On which day did British banjo manufacturing begin again, after a break of more than 60 years?

Posted by on February 12, 2014 in Featured, History, News | Comments Off

On which day did British banjo manufacturing begin again, after a break of more than 60 years?

Was it the day in 2012 when we first decided to build our own banjos, beginning with the limited edition Islander Ash Leaf?

Or was it the day in March 2013 when we returned from Musikmesse in Frankfurt with a vision of properly manufacturing a British banjo and a plan to call ourselves The Great British Banjo Company?

Or was it the day a few weeks later when we decided to call our first production instrument The Shackleton? Or when we launched our Kickstarter campaign in August last year? Or the night of October 1st when we bust right through our Kickstarter target?

Or the day we hired our first full time banjoneer? Or the day we got the 3D drawings completed? Or the day we built the first (rather clunky looking but nevertheless sweet-sounding prototype)?

There have been a hundred other days along the way which could lay claim to the title “Day of the rebirth of the British banjo industry”.

But I’m going to say that it’s today, the 12th, a (very) wet Wednesday in February, that deserves the honour. Because today we visited (for the umpteenth time) the Norfolk engineering shop that is cutting out our Shackleton necks.

It’s an extraordinary process to witness a vision becoming a tangible reality. We designed an instrument, and refined it and refined it again. We briefed and worked closely with the amazingly skilful CAD specialists at PES Performance Engineering in Sheffield to produce drawings of the neck.

Then we worked closely with Howarth Engineering in Norfolk to refine the CAD model and program. With fantastic skill and patience the Howarth engineers set up their cutting tools and went through three pre-production versions. Each time we refined, and tweaked, and demanded changes… and each time they made it a little bit better.


Then on this wet Wednesday they cut out the first ‘final’ Shackleton neck. The first of 300 in the initial run.

Tomorrow we receive our first production batch of rims from Premier in Manchester. Soon other metal components will arrive from Acro Precision and Norwich Sheet Metal (two more Norfolk engineering companies).

Shackleton banjo

A Shackleton Banjo neck being manufactured in Norfolk, Great Britain.

And then we build!

But it’s today that we really became a manufacturer: and ‘kickstarted’ the British banjo industry.

It’s a pretty good feeling.