services, we've decided to start a new listing on our own website so that our regular customers can see (and have the opportunity to purchase) some of these items. It's early days yet but we hope that it will prove popular! Just go to "Parts & Accessories", click on option 4 (Strings, bridges & misc) then click on option 4 again. The URL is http://www.andybanjo.com/trolleyed/13/24/164/169/index.htm but you'll need to copy and paste this to your browser for the moment. At the moment, there is a selection of shop-soiled hard cases, some banjo tuner buttons and a couple or three weird things that aren't banjo-related at all. Some pretty odd things have turned up here over the years and we're now trying to re-direct some of them to more appropriate homes.
We will try to make a habit of putting a note on Facebook of any new items that are posted to "Bargain Corner" so those of you who watch that will be able to see what's available - but probably simpler to just have a browse down that page every now & again
Website catalogue & stock at the Banjo Works
The updating of the website catalogue of instruments went about as far as we could push it last year - the majority of the revised lists of products were done & went "live". We hope that you've found them useful so far. The lists have now been simplified so that you can order either a "gig bag outfit" or a "hard case outfit" with any instrument by scrolling down to the bottom of the listing and adding the required product. The listings have better quality images than the old site and more of them. Each product has several pictures and there is a "zoom-in" facility so you can get a close look at the details. As ever, the shots are of real banjos - not glossy images lifted from a manufacturer's website. This will hopefully enable us to keep up with specification changes rather better than some other sites who rely on manufacturer's hand-outs - though it should be understood that the images cannot be guaranteed to be 100% accurate. Minor changes often occur and it's not always possible to replace the set of images on the website immediately. The intention is to try to include all the "brand new" stock on the website - it's not certain whether this is actually possible but we're doing the best we can. Even if all the "brand new" stock can be included, the secondhand & vintage items are always going to be a bit problematic. Best advice is, as ever, to phone and ask if you're looking for something in particular and can't find it on the website ..... there are quite a few items on the "vintage & used" lists but the lists are far from comprehensive. Whilst it's never a bad idea to phone & check availability, we do try pretty hard to remove all "sold" items from the website (in the case of used items) or to mark "out of stock" (in the case of new items). We don't claim to be perfect in this respect but, by and large, if you can see it as "available for sale" on the website, it is ... A caller at The Banjo Works earlier this summer expressed astonishment when shown a couple of 5-string conversions on 1920's Vega Tubaphone rims. "I didn't know you did that kind of thing! There's nothing about it on your website ........." (Almost) "true enough" - the bits that talk about banjo conversions (Paragon 5-strings/plectrums to tenors, Vega tenors/plectrums to 5-strings etc ... ) are buried deep in the "advice" pages which derive directly from the old front section of the "pre-website" printed catalogue. Time to get them out and dust them off, perhaps? Meantime, a phone call to The Banjo Works will reveal what's available in that kind of line at the moment!
The Andybanjo Banjoworks Facebook page
Well, quite a lot of you seem to have already found the Andybanjo Banjoworks Facebook page (thanks for the good wishes !!) - but here's the address if you've not fallen over it yet www.facebook.com/thebanjoworks You can use this to keep up-to-date with stock, new models, promotions, our YouTube channel and other banjo-related articles The process of adding soundclips etc is continuing but we've been so busy this summer that we've not done as many of them as we would have liked. Hopefully, we can a few more done before the Xmas rush kicks in ..... (update: didn't happen but we have high hopes for the New Year) Many thanks to those of you who've already found the page and sent us "friend" requests - we're dealing with them just as fast as we can! This page gives links to some YouTube clips - for the sake of fast downloading combined with good sound quality, we decided to make them sets of still pictures (rather than vidoes) with a soundtrack beneath. None of these clips will be processed in studios or "borrowed" from other websites. All the pictures will be actual instruments available for sale and the playing will be by members of the staff here at the Banjo Works. Please don't expect any virtuoso demonstrations - the plan is to give you a good idea of what the instrument will sound like in the hands of a moderately competent player. We think this method of doing clips should be more practical & useful to buyers than studio-quality professionally engineered recordings made by world-class players.
