Vintage Stelling Catalog

" In what was once a one room schoolhouse, built on the side of Heards Mountain in 1900, where sons and daughters of those who worked in the mountainside apple orchards learned their “3 R’s” and minded their “P’s and Q's,” you will now find a myriad of woodworking equipment, hand-tools, and supplies suitable for creating the world's finest banjos and other stringed instruments. The young students have long since been replaced by seasoned luthiers who are known around the world as the master craftsmen of Stelling Banjo Works.

About 35 miles from Heards (as the crow flies) is the historic site of Appomattox Court House. This is considered by many to be the place where, in 1831, Joel Sweeney invented the 5-string banjo. There are, of course, intellectual discussions as to whether he invented it, developed it, or just played this thing in a new and unique way. Undoubtedly, Joel Sweeney was inspired by the beauty and serenity of these mountains just as we are today. What better place could there be than right here in the midst of a forest, surrounded by walnut, maple, and cherry trees, the very wood from which many of our banjos are made?

In addition to finding wood locally, some fancy varieties of walnut and curly maple are obtained from the forests of California and Oregon. In either case, the raw slabs of wood are cut to usable dimensions and then air-dried in a climate-controlled room for up to five years.

Once the wood is dry enough to use, it is milled to the dimensions of a banjo neck and aged further. After a few months, if the neck blank appears stable, it will continue through the six to eight-week process of becoming a finished banjo.

All Stelling banjo necks are final-shaped by hand which is one of the reasons they are so easy to play. Another hallmark of Stelling banjos is the handwork that goes into our resonators. Whether it is just the simple elegance of ivoroid /black/ ivoroid binding or the artistic carving or inlaying available on several models, the craftsmanship is clean and consistent.

Once the neck, resonator, and rim are sanded out, stained (if necessary), and sprayed with a virtually indestructible finish, they are all sanded and buffed to a glossy sheen. At that point, the components are ready for assembly and final set-up by Geoff Stelling.

Since 1959, while still in high school, Geoff Stelling has been either playing the banjo or trying to improve on its design. Stelling Banjo Works was established in 1974 while Geoff was stationed at a naval base in San Diego. As a semi-professional banjo and bass player in various bluegrass bands since the mid 60’s, Geoff developed an ear for banjo tone and experimented with the mechanics of banjo construction until he patented a revolutionary design that his banjos are famous for today: The wedge-fitted pot assembly. Prior to Geoff’s design, tone rings and flanges were machined to slip-fit over the wood rim. Such a design proved to be less than perfect when changes of humidity and temperature manifested themselves as changes in tone and volume. The patented Stelling wedge-fit assures the best possible tone ring and flange to wood rim fit possible under all circumstances. The resulting purity of tone and unrelenting power are unparalleled.

In addition to a structurally superior pot assembly, Stelling has designed and patented a most useful “pivot-pin” tailpiece for the banjo. Strings are easily changed without having to thread any of them through a hole in the tailpiece because each string has its own access slot. The tailpiece is also completely adjustable six ways: Up, down, left, right, in, and out.

Another feature unique to Geoff’s banjos is the Stelling bridge. The maple is chosen for its grain direction and number of growth rings. The shape is artistic yet functional with a design that maximizes volume and minimizes harsh overtones. The standard height is popular 11/16th inch size, although ¾ or 5/8 inch are available upon special request (requiring a slight heel adjustment during assembly.)

Since intonation has been an inherent problem on stringed instruments, Geoff has devised a compensated nut that nearly perfects the intonation on all models of Stelling banjos. By selectively notching the nut slots to different lengths, relative string distance from the nut to each fret is adjusted. This adjustment to the nut is one of the several final operations Geoff Stelling performs on every banjo.

When each banjo is strung up and adjusted to standard Stelling specs (which includes the installation of fifth string “RR” spikes), Geoff puts on his picks and plays a few tunes. At this time, any minor adjustments deemed necessary are made and the banjo is ready to be shipped out.

Some specifications of Stelling banjos are as follows: Weight: 12 pounds (Except White Dove which is 8 ½); Width of nut; 1 ¼” ; Thickness at first fret: ¾” ; Fingerboard: Ebony; Peghead overlay: Ebony. All models come with a Stelling case and a limited life-time warranty. "

"White Dove

This model was designed for those who like the “clawhammer” and “frailing” styles of playing on an open back banjo. The maple neck features a fingerboard that is scalloped from the 17th fret up so that the strings can be played as far from the bridge as the player desires without interference. A special light-weight tone ring and flange were developed for this model and both are fitted to the extra heavy rim with Stelling’s patented wedge principle. The rim is capped with ebony. On special request, this model is available with a standard flange and resonator and twenty- two frets.


Made of Virginia Black Walnut, the Bellflower boasts the natural beauty of unstained wood. A simple, yet, elegant floral inlay pattern, combined with tasteful ivoroid/black/ivoroid binding on the neck and resonator make the Bellflower the choice of many. "


By slightly modifying and adding to the Bellflower inlay pattern, and making the neck and resonator out of curly maple instead of walnut, we’ve created the Sunflower. The shaded Cremona style “sunburst” staining on this model is very popular and highlights the quality of the wood used.

Master’s Cross

The Christian cross on the peghead of this model is displayed as a thankful testimony to part that God has played in Geoff’s business and personal life. Special features of this model include: Fancy Claro walnut on the neck and resonator, exquisite engraving and gold plating on the metal parts, and an inlaid quilted maple cross surrounded by a ring of purfling on the resonator back. The same purfling is inlaid next to the ivoroid binding along the sides of the neck and resonator. The Master’s Cross replaces the earlier Gospel model and is available with unengraved nickel plated parts. "
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