The Rim and Tone Systems

The Arthur Smith banjo rim is 5/8 inch thick and laminated from New England sugar (rock) maple. Each is fitted with a heavy brass tension hoop, old-style shoes, hooks and nuts and tension tailpiece, and a Weather King plastic head. All hardware is nickel-plated.

The Northampton rim is set up with a ¼ inch round brass tone ring mounted in a specially routed groove in the top of the rim. The upper inside edge is beveled to allow for maximum resonance inside the sound chamber. On the bottom of the rim is a four-piece book-matched rim cap which is bound on the outside with a strip of rosewood and fancy marquetry and on the inside with a strip of rosewood. The wood of the inner and outer laminations forming the walls of the rim matches the wood of the neck. The tapered dowel connecting the neck to the rim is also of the same wood and the neck. So a banjo with a cherry neck would have a cherry dowel and rim wood, and a maple would have maple, though the rim core is maple in either case. This consistency in wood is found in all Arthur Smith banjos.

The Maple Leaf and Shelburne tone system consist of three separate pieces: a hand-spun bell brass nickel-plated outer shell and two solid brass inner pieces, one ¼ inch round, the other a 1/8 by 3/8 inch rectangle. The two inner pieces serve as seating rings, precision fit to the maple laminated rim to support the bell-like spun part. The three pieces work together in such a way as to produce a full-bodied sound that has power and clarity when played in a group or band with fiddle, mandolin, or guitar but is equally sweet and full when played as a solo instrument.

We offer this system with either a four-piece book-matched rim cap as in the Northampton, or with a Bacon-style F.F. internal resonator. The resonator is made of a double-laminated wood inner ring and a wood back plate with five cut-outs in the design of maple tree spinner seeds. The tone system and resonator work together, partially confining a volume of air directly under the head, producing overtones and harmonics much like a bell in a tower. The choice of the combination reflects not only our great admiration of the Bacon banjo but presents our customers and friends with a unique and exceptional structure and sound. Arthur Smith is the only instrument company in existence today making an internal resonator banjo.


All models are finished with a minimum of six coats of high quality lacquer. The finish is hand-sanded between coats, then hand-rubbed to a brilliant sheen. A non-gloss finish is available upon request.