Update: Loads of soundclips now done - they are mostly listed on Facebook as they are done but not invariably (depends on how busy we are that day) so worth a browse on the YouTube channel if you want to hear a particular instrument
The Andybanjo YouTube channel
Unsurprisingly, there's a YouTube channel too! Here's the address www.youtube.com/andybanjodotcom This has some interesting banjo-related clips and will, in due course of time, have soundclips of some (ideally, all!) of the banjos that we sell - the process is continuing and we're aiming to get a few clips done each week. The process of adding soundclips etc is continuing but we've been so busy this summer that we've not done as many of them as we would have liked. Hopefully, we can a few more done before the Xmas rush kicks in ..... (update: didn't happen but we have high hopes for the New Year) For the sake of fast downloading combined with good sound quality, we decided to make them sets of still pictures (rather than vidoes) with a soundtrack beneath. None of these clips will be processed in studios or "borrowed" from other websites. All the pictures will be actual instruments available for sale and the playing will be by members of the staff here at the Banjo Works. Please don't expect any virtuoso demonstrations - the plan is to give you a good idea of what the instrument will sound like in the hands of moderately competent player. We think this method of doing clips should be more practical & useful to buyers than studio-quality professionally engineered recordings made by world-class players.
Update: Loads of soundclips available now - if there's anything you can't find, please drop us an e-mail and we'll do our best to see to it.
Grafton "Gem", "Popular" & "Popular #2" banjos
Update: This article appears to have been prophetic when originally written late last year - most Gem & Popular products (with a few exceptions) are out-of-stock until later on this year!
Well , the popularity of these banjos is now well-demonstrated - we rebuilt the stocks as far as we could but demand has been so steady that we're not ideally placed even now. Grafton is our own "house" brand - a range of entry-level banjos with all the features you need in a decent starter instrument. The "Gem" has die-cast sealed unit guitar-style tuners and the "Populars" have planetary tuners (all with geared 5th string pegs on 5-strings). The banjos have properly dressed, smooth fingerboards & fretting, lovely low actions, 2-point neck fixing with twin-co-ordinator rods for great tuning stability, brass tone rings, 24 brackets, good quality tailpieces, nice firm armrests and attractive, easy-to-remove resonators for flexibility in playing ..... all at a sensible price for a beginner! This has been achieved by having the parts made to specification in various large factories - and assembling them here in our workshops. The "Gem" range has open-back and resonator 5-strings in both right- and left-handed format - and other models will be available later this year (the short-scale tenor is now available). "Gems" are priced at £225 for the resonator versions and £195 for the open-backs. The Grafton "Popular" range (now 8 models - standard resonator 5-string, standard open back "old-time" 5-string, lefty resonator 5-string, lefty open back "old-time" 5-string, standard resonator tenor, shortscale open back tenor, shortscale resonator tenor, resonator plectrum) is priced at £285 for the resonator models and £255 for the open backs. They are much the same price as (or only a little more expensive than) a great many other entry-level instruments which are nothing like so well built or specified ............ All 12 models are now listed in their respective sections on the website. A range of "beginner's complete outfits" featuring these very well specified banjo is also available on the website. In response to demand, we are now also making a "Popular #2" - basically a similar banjo but with a heavier rim to produce a louder and more "cutting" tone. It's available in open back 5-string format (£285) as well as resonator plectrum, resonator standard tenor and resonator shortscale tenor (all 3 models at £310). The standard versions (and outfits featuring these banjos)can be found on the appropriate sections of the website. Other versions could easily be built "to order" - just give us a call.
Banjos & banjo outfits
The website listings now include buttons (at the end of the main listings) to let you add either gig bag or hard case outfits as "additional items". This is now "live" across the whole site. These banjo outfits are not the cheapest items you'll find on the Internet - but we believe they are the best value. The instruments themselves are properly set-up (re-inforced neck to rim joints, hand-dressed fretting etc etc) and come with lots of extras thrown in (for instance, all the 5-strings now come with a free capo & fitted capo spikes) - the beginner gets everything he/she needs to get started all in the one big box .... If you feel that you'd like a different selection of items in a particular outfit, please e-mail and we can create a "custom" outfit especially for you. If you simply want a gig bag or case for your new banjo, just go to the relevant section on the website and order whichever you'd like. If you're not sure exactly which type to order, you can e-mail or phone - but we look at orders quite carefully and would always query an order for a gig bag or case that didn't match with the banjo that had been ordered.
