Jaroslav Prucha, who builds professional grade bluegrass instruments in the Czech Republic, has introduced a new version of his Jason Burleson signature Spirit model banjo with a number of component changes to make the instrument more lightweight.
The strikingly attractive gold-plated banjo uses a top tension apparatus to hold the head in place, but the tension hoop on this banjo is made from pot metal instead of brass, offering a reduction in weight. But the biggest change in overall mass comes from installing a hoop-style tone ring in the pot instead of a standard Mastertone ring. These hoops are made from metal rolled into a circular diameter, much like what was used in Gibson’s style 1 and 2 instruments before WWII. These banjos lack a bit of the volume and projection of the Mastertone clones, but retain a sweet tone that has led to an increase in their popularity because they weight about 2 pounds less.
The appointments on the Burleson Spirit LightWeight otherwise are the same as the standard model. It is constructed with a straight grain maple neck and flamed maple resonator, gold plated and engraved with a modified JB pattern. The special Burleson pattern is inlaid in the neck, which has an extended 24 fret scale using stainless steel frets. Prucha uses abalone inlays and multi-part binding on the headstock, neck, and resonator. Finish is removed from the back of the neck for ease of playing, and the strings are attached with a Kershner tailpiece.
Jaroslav shared a number of photos of the first one he has completed, which is on its way across the ocean to Jason now. If you catch Blue Highway in concert sometime soon, be sure to ask him about it.