Nate Calkins

My love for the banjo started in 2005 when I listened to a musician named Phil Roebuck perform in Union Square, when I was living in New York City. I bought his CD and was drawn to the traditional tunes he played. I couldn’t stop listening to it. I decided to get myself a banjo and started attending weekly jams. The jams were mostly focused on bluegrass, but tucked away in the corner of the pub were the players of “old-time” music. I was hooked. I gravitated toward the clawhammer style and later found out about two-finger, up-stroke, minstrel stroke, and other variations of how people like to play this instrument. I also found there was an amazing amount of recorded old-timey folk music I could get my hands on. My favorite old-timers are still Roscoe Holcomb and Doc Boggs. Having attended school for sculpture, and worked several years in an artist’s studio, I got to thinking maybe I could make my own banjo, and try sculpting with wood. My first one was a Mountain Banjo, or “Frank Proffitt Style” banjo, which I still enjoy building today. I started consistently building banjos in 2006 in my New York City apartment. Soon after, in 2007, I moved out to Portland, Oregon. Here, I was able to set up a functional, one-man banjo shop in my garage. Early on, I got my inspiration mostly from primitive versions of the banjo, mountain style, gourds, and Minstrel era banjos. These days, I am focused on creating more “modern” banjos, ones that draw inspiration from builders of the late 19th century. I am a father of two kids, devoted husband, outdoor enthusiast, and obsessive house renovator. I keep pretty busy with banjo orders, and am always building an extra banjo or two on the side. My favorite woods for necks are cherry and local black walnut.

The Process
The Begining
Block Rim Segments
Rim Turning
Pre-assembly of Block Rim with Wooden Flange