an exceptional instrument
Welcome to Bad River
Authentic banjos of character & distinction, crafted by hand in the old-time tradition.
Every Bad River Banjo is built one-at-a-time at a deliberate pace. It’s a process that’s slower than most, with exacting standards and a dedication to craftsmanship and playability.
A timeless aesthetic is applied to each Bad River Banjo — in the spirit of handmade instruments of the past — with a shared appreciation for line, contour and character.
Bad River Banjos are slow crafted in the old-time tradition, using historical methods and hand tools from the late 19th and early 20th century.
What Owners Say
"From beginning to end, Paul made the whole experience a professional, personal and pleasurable journey."
What Owners Say
"I love the sound, playability, and aesthetics of the banjo. It's flat-out beautiful."
What Owners Say
"Aside from being crafted masterfully, this banjo sings the exact way I imagined. Paul was an absolute joy to work with, and knocked this custom build out of the park."
About the maker
Artist, Designer, Storyteller, Banjoneer
My passion for banjos began the moment I plucked my first string.
I had the privilege of learning to play authentic old time music by ear from a fiddle player who specialized in regional styles from the Carolinas and Kentucky.
At the beginning of each lesson, he would play a tune on his fiddle and ask me to create a complementary arrangement on the banjo. It was challenging at first. But it taught me to think and play like he did — and like so many before him.
I apply this respect for tradition and historic nuance to every banjo I make. No two banjos are alike. They each have their own character and story. But they all share a common affinity for craftsmanship, playability and attention to detail.
My goal in life is to create things that endure. That goes for the music I play, the banjos I make and the relationships I build.
All new Bad River Banjos are made with responsibly harvested North American hardwoods (walnut, maple and cherry). Nothing exotic, and nothing imported. Fingerboards and trim materials are shaped from Richlite, a sustainable man-made alternative to ebony. Richlite is certified by the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC). As a material, it is harder and more stable than ebony, and is increasingly used by world-class guitar makers.
What makes it a Bad River banjo?
I set out to build a banjo brand that could marry traditional style with modern sensibilities.
Bad River banjos honor the simple, clean aesthetics of old-time folk instruments, while incorporating comfort and playability for today’s musicians. They represent the best of both old and new.
Every Bad River banjo is unique, with its own particular personality and voice. But they all share a common set of features to capture that quintessential old-time banjo sound.
How long does it take to build a Bad River banjo?
In most cases, it takes 3-4 months to finish one of my banjos. I am also an artist, teacher and professional designer — which takes some time away from working in the shop. But these other pursuits allow me to bring fresh inspiration and perspective to the banjos I create.
What can I expect with my Bad River banjo?
Every banjo comes with a premium hard case, a custom Bad River shop rag (installed behind the head, to enhance tone), and a formal certificate of ownership. In some cases, an additional nut and bridge are included — for ease when switching between steel and Nylgut strings.
How do I go about getting one of my own?
I no longer do commissioned custom banjos for specific clients. Instead, each new banjo is a “builder’s choice” instrument — made to the finest specifications, with unique embellishments and features. As I finish each new banjo, I make it available for purchase on this site.