Luke Mercier Flushfret Banjo #43

(Fairbanks #243)

© Luke Mercier photographs LM


A very special feature of this banjo as its maker is the unique hardware assembly. It is my own adaptation from images of an early American banjo ca. 1860's (maker unknown). Awe-struck from first glance I felt compelled to recreate it. Each bracket or shoe which secures the hook (cast in bronze) engages the edge of the rim and is fastened with a brass threaded bolt, secured by a square nut and washer. The hooks are brass with a square face and are slotted for the thickness of the brass tension band. This prevents the hooks from movement upon tightening or loosening. The pyramid shaped nuts are also individually handmade from brass and can be adjusted using a 1/4" square drive. Although the maker of the early banjo from which these bronze shoes are derived is unknown, the invention of this method of engagement with the edge of the rim can be attributed to Robert McManus of Brooklyn, New York with accordance to Patent No. 215,647, dated May 20, 1879 which is contemporary to the early Fairbanks from which the peghead and neck is inspired.


Click the thumbnails below to view larger images.

The overall length of this banjo is 36"

The varnish is a high grade violin spirit varnish.

This peghead is inspired by what is considered to be the earliest known banjo by A.C. Fairbanks ser. #243 which may be viewed at -An Homage to- Fairbanks Banjos thanks to Hank Schwartz.

The body is 12" across and 2 3/8" deep.
It is made from a single ply of maple.

The dowel runs through the rim as seen on early W. E. Boucher, J. B. Schall and S. S. Stewart instruments.

Neck Material: A particularly stunning piece of curly American Black Walnut. The String length is 25 5/8"

The bronze shoes are fastened with a fixed brass bolt, secured by a brass washer and square nut.

The tension band is 1/16"thick brass and is joined by two threaded and hammered rivets

This hand carved bone tailpiece I made specifically for this instrument and is secured by a thick tailgut.

The flushfrets are made from ivory. Frets 1-5, 7, 9 and 12 are represented.

mp3 Audio sample -Luke plays Lost Indian


From the day that I got it I've had trouble putting down Luke's banjo.
Strung with gut strings and tuned low it's like an extension of my
musical self. I love the feel and sound of the banjo, the lightness and
ease of playing. I love the attention to detail; the wonderful cast
brackets, the peghead and heel cuts, even the rounding of the ends of
the hooks. It's my daily fretless player and I'm glad of it!

~Hank Schwartz

Info: email Luke Mercier

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