21 September 2015

AP Toman Twintone banjos: part 2

In part 1 Jonathan Toman, banjo player for Northern Exposure, explained how the 'AP Toman' headstock logo (left) and 'Twintone' name derived from his grandfather Arthur Patrick Toman, banjo collector and banjo player, who passed his love for the instrument on to his twin sons Peter and Patsy. Patsy's engineering background led naturally to building the banjo, 'a mechanical instrument'. Jonathan continues:

My dad Peter's involvement in the process was more coming up with the concept and design ideas for the four one-off 'Twintone' models. His background is also mechanical in nature, which helped with the construction and design process.

The process began after Patsy and I were in Nashville at an IBMA conference a number of years back. We spent several hours playing and studying various banjo models, and met and chatted with the various builders and luthiers of the 5-string banjo world - too many to mention! Huber, Robin Smith, Deering, Cox, Burlile, so many more!

Three Twintones have so far been built, with another under construction.

The first three Twintones
Two of these are identical walnut banjos; one [left above] is Patsy's and the other [right] is Pete's. The neck and resonators are hand-made by master luthier Robin Smith of Heartland Banjo, Nashville, who we know and have built up a working relationship with over the last ten years. The wood rims are hand-built and turned by Patsy Toman in his own workshop.

Walnut Twintone pot, showing block construction
and Deering tone ring
The tone rings in the walnut models are high-quality Deering rings. All hardware metal parts are outsourced, just like most of the banjo companies in the States do. Most people don't realise, but a lot of the makers and builders outsource and use each other to come up with a final product - the classical Gibson Mastertone banjo construction allows this, as metal parts are interchangeable!

The third is my banjo - it's a mahogany wide curved-neck model with a walnut wooden rim hand-built by Patsy, and a Steve Huber nickel-plated tone ring.

Jonathan's Twintone, showing wide neck and radiused fingerboard. Note 'straight-line' tailpiece, now on all three original Twintones - the coming 'Granada' will have a more traditional tailpiece

Jonathan playing the AP Toman Twintone wide-neck model
at Omagh 2015; Pete on bass (photo: Chris Brennan)

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