Ken LeVan and LeVan banjos is now part of the Smithsonian Folkways series “North American Banjo Builders”

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LeVan Banjos are made in the USA from sustainable, non endangered materials.


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What’s a custom banjo?

It could be an off-the-shelf mass produced instrument with a couple of different inlays or a different color stain. Maybe even a builder’s personal standard  inlay design, which they make large numbers of, but is  unique to them - many people call that “custom-made”.

My definition is quite a bit different.  Every banjo I make that I call a custom banjo is made to the specifications of the person who commissions it - whatever they want in terms of design and features, as long as I can make it.  You can go to the “anatomy” page of this site and see various elements that can be specified.

When I make a banjo for someone, it is their banjo, made especially for them.

As a custom banjo maker, it’s tough to explain everything that’s possible, because it changes with each one I make. Many times I make a banjo for someone, and they come up with ideas I haven’t thought of.

I’ve made a lot of banjos of different kinds, designs, sizes and uses for different people all over the world,

and I learn something every time.

If I could  line a bunch of them up  it would make an interesting photo.  When I make a banjo for someone,

I take pictures of what I’m doing and send these work-in-progress images to the customer,

including a picture of the banjo when it’s all done, so I have a lot of pictures.

Below is  “virtual” representation of some custom instruments I’ve made - not all of them by any means, and there are conversions and restorations not shown here, but here’s a fun composite picture that can give you a bit of an idea of the variety.  Bluegrass banjos, frailing banjos, longnecks ( I have made a lot of those), all-purpose banjos, folk instruments, banjo lutes, even a Child’s A scale banjo..

LeVan banjos are made by hand, one at a time and no two are exactly alike.   My primary practice is designing custom banjos for individual customers. I’m not a mass-producer; 

in fact, because of some of the special features, my banjos are not easily mass produced.

My banjos are built from the ground up. I do not merely assemble them from parts purchased from other suppliers - I make most of the parts by hand in the shop. 

Every LeVan Banjo has a unique personality in both sound and appearance.