Custom Banjos LeVan Banjos and guitars

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New Vintage Openback banjo

This  is the only handmade top tension bluegrass banjo made today.

Not to be confused with the old Gibson ones, It incorporates several design advancements

and is a unique banjo in its own right.

Much lighter weight, in part due to a carbon fiber tone ring,

The tension bolt lugs start halfway up the tension hoop, allowing the top

to be clean and not requiring an armrest.

Top tension openback banjos

Lightweight banjos

Longneck banjos

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

© LeVan Banjos • LeVan Banjos is a division of LeVan Design, Shunk Pennsylvania

CannonBell™, Kone11™, SteepCreek™ , ZipNut™, Turbo Pot™ , Tone~Wave™ and Eclectic™ are trademarks of LeVan Design     

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

LeVan Custom Banjos and Guitars

Designed and made by hand here in the Northern Appalachians - Every one is a custom design in one way or another.  I develop a design for each customer and every instrument we build is a prototype of that design. I’m not a mass-producer—in the tradition of luthiers, I am a one-person studio, and make every part of the instrument according to a unique design and when you commission a project you become part of the design process.  As an industrial designer, I’m very familiar with manufacturing, and have incorporated special features and hand work into my instruments that I know is not easily done in a factory or by mass production. No modern computer-controlled machinery or serial production methods are used. Each banjo is one-of-a-kind.

In the case of banjos, we don’t merely assemble them from parts purchased from other suppliers as most builders do - we make most of the parts by hand in the shop and the designs are unique to us—while we use traditional methods, we are constantly innovating and improving what we do.

We are taking orders for projects starting April 2023 and still have a few openings

Our handmade top- tension banjo with a carbon fiber tone ring

is our flagship instrument and is our basic banjo.

American made, this is the only hand-made top tension banjo being produced today.

They are an exceptional value with laminated rims, brazed bracket bands and tension hoops.

Unique, and not merely copies of other banjos.

The New Vintage has become a classic, and I still make it as custom for those who prefer

the traditional notched tension hoop, tension hooks and nuts, and the wood tension rod dowel.

Just like its vintage forbears, it has a 3-ply laminated rim,

24 hooks and nuts (I hand-make 88 metal parts for one of these)

Just like my original ones,

except I’ve gotten better at making them.

It’s possible to make banjos lighter by using materials

such as 6061 aluminum and carbon fiber.

We have been experimenting with this for quite a while.

We’re able to design and build lighter banjos

without sacrificing good sound.

The Cathy banjo (thanks to Cathy) has won the

old time banjo competition two years running at the Topanga Folk Festival

I’ve made a lot of longneck banjos, the first one,

a conversion of a Fairbanks Electric pot in 1963.

There’s a renewed interest in these,

once the hands-down favorite of folk singers, now finding new ways

to express themselves in lower keys and tunings.

Our top tension version, the only one of its kind,

brings this vintage style into the 21st century.

I built my first guitar in 1966

It was my industrial design thesis project at Pratt, and at that time there were no independent luthiers building flat top steel string guitars—only factories like Martin, Gibson, and Guild.

There were no books about guitar building or schools teaching it, so I learned by repairing guitars, reading about violin-making, and by conversations with John D’Angelico, who made archtop jazz guitars in Manhattan, William Del Pilar who made classical guitars in Brooklyn, and numerous visits to the Martin factory in Nazareth PA.

I also applied what I knew about banjo building

The eclipse guitars are hand built from ambrosia curly maple, cedar or spruce top wood from Alaska, and Pennsylvania black cherry necks.



can be made as a tenor