The American Made Banjo Co. will unveil their new lightweight banjo tone ring today at the SPBGMA convention in Nashville.
The Aluminum Dannick tone ring came into being after American Made owner Tom Mirisola’s search for a lighter banjo with a full flathead tone ring. He studied a number of alloys that could be cast and machined for use in his banjos.
“I stopped at the metal titanium, and felt I was at the end of the road. Titanium had the sound potential but the casting process was not cost effective for a tone ring. So, that idea was scratched fast. While searching for other aluminum alloys, I found another metal called ticalium (Pat-Pend). This is a mixture of aluminum, titanium and carbon. The hardness of this alloy could be adjusted based on the formula.”
Tom said that ticalium rang like a bell, but since their patent was pending, he knew he would not be able to use the alloy. He finally settled on a high-strength aluminum alloy developed by NASA which was also very hard with a bell-like tone. They poured a few aluminum tone rings and cut them to match the original Dannick tone ring.
“Our first test was when Robin Smith installed one in a maple banjo. It had great volume, but the tone was a little bright for our taste. Robin then suggested he install the aluminum ring in a mahogany rim to soften the sound a little. This became the necessary wood/metal combination. As an all mahogany banjo with the aluminum tone ring, the tone, volume and sustain was perfect to our ears.
One day Scott Vestal who markets his signature Stealth Banjo, was at Robin’s shop. He picked on the aluminum prototype banjo, and said, ‘That’s the sound I’ve been looking for.’ Scott then directed Robin to build a couple of fancy Stealths with elaborate binding and quilted mahogany resonators. These Stealth banjos with a Dannick Aluminum tone ring will be on display in the McGavick Room at SPBGMA 2008.”
The Dannick aluminum tone rings are cut to the same dimensions as American Made’s Dannick tone ring, and offer a full size 20 hole ring that weighs in at only 18 ounces. They are unplated, buffed to a bright finish to match the metal parts in a nickel banjo and sell for $435.