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Kit Review: The Riverboat Banjo from Musicmaker’s Kits

Kit Review: The Riverboat Banjo from Musicmaker's Kits

Reviewed by John Calkin

Originally published in American Lutherie #62, 2000 and Big Red Book of American Lutherie Volume Six, 2013

The Riverboat Banjo
from Musicmaker’s Kits

Kit-built instruments have garnered an unfair reputation for poor quality, as though the mere gathering of components into a kit was a guarantee of mediocrity. Bad kits do exist, and the fact that most kits are generally assembled by unskilled hands certainly doesn’t let them put their best face forward. Yet many in the trade got their first taste of lutherie from a kit, myself included. There are many whose level of skill is so untested that beginning lutherie with a kit makes good sense. Others haven’t the tools necessary to begin an instrument project from scratch. And believe it or not, some very talented luthiers are happy to avoid the expense and bother of collecting and housing a bevy of stationary tools, and find that jobbing out some of the rough labor to a kit maker makes good sense without adulterating the satisfaction they find in the finished work.

Of course, a kit can be anything from a stack of rough lumber to an instrument in the white that requires nothing more than sanding and finishing. At American Lutherie we’ve decided that kits have enough merit to warrant some investigation, and the only way to do it is to build some instruments. Life could be a lot worse for a journalist.

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