Q & A's
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Questions & Answers about Calf Skin Banjo Heads

www.banjoseen.com "Store"

White, Off White Calf Skins and Solid brass mounting hoops.

Have more questions? I will do my best to answer them. Here

1. Why is Calf Skin used for banjos? Answer: High quality Calf Skin has been shown in the heyday of banjos to be very strong, smooth, and can be stretched very tight before it will tear.

2. How well do other types of Skin work? Answer: Goat skin will work OK for banjos, but they are not as strong as Calf Skin. Other types of skin are not used because they are either to thick or do not function very well when stretched.

3. How thick should the Calf skin be? Answer: The best thickness of Calf skin is THIN. Most all banjos in the heyday of banjos, before the invention of the plastic banjo head, used thin Calf Skins. This was/is the case because a fine, thin, Calf skin will stretch and give brighter highs and still give a very good mid-range and low range. A thicker skin will not sound as bright. Also, if a less bright sound is required, just loosen the head some and use a higher bridge.

4. Why does the surface of the Calf skin matter? Answer: Smooth surfaced Calf skins are processed better and are of higher quality then rough surfaced Calf skins. Generally, a smooth skin will have less defects because more care is used when processing the hide.

5. How do I determine a Calf skin has no defects? Answer: Before I ship any Calf skin I will hold the skins up to a light bulb and look for any holes, cuts, or thin spots that I feel will not stretch well. I do not just pick a Calf skin from the pile and ship it! I do not expect my customers to factor any percentage of waste when ordering my Calf skins.

6. Why use White or Off White, why not amber, translucent skins? Answer: White or Off White Calf skins are processed differently. White and Off White costs more to process then Amber translucent skins. White and Off white will be of higher quality.

7. Is it difficult to install a Calf skin on my banjo? Answer: No! You just need a mounting hoop, sharp knife, and table to work on. I have a do-it-yourself "How to install a Calf Skin" guide on my store page.

8. Most people ask: How high should I keep the Tension hoop, when installing a Calf skin. Answer: I Generally keep the Tension hoop high when the skin is wet and just stretched enough so that there is no sagging and the over-all skin is taught. When the skin is dry, it will stretch enough so that the strings will clear the Tension hoop near the Fret Board.

9. How tight should I stretch the Calf skin: Answer: You should stretch the "DRY" Calf skin head just as you would a Plastic head. The Calf skin will also tear (rip) if tightened to far

10. How does the humidity affect my banjos Calf skin head? Answer: Higher humidity will cause the Calf skin to loosen and lower humidity will cause the Calf skin to tighten.If you tighten the head because of higher humidity, then you MUST loosen the head before taking the banjo into lower humidity areas--such as air conditioned or heated buildings, or if you expect the humidity to lower generally. A Calf skin that has been taken care of, will last a long time as seen by the many old J. Rogers brand Calf skins still around.

Also, By spraying a clear leather waterproofing spray on the dry head, when removed from the banjo, will help lessen the amount of effect caused by humidity changes. Just spray the head inside and out taking care not to soak the skin around the flesh hoop so much that it starts to come off of it. Leather waterproofing spray can be found at most Shoe and Leather garment stores.


11. Why would I want to use a Calf skin banjo head when I already have a Plastic (any synthetic material) banjo head? Answer: If you're happy with the sound then don't change! If you want the best sound your banjo has to offer, then try a Calf skin banjo head. You just might be very surprised! Please remember, all of the major research and development for the best banjo sound was all done with Calf skin banjo heads! Yes it's true. All of the major brand banjo makers back in the heyday of the banjo ( pre WWII ), were all designed with the Calf skin banjo heads in mind. You can't get that "Vintage" sound with a plastic banjo head.

12. Why did natural Calf skin banjo heads fall away from popularity? Answer: Virtually all drum kit heads and banjo heads in the past were Calf skin. Do to the higher and higher cost of processing Calf skins, a new (at that time) material was needed to give the Drum kit and the banjo players a less expensive head to use. Along with this came the advantage of less sensitivity to humidity changes. That meant most Drum kit and banjo players thought this was a great advancement. It was. Along with this great advancement came the loss of the complete banjo sound.

13. Why did the cost of processing Calf skins keep going up when there are plenty of cattle being raised for food and the hides used for other items? Answer: Processing the Calf skins for Drum kits and Banjos requires a process that is a health risk while the skins are raw. Also just the time and materials required to completely process the skins are another cost factor. As the new plastic heads became popular the demand for quality Calf skins declined until it was no longer a profitable business.

14. Are your Calf skins a health risk? Answer: No. My Calf skins are completely and fully processed and offer no health risk.