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Tahitian banjo

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18 replies to this topic

#1 Jumping Flea

Posted 10 December 2009 - 06:27 PM

Has anyone ever heard of a Tahitian banjo or sometimes called Tahitian ukulele.

I made a plan from one a friend has. The whole thing is a solid piece of wood. It has 8 string that are 30 lb test fishing line. The body has a cone carved out in front and the sound hole is in the back. A thin wood plate goes over the hole in front that the bridge sits on making it technically a banjo. From what I read about them they're a fairly new instrument only being made in Tahiti and the Cook islands.

This is my WIP

Here's a pic of one I got off the internet.

I was asked to make one for a friend that puts on Polynesian dance shows. There might be a demand for these since they are rare here in the mainland.

I don't know much about these so if anyone has seen or built these i'm all ears. I'm still wondering how to tune it after I get tuners.

#2 Nelson Guitars

Posted 10 December 2009 - 08:24 PM

Well I think we have solved the question as to where the inspiration came from for the Gibson flying V!

I know nothing about these instruments but they sure look interesting.

Greg N

#3 Jumping Flea

Posted 15 December 2009 - 08:41 PM

It's sounds like a cross between a banjo and the brushes on a snare drum. I was questioning the fishing line for strings, but it don't sound that bad.

The hard part was slotting the frets. Since it is a one piece instrument, getting them square to the centerline was a task. I tried to slot it on the table saw before I cut out the shape while the board was square but it didn't work out. The piece of wood was too big and any movement beside straight forward would give me a wider than desired slot.

Waiting for tuners now

#4 Mark Schrier

Posted 16 December 2009 - 08:51 AM


That is interesting. What is the scale length on it?

Hope you post more of your progress on this one.



#5 Jumping Flea

Posted 17 December 2009 - 06:32 PM

The scale length is 15.75". I don't know why it's that. That was the scale on the one I made the plan from. I'll post more when I get tuners. I have to buy two sets since its eight string, so it's kind of costly.

#6 huakani

Posted 31 December 2009 - 11:56 AM

QUOTE (Jumping Flea @ Dec 17 2009, 04:32 PM) <{POST_SNAPBACK}>
The scale length is 15.75". I don't know why it's that. That was the scale on the one I made the plan from. I'll post more when I get tuners. I have to buy two sets since its eight string, so it's kind of costly.

I love the sound of these instruments!! I plan on building one as well, when I find the right piece of wood. What wood did you use for the body/top?
How did you end up cutting fret slots? I'll have the same issue when I get to that point. Would love to see video of completed instrument being played.

I did repair on one of these cats and I tune it to regular ukulele. gg-cc-ee-aa. Not sure if true Tahitian tuning is any different.




...watch your tone, eh...

#7 Jumping Flea

Posted 04 January 2010 - 02:41 PM

I used mahogany for the body/neck. It's all one piece. The slots I did by hand after I cut the shape out. I tried to cut them on the table saw while the board was square, but it wasn't working out too well. I plan on picking up the fishing line today. I had a hard time finding bright green in 30 lb test. Will post the finished banjo later on today or tomorrow.

#8 Jumping Flea

Posted 08 January 2010 - 05:02 PM

I finally got it done. Here's the finished product.

Posted Image

I used flame green 30lb test tri-line.
Gotoh machine heads, MOP dots, nut and bridge I cut out of a bone I got in a hunting friend's bone pile. Body is all mahogany with a walnut plate.

I dont have a sound sample as I tuned it for right handed (I'm left). The person I'm going to show it to might be able to make one for me.

I might use open gear tuners on the next one. These I have now make the peg head a little heavy.

#9 ThePublic

Posted 08 January 2010 - 09:47 PM

Woo HOoo Looks Cool!!! Congrads!!

#10 Nelson Guitars

Posted 09 January 2010 - 07:57 AM

Very interesting looking ukeanjo. Or is that banjelele? ^_^

I am curious as to how you arrived at 30# test and what does that do for or against the tone and playability across the strings? My basic instinct says if the tension on the treble string is optimal then the bass string would be very loose and floppy by comparison.

Greg N

#11 Jumping Flea

Posted 09 January 2010 - 07:42 PM

Greg, there is no bass side to this. It's all treble. Almost reminds you of someone playing the washboard.

From what I've read about them I've seen it say 10lb - 30lb and 30lb - 50lb. What ever it was all the strings were the same test line. I notice as I tuned it, the 1st (A) and 2nd (E)set of strings were "over" an octive higher. As I got tension on the strings I was already past the key the string was suppose to be in. Then tuning it up to the next octive higher.
I'm sure it's from the line being the same size in every position and having to stretch it far enough to tune with tension. I tuned it to standard ukulele, GG CC EE AA.

I don't know why they do this. You would think someone would use different # test to achieve a specific note. I wanted to to keep it traditional right down to the hand rubbed finish.

All pau bruddah.

#12 huakani

Posted 23 January 2010 - 01:07 PM

AWESOME!! Congratulations on completing the build. Looks perfect! Can't wait to hear the sound byte.


...watch your tone, eh...

#13 penndan

Posted 24 March 2011 - 05:06 AM

Similar idea to a wood top banjo. I made one from half a dozen years ago plans in a woodworking magazine. Sounds like a dulcimer. Very quiet for playing at night while everyone else is asleep.

Posted Image

#14 Jim

Posted 24 March 2011 - 07:19 AM


Interesting. Can you give us some more details? What material did you use for the top?


#15 penndan

Posted 24 March 2011 - 09:07 AM

I used some cedar guitar top wood that I had left over from some guitar building a bunch of years ago.
I got the idea and plans from this magazine that I don't have any more.
Posted Image
This might have been what got me into making block banjo rims.

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