LeVan banjos are made by hand, one at a time and no two are exactly alike. I design custom banjos for individual customers. I’m not a mass-producer; in fact, I go out of my way to make my banjos not easily mass produced, I make most of the parts by hand in the shop.  Every LeVan Banjo has a unique personality in both sound and appearance.

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

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

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



   Every LeVan Banjo is unique:

  1. Hand made rim in choice of constructions and wood

  2. Hand carved neck with 2 way adjustable truss rod

  3. Hand made tone ring in choice of styles and materials

  4. Hand made metal parts in choice of patina and finish

  5. Hand cut inlays

  6. Choice of finish and trim

  7. Geared tuners

LeVan banjos are a complex combination of parts, most made by hand, and we believe that there must be a proper balance between the various components in order to achieve the best sound, whether it is a bluegrass a banjo or an openback intended for frailing.

Bracket Band

One important aspect of our design and construction is the use of the bracket band. Invented by David Day, of Fairbanks Vega in 1901, it allows the bracket shoes to be mounted to a metal band, which encircles the rim as opposed to drilling holes through the rim. This is important is several ways:

• It eliminates holes in the rim

• It adds mass to the pot assembly in the same way as a tone ring

• It adds solidity to the tone while strengthening the rim.

While the Fairbanks Vega bracket bands had the brackets screwed onto the band from the inside, most LeVan bracket bands have the shoes silver-brazed on, creating a monolithic assembly that rings like a bell or a tone ring. A bracket band is an extension of the tone ring.  I treat the banjo pot in a holistic way, more or less the way it was treated during the great era of innovation between 1890 and 1930 leading to the modern banjo. a banjo is the sum of its parts.

I think of a pot assembly in terms of the ratio of weight between the wood and metal parts and their placement in the assembly. What we think of a bluegrass banjo has a certain ratio; below you see a simplified evolution of the Gibson Mastertone from the archtop with the tube-and-plate flange to the flathead with the one-piece flange. You can see the change between the heavy wood rim of the early archtop  4.5:1 ratio to the much lighter rim and heavier tonering 6.7:1 of the OPF flathead. an even better ratio can be achieved by what is called “thin rim” Mastertones.

The combination of the bracket band, tension hoop and tone ring makes the metal-to wood weight  ratio of a Typical LeVan pot assembly between 7.1:1 to 8.6:1,which is in the same range as that of Pre-war Gibson flathead Mastertones and  Fairbanks / Vega Whyte Laydies and Tubaphones.

This, along with other design considerations such as scale length and bridge position is the reason that LeVan banjos produce a sound reminiscent of many vintage bluegrass and openback banjos.

The Vega Tu-Ba-Phone, with a lighter tone ring but a bracket band, heavier than a Gibson flange, has a thinner, shallower rim and a higher metal : rim ratio - 8.8:1

Tension hoop

Tone ring


bracket band

CannonBell                                           Kone11                                         Eclectic