Saga banjos - Gold Star/Saga/Rover Bluegrass 5-strings
New arrangements for building Gold Star banjos here in the UK are now in place - the GF85 is now in stock! Better than ever and certainly the best value "Mastertone-style" banjo with a bronze tone ring ! These new versions of the Gold Star banjos are built here in our workshops from imported components and are considerably better than the standard versions that you would be able to buy by mail order from the USA - and very little more expensive once you allow for the airfreight, import duty, VAT & customs clearance charge.
The picture shows the GF100 which is "sold-out" for the time being but the GF85 is available now. The UK-built versions really are superior to the "straight-out-of-the-box" examples which can be obtained from US mail order dealers.
Postage rates - overseas news + (a) instruments & (b) parts + accessories
Sorry, we don't do any deliveries to any other destinations than UK & Eire. We don't send to other EU countries, non-EU countries or BFPO. We regret having to insist on this but experience has shown that we can't guarantee our proper level of service to overseas customers. We feel it better not to promise a service that we can't be sure that we can deliver. We apologise for this - if the delivery services & systems should improve, we will, of course, review this policy. On the "plus" side, we're delighted to say that the service level of the Fedex deliveries to the Republic of Ireland has now improved to the point where we are quite happy to accept orders for banjo deliveries. Deliveries to cities (Dublin, Cork, Limerick, Galway etc) are much the same as for urban areas in Northern Ireland - about 2 to 3 days. Remote country areas will take longer, of course. Deliveries of strings, parts etc by Royal Mail/An Post seem to be fine at the moment. There is now a proper website "postage" band for "Ireland" - when you get to the "shopping cart" stage, you will be able to select "Ireland" and the system will charge you the appropriate carriage charge. Just ignore the "postcode" box when putting in your address, the system actually does know that there aren't any postcodes in the Republic of Ireland (it just pretends that it doesn't!) We're sorry that we're not able to offer a delivery service to any other other EU or non-EU destinations at the moment (A) Instruments & instrument cases Standard Fedex NextDay service costs £15 per parcel for most mainland UK addresses. For the Scottish Highlands & Islands, I-O-M and Northern Ireland only the cost is £25 per parcel. Service is overnight to many places, 3/5 day to more remote areas. (B) Parts + accessories Basic system is that all orders of £10 or over are post free within the UK. Small orders under £10, add £3 P&P/Handling. (as from 30/4/12 - the increase is larger than we would like but reflects Royal Mail changes in First Class Packet Post - this service has been subject to the highest effective increase this time round) Almost all "parts & accessories" orders are sent by Royal Mail First Class Post - but please note that bulky items (like hardshell cases) are too large for the free postal service and have to go via the chargeable (£15/£25) Fedex service. Royal Mail altered the way ordinary post is charged 2 years ago and is changing the prices and banding again in April 2013. Most banjo parts travel at the higher "Large Letter/Small Parcel/Medium Parcel" rates. These are substantially higher than the cost of a first-class letter. If you are sending a part to us for matching or returning an item that didn't suit you, please make sure that you pay the appropriate postage - there are very few banjo items which will go by ordinary first-class letter post! Over all, we believe that our "Parts & Accessories" prices offer pretty good value for money if you take account of the P&P charges that other suppliers add to the price of your order. The "Banjo Parts & Accessories" list is up & running and you can browse through it to find a great many (though, admittedly, not all) of the items that we stock.. Strings, parts etc can be posted to the UK & Republic of Ireland but other EU destinations are more problematic. For the time being, we regret that the rule has to be UK/Eire only.
