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Brand New Line Of Dulcimers: Banjo Hybrid LAP-JOs

March 25, 2016

Since the last newsletter I've done, our biggest new thing is the LAP-JO. A LAP-JO is a dulcimer/banjo hybrid that plays exactly like a dulcimer, but sounds exactly like a banjo. It has a full 11" banjo head, mahogany body and rim, and a poplar tone ring (made out of a very soft wood to keep the volume from being overpowering).

My big push for the next couple of weeks is to make a big batch of these instruments. So far this year we've had them for sale at three different festivals, and we've sold out at all of them. Plus, our introductory pricing for these instruments is ending in a few days, so I'm expecting to need a lot of the LAP-JOs very soon. There is just something about the sound that really makes folks smile.

lapjo building jig

In the front left you can see my jig for drilling holes for wall lugs, next to that are some blanks that will be cut into heads, the two hollowed out pieces will be necks (they are hollow to make the instrument lighter), then on the right you have the start of some rims. On the back cart, the pile of light colored wood will be tone rings. The neck of the LAP-JO is tapered and hollow to make it as light as possible. This doesn't affect the sound, but it makes carrying the instrument a lot easier. To make the rims (the big round circle with all the hardware attached), we start with a solid piece of mahogany and remove all of the material we don't want. It makes for very solid construction - and it looks good too!

lapjo hardware

There is a lot of hardware needed to make a LAP-JO. Several different kinds and sizes of screws and washers, the wall lugs, J hooks, tension hoops, heads... it all adds up, but you do end up with a beautiful instrument. When Richard was sourcing the hardware, he was careful to use American manufacturers as much as possible - I know he mentioned getting screws and washers from a variety of American plants.

spraying lacquer

Here you see Richard spraying lacquer on a LAP-JO.

Steve Ash