Where are banjos made?

Posted by on February 13, 2014 in Advice, Company, Featured, Products, Shackleton Banjo | Comments Off

Where are banjos made?

If you’ve ever asked the question ‘where are banjos made?’ here is you answer. As a banjo manufacturer and retailer I get asked on a daily basis about the manufacturing origins of different makes (brands) of banjos.

Here’s a simple, no-frills guide to the best known brands in the UK and their origins, we hope it’s helpful.

The Shackleton Banjo (from The Great British Banjo Company): Made in Great Britain.

Deering Banjos: Made in USA.

Gold Tone Banjos: Basic manufacture in China and Korea, final assembly and set-up in Florida, USA.

Barnes & Mullins Banjos: Made in China (despite saying London on the headstock).

Pilgrim Banjos: Made in China.

Ozark Banjos: Made in China (despite the American sounding brand name).

Tanglewood Banjos: Made in China (as above).

Gibson, Fender, Recording King, Saga, Rover: Made in China.

There are lots of American makers, of which Deering is by far the biggest and best known these days. Great names to look out for are Ome, Stelling and Romero (but they ain’t cheap of course).

There are also more banjos being manufactured in Eastern Europe, in particular the Czech Republic. Prucha is a very nice example.

But truth be told, unless a banjo specifically says either “Made in USA” or “Made in Britain” on it, then in the vast majority of cases it is almost certainly Chinese.

And are there really no other banjo manufacturers actually making banjos in Britain? Apart from The Great British Banjo Company?

That’s right. There hasn’t been any banjo manufacturing in scale in Britain for more than 60 years. There are several highly skilled craft-builders in Britain making bespoke instruments. A Google search will quickly identify them. They are very good. But obviously their hand-crafted instruments are (quite rightly) much more expensive than mainstream instruments.

That’s why The Great British Banjo Company is building high-quality affordable banjos in Britain. The Shackleton is the first of a new breed of British-made affordable instruments.

A word about Chinese manufacture. Made in China doesn’t mean badly made. An awful lot of the Chinese made instruments are pretty good, and some are very good indeed. We are particularly fond of the mid to higher end Ozark banjos. And of course Chinese made instruments have a price advantage.

It’s not manufacturing that’s the problem with Chinese banjos, it’s consistency of quality control, and the set-up once they get to the retailer.

So a specialist banjo retailer knows what to look for, how to put any niggles right, and how to set-up you banjo so it plays and sounds the very best it can.

How to make sure the Chinese banjo you buy is a good one?

Simple: buy it from a banjo specialist retailer like Banjos Direct.

Shackleton Banjo necks in production in Norfolk, Great Britain.

Shackleton Banjo necks in production in Norfolk, Great Britain.