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I make 7 kinds of tone rings in different materials and configurations, ranging from woodies and brass hoops to complex fabricated brass and nickel silver ones such as the CannonBell™ and Kone11™.

All LeVan metal tone-rings are hand-made from various alloys of brass and nickel silver, and are completely fabricated and silver-brazed, not cast.

I believe I may be the only banjo maker making tone rings in this way.

This method, along with the methods of annealing I use gives them a very sassy and bright, yet sonorous voice.

One-off tone rings of various designs can be made if desired. I am happy to work with players with specific requirements, and will make banjos using existing tone-rings and explore experimental ideas..

The tone ring is the “gatekeeper” of energy transmitted by the head into the pot.  much subtlety of tone comes from the tone ring,

which is why they are called tone rings. The shape, weight, and type of material are all important, but most of all,

there has to be a happy marriage between the rim and the tone ring.

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.

The CannonBell™, 37 oz. shown here in nickel silver is very bright, snappy, cutting and expressive. Excellent for bluegrass, old-time or folk, it has great clarity up and down the neck and a powerful bass. It superficially resembles a Tubaphone but is heavier and open on the bottom.

The normal configuration is for it to float over the inside of the rim.  It can be used with rims of varying thicknesses.

It can be made of brass or nickel silver. Brass is slightly darker in sound than nickel silver.

NEW The Tu-Ba-Tone™, 34 oz. is my bronze version of the classic Tubaphone it’s excellent for bluegrass, clawhammer, old time, or folk and like the CannonBell, has a very expressive, cutting sound.

With a different geometry, It weighs more than a tubaphone, the tube section is bronze and is supported by the heavy cartridge brass skirt, giving it a powerful ring. Like the CannonBell, it can be used with rims of varying thicknesses and depths.  I have made this tone ring in 11”, 12” and  14” diameters, and normally use a 3 1/16” deep pot for an 11” assembly.

The Steep Creek™ weighs 33 oz. minimum, depending on the material used. The inner portion overhangs the inside of the rim, although it can be made to sit fully on the rim

This produces a dark sound with great power and expressiveness for both bluegrass and clawhammer, and is normally used with a rim in the 1/2” to 5/8” thickness range.

It can be made from either brass or nickel silve

The LeVan Eclectic™ is a heavy brass scalloped tonering weighing 36 oz.  It is self-skirted. It makes a great banjo for clawhammer, frailing and folk music.It produces a sweet sound on the cusp of “mellow”and is usually used with a relatively thin rim.

The LeVan ToneWave™ is a self-skirted assembly which becomes a single piece when brazed. It is specially annealed and was developed as the primary tonering for the LeVan NewVintage© openback banjo.

It produces a clear ringing sound, perfect for frailing and clawhammer and is weighted to work with a rim in the 1/2” thickness range.

The new LeVan SuperWoodie™, is a separate tone ring, which is considerably wider than the rim and is usually made from denser wood than the rim. It is a hybrid with a brass skirt on the outside of the tonering, which gives it a little more mass and allows the rim to remain thinner without sacrificing circumferential stiffness.

It makes a great pot for clawhammer, frailing old-time, and folk. It has a bright snappy sound, and is bright or mellow depending on the geometry and combination of woods and metal used.

This is a great tonering for change-outs and I can make them to convert Gibson style flatheads, archtops, archtop to flathead and vice versa with no modification to the rim.

This results in a good weight reduction in heavy bluegrass banjos without sacrificing tone quality.