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At Bell Banjos in Michigan, we make 1800's style minstrel banjos in a variety of styles including the popular
Boucher model. We also have easy to finish banjo kits. Have fun looking around our site - at the links
and tambourines too. Our goal is to make top quality instruments at the best price. People all around the
world are playing Bell Banjos, and we've also sent them to museums and schools. Both professional and
amateur players enjoy the old time sound and easy playing setup we always strive for. Civil War reenactors
love these instruments because every detail is "period correct." No plastic, no laminated wood, no modern
anything. These banjos are lightweight, loud, and deep sounding. Mountain music takes on a new dimension
and the 1800's minstrel music comes alive on a Bell Banjo. Call or write anytime. We love to talk banjos !!

Except for the painted "relic" banjo,
all the banjos on this site were colored
with luthier dye, not stain. Dye is better
for many reasons. The grain and 'stripes' in
the curly maple become more visible. Dye is
superior at coloring hardwood, unlike stain,
it is consistently even and is never blotchy.
The color possibilities are endless. In addition
to the colors you see here, we've had requests
for 'wine' and 'warm gray.' The traditional old
time finish that is applied over the dye is hand
rubbed to a super smooth low luster. Players love
this non-gloss non-sticky feel. The super smooth
surface is produced by rubbing it, not with steel
wool, but with crushed limestone powder and oil,
again, the old fashioned way. You may have seen
this on antique furniture, it's simply beautiful.
The minstrel banjos of the 1800's came in
a variety of colors, even 'natural.' I'm sure
you already have a favorite. Many players have
even requested the neck and rim to be two different
colors. Here are some suggestions for choosing
the color of your banjo.
GOLD is an attention getter for sure. Yet I don't
think it looks 'right' on a Brawley or Stichter.
LIGHT BROWN looks great on all the banjos and is
the preferred color for Stichters.
MEDIUM BROWN is the most requested color for the
Boucher but Bouchers seem to look great in any color.
DARK BROWN looks great on the Sweeney. I've only made
two Sweeneys that weren't dark brown. The eye popping
MAHOGANY and BURNT SIENNA look especially pretty on
curly maple Bouchers and Sweeneys. What else can I
say? Heck, they're all pretty. The choice is yours.

Choose plain or curly maple for your neck. My neck wood is the best. The plain maple comes from Michigan's
Upper Penninsula where the trees grow straight and strong. The curly maple comes from Pennsylvania, the
world's "Curly capital." The rims are always Oak or Ash, chosen because of their super strength and hardness.

Old style music on the five string banjo can be played in a variety of tunings. Each tuning has its distinct character
and in most cases, the particular tuning is what makes minstrel banjo playing easy. Even non banjo players quickly
recognize the difference in the "flavor" of tunes such as Old Joe Clark and Old Susanna. For many players, one type
of tuning is enough. For other players, shifting between "Minstrel" tuning and "Sawmill" tuning is a must if playing
a broader repetoire of "Early" music. Folk, Mountain, Blues, or Minstrel style, this video shows how easy it is.

I never paid big money for an instrument and you shouldn't have to either. Although many Bell Banjo players have told
me Bell Banjos are the best, it is my number one job to keep the price down and the quality up. I've searched for the best
materials to use, thus, some mighty fine players LOVE the big, full sound of my banjos. When you open your box, I want you
to gasp at the beautiful color and hand rubbed finish. I want you to holler and tell the neighbors how great your banjo
sounds. And I already know you'll love the setup and ease of playing. Best of all, I'm pretty sure you won't be able to put
it down for a week! I've discovered about ten of William Boucher's secrets when it comes to construction relating to tone.
I can tell you that some of the "Old ways" are still the best ways, and the only way to get that old minstrel sound is to
build it right. An interesting thing they used to do was put "Scribed frets" on the neck. If you believe you'll never get the
hang of "fretless," then consider one of these. To save you money, there's no charge for this. And if you're a reenactor and want
a period style banjo case, consider mine. And if you want a banjo and case together, knock $100 off. To save you more money,
if you live east of the Mississippi, shipping is FREE. To be fair to the "Westerners," I'll subtract $20 from your shipping cost.
If you need a bridge, a drawstring bag, parts, including the rim too, give me call. I also am now making little short scale banjos,
I'm simply amazed how a 10 and a half inch rim can sound so good !!

Attention to detail in the shop. Your banjo will feel like an old friend because of the handmade characteristics put into each banjo and banjo kit.
There is no "factory made" stiffness in a Bell Banjo. These are easy playing, great sounding banjos due to a painstaking process. Here's a peek at
neck and rim making done the right way with the best materials. No corners are cut when it comes to both construction and finish.

I've always been fascinated with banjos. I grew up in a musical family with lots of instruments
but the banjo was always my favorite. I spent hours and hours drawing banjos and trains when I
was little. In college I majored in art and design. I began building instruments in my 20's. I
also had a commercial art business for 25 years. In 2005 I decided to put all my energy into the
making of minstrel banjos. Michigan violin maker Rudolph Gotschall was an inspiration and good
teacher to me. I learned most of my luthier skills from him. The best part about this endeavor
has been meeting all the banjo players and knowing how much they like my banjos.

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