Short History of the Fretless Mountain Banjo        

Fretless banjos were first built in the Appalachian Mountains by woodsmen and farmers who could not afford to buy the store bought fretted banjos. They built their fretless banjos of materials obtained from the nearby forest. Most of the shaping was accomplished with a pocket knife, draw knife, spokeshave, rasp, and file. A cat, squirrel, or raccoon caught and skinned and made ready to stretch over the banjo pot and was tacked in place. Tuning pegs were hand carver and fitted into holes on the peghead. Wire or gut strings were added and the fretless banjo was complete and ready to play.


Photo by, Lisa G Photography.




Dwayne's This and That

                       Mountain Banjo Plans


To Illustrate how a mountain style banjo would look and play with a fret-board and frets; Dwayne constructed the banjo on the left.


The fret-board is made of purpleheart, a hard durable wood imported from South America.  The remainder of the banjo wood is hard curly maple.

The photo to the right,   better shows the curly maple wood, and the banjo tuners use in place of the violin pegs.  These pegs make tuning much easier, but nothing like traditional.

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Dan Levenson on YouTube playing Lonesome John.  Dan plays and teaches Clawhammer Style Music.

Instructions for installing frets.

This banjo is not difficult or expensive to build. Mostly depends on where you purchase your material, all easily available. You will want a few board feet of hardwood, violin pegs for tuners, banjo strings, a homemade nut and bridge. For the head you'll need a 10" dia. piece of calf, deer, or goat rawhide. The tone ring is made from a small piece of sheet metal.

Only a few tools are needed such as a jig saw or coping saw, a drill, rasp, file, screwdriver, and sandpaper. Complete the banjo with your favorite clear finish.

Plans and assembly instructions are only $15.95 plus $2.50 S&H - U.S. Only.

Total $18.45....To order Banjo Plans please go to Dwayne's Store for instructions.


Or....the plans and instructions can be ordered and emailed in PDF Format. Pay $14.95 by PayPal and the Banjo Plans and Instructions will be emailed to you. The 40" X 24" full size plans contain 12 letter size pages to be assembled by taping together. The instructions are in 5 single sheets. To order the plans in PDF Format please go to Dwayne's Store.  Including International and CANADA email purchasers.


Other items for building the Mountain Banjo are also available, and described in Dwayne's Store.  Thank you for visiting.


If you need more information please feel free to contact us.



Dwayne has built and sold Fretless Mountain Banjos for the past decade and concludes that he is most likely the only source of plans and banjos of this style. The style of banjo construction shown in his plans and instructions are based on the Appalachian Mountain model as described in a Foxfire book, a series of books published in 1973 by the Rabun-Nacoochee School in Georgia.

Included with Dwayne's plans are complete step by step instructions plus photographs to help visualize each step. Also included are fret calculations for those whom prefer a fretted banjo. All you need is a coping saw or band saw, several hand tools, strings and other hardware, all available from links shown in the instructions. To view on YouTube, please click here for Step by Step Instructional Slide Show.






 Mountain Banjo by C. Edwin Garner

                                                                                                                                                  These photos represent a finished Mountain Banjo by C. Edwin Garner of Hartford, Connecticut. One can see he did a marvelous job of construction and finishing,  and his comment is, " It sounds great." Ed also said, "I wanted to try making my own instrument so with the help of Foxfire Books, plans from Dwayne Glanton, a friend from Arkansas, and a generous gift from a woodworker, I set out."

Beautiful work Ed.



Ed Garner

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For price on the above banjo, please go to Dwayne's Store. (NO. FBB) SOLD