Old-time banjos were simple and straightforward when it came to wood. For the most part, there were just four species from which almost all of them were made – Maple, Cherry, Walnut and Mahogany. They all have their own aesthetic. And they all have their own sound.
Maple has always been hailed as the clearest and brightest of the bunch, producing a bell-like tone with quick response. Cherry has a density and reflectivity approaching that of Maple, but with a midrange that is more rich and complex. Walnut falls somewhere between the extremes of Maple (bright) and Mahogany (warm), with a sound that is earthier and darker than Cherry. And Mahogany rounds out the group, producing the warmest tone paired with a slower, gentler response.
Each of these tonewoods has its own distinct personality. Banjos made from these woods – and the music they play – tend to adopt these same traits.
But what if we were to borrow the best quality of one of these woods and add it to another? What if we crafted a banjo rim that enjoyed the responsiveness of Maple, for example, with the added warmth, character and finish of another wood?
That’s the theory behind every Bad River banjo rim. Each is built from the inside out in three sections. The inner and outer walls each consist of a 1/8″ steam-bent ply of premium tonewood, with a 1/4″ ply of rock hard Maple in between. Capped at the bottom edge with matched or contrasted wood, the resulting rim carries the finish and tonal character of a classic banjo tonewood (Cherry, Walnut, Mahogany) with the added density and response of Maple at the core.