Rowe Chester Banjo Capo

Mike Rowe sent me a pre-production prototype of the Chester Banjo capo.

It’s rather cleverly made from glass-filled nylon. This early version hasn’t had the mould polished, so it has a matte finish. It’s very light, uses a very precise (if a smidge slow) thumbscrew to tighten it, and clamps down in two places on the fretboard.

This two-point contact means that it doesn’t pull the strings so far out of tune as a regular capo. You can shift the Rowe capo about a lot before you need to retune. Being a long neck banjo player, I capo a lot. Any extra weight on the banjo isn’t welcome either.

It works best quite far back from the fret. Some familiarity is required to get just the right tone, else string buzz can be a problem. Tweak down the screw and level the capo, and all should be bright again.

One really neat thing about the Rowe capo is its shape. It allows you to use it very far up the neck, and you can still fit your hand in. Here’s me playing what I think is an F# chord with the banjo capo’d to C# at the 9th (long neck) fret:

Plenty of room for my hand. I rather like the Rowe capo, and many thanks to Mike for letting me try it out.

Modifying the Reagan Banjo Capo

I use a Reagan banjo capo on my nylon-