Repair, restoration & appraisal services
Service, repair & restoration work is running a bit behind at the moment owing to the Festival season. Inevitably, some jobs take longer than anticipated but we hope not to disappoint anyone this year. We are happy to do estimates for all kinds of banjo work but, in most cases, we do need to have the instrument available for physical examination to be able to give anything like a sensible idea of cost. An e-mail (even with pictures) is not sufficient for us to work out exactly what needs to be done - there are so many things that you can't work out properly from a written description or a photo. Turn-round times on major restorations of antique banjos are faster than they were but usually take "months rather than weeks". Straightforward jobs we can handle very efficiently but complex vintage restorations are another matter and cannot be rushed. In order to avoid any misunderstandings, all such antique restoration work is undertaken only on the basis that estimated completion dates cannot be absolutely guaranteed. With such jobs, there is no point in making e-mail or phone enquiries "to see how we are getting on". Most such banjos will have been out of use for many decades so that a few weeks either way make little difference. If there is a specific deadline for a particular job (perhaps a presentation on a significant birthday or similar), we have to know about this before we undertake the job - and, even then, things are such that a date cannot be 100% guaranteed. Jobs can (and do) take longer than anticipated if unforeseen snags arise. Routine overhaul and repair services (new heads, new tuners, refrets, set-ups etc) on modern instruments can be carried out quite quickly - but not necessarily on a "while you wait" basis. We can still do some set-up and repair work on a "same-day" basis but it can be difficult to combine this with an appointment to look at banjos unless this is arranged in advance (i.e. one person to look after the set-up job and someone else to look after the banjos - it's not really practical or satisfactory for one person to try to do both things at once ...... :-) Appraisals & valuations are a bit simpler (in theory) but we can't give advice on the value of an instrument being offered for sale by someone else without the express agreement of the seller. A quick "once-over" and broad opinion is often free of charge if you can bring the instrument to the Banjo Works by prior appointment. If there is more time involved (more detailed examination or unpacking/re-packing the instrument, for example), we do have to make a charge to cover this.
Vintage banjos - 5-strings, tenors & plectrums
There seems to be a widespread impression that we "don't do" vintage banjos. Whilst it is true that the bulk of the stock consists of brand new or modern secondhand items, that still leaves space for a few (dozen) vintage pieces ....... some of which will be found illustrated on the 2 "vintage" banjo pages in the on-line shop. We are trying to post up used & vintage banjos on the appropriate section of the website but that section is never likely to be as comprehensive as the rest of the site. We're quite good at removing the items that are sold but not nearly so prompt at posting up the newly refurbished/restored stuff. So much of it sells before we get time to write up a listing ....... Apart from seriously "collectible" items, all our banjos will have been completely sorted out and tastefully modernised i.e. re-fretted, new top/5th string nuts, new heads, reproduction vintage style planetary tuners & geared 5th pegs etc etc - so that they tune up & play much the same as modern banjos. In addition to these "original" items, we also have "rescue" banjos. These are made up from lovely old rims whose original necks have gone past the point of economic restoration fitted with good quality modern reproduction necks. In some ways, these banjos offer real advantages - the modern truss-rodded necks will stand much heavier stringing than you would ever dare to put on a vintage neck ..... and it is quite rewarding to get old banjos "back on the road" so that their voices are not forever silenced ..... Prices for these "rescue" banjos tend to be a little cheaper than the equivalent banjo with an original neck in first class playing order - in many cases, you are actually only paying for the re-neck job, the rim itself being effectively free ..... Give us a call for a resume of what's in stock at the moment - most customers for vintage banjos come to the Banjo Works to play through the stock but if you're clear about exactly what you want, it is perfectly possible (& quite easy) to buy by mail order. Even though buying an old instrument without playing it first isn't the ideal way to do it, many people live in areas where that simply isn't possible - and relying on getting an instrument from a stall at a festival isn't to be whole-heartedly recommended (how many of us have regretted an impulse purchase made in the heat/enthusiasm of a great day out?).
Buying a vintage banjo from us isn't anything like as chancy as a bid on an untried instrument on an internet auction site .... all the banjos are professionally refurbished & guaranteed and you can return anything that doesn't suit you for exchange or refund without question. Our banjos are already sorted out (no searching the internet trying to find rare vintage spare parts ...) and are often little more expensive than the so-called "bargains" on auction sites ....