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Mark Neal

Banjo Building with Will Fielding

Mark Neal “I have just completed the Banjo Building course at the Whetstone School of Lutherie and it was truly an amazing, enriching experience. The course was taught by Will Fielding of Fielding Banjos, who is not only a knowledgeable and creative master builder, but also a kind, generous, and all-around great guy.

Before I started the course, I had virtually no experience building instruments and very limited woodworking skills. Before each phase in the building process, Will gave the class clear and understandable explanations of what we would be doing and the skills needed to accomplish each step successfully.

With Will’s guidance I was able to get through the process and build a instrument that I’m proud of and is a joy to play. Will has a great sense of how much help to give. In class, he would explain what needed to be done and perhaps jump in and briefly demonstrate a technique but the actual work was left to me. For example, before we carved the necks of our banjos, Will explained and demonstrated the basic concepts and skills necessary.

When I looked down at my block of wood that I was to make into a smooth, perfect neck, I really doubted that I had the talent to do it. But I followed his instructions, working slowly at first and gradually more aggressively. Soon, almost magically, the desired neck shape began to appear. As I worked, I regularly asked for Will’s feedback and he would make suggestions to take off a little here or there, to pay more attention to this part or that, and with his help I was able to make a neck that feels great in my left hand and is very easy to play.

Lastly, the director of the school, Scott Hausmann, is very helpful and accommodating. I felt welcome from the moment I arrived and I feel that I have not only completed a course but have made longtime friends. I cannot say enough good about my experience at the Whetstone School of Lutherie. I am so glad that I took this course. It was the experience of a lifetime.”

Mark Neal
Ventura, CA