About Us

Collodion Tin Plate photograph by Will Dunniway taken in Columbia State Historic Park.

The Banjo Factory

 The  Banjo Factory is the creation of John Salicco as an on-line outlet for  his instruments and he has in the last 10 years has made and sold hundreds of banjos and banjo kits in America and abroad. Approximately 1/3 of our instruments  are purchased by customers in Europe, Scandinavia, Ireland and Great Britain.
We  applaud the master craftsmen creating museum quality Boucher and Sweeney  replicas, but that is not our purpose with our banjos. To keep our  prices within reach of the average historical re-enactor, the  instruments we manufacture are purposely of the common variety.  Our  focus is the fretless tack head gourd and wooden shell minstrel banjos  prevalent in America from the early to late 19th century.
We do not  attempt exact reproductions of any particular banjo. We instead borrow  from many 19th Century styles and create composite replica instruments  of the minstrel banjo and the gourd banjo which still reproduce an authentic sound and feel of the time.

Fretless Minstrel Banjo

Our Instruments

Our  fretless minstrel banjos and gourd banjos are hand made using period correct materials and  finishes. An exception is low cost polymer strings (Nylgut) for our  banjos. We can furnish genuine gut strings when available, but for those  seeking absolute authenticity, remember that modern gut strings are  made to tolerances far more exacting than anything available in the 19th  Century.  Maybe someday, if we find a good source for appropriate  quality sheep intestines, we can offer some truly authentic strings.  Until then, we'll make do with commercially available gut and  synthetics. ; )  

Authentic looking and affordable, our wooden shell and gourd banjos  give you that wonderful 19th Century low bass toned minstrel sound. Each banjo is a unique hand made original by John Salicco. They are designed to be played "stroke style" (a simple type of frailing or claw hammer stroke) typically tuned 2 1/2 steps below modern tuning. From about 1830 to 1860 this was a common tuning for the banjo. 

If you were searching for economically priced reproduction early 19th Century or Victorian period fretless banjos, you have landed in the right place.


We make two basic models: a tack head gourd banjo and wooden shell minstrel banjo.  Please visit our Gallery to view more examples.

If you are looking for something you do not see here, we are willing to customize. Please contact us with your ideas.


The Banjo Factory is open January through October.  I have a commitment which takes me to the North Pole during November and December, so after mid-October, any orders will not likely be filled until after the New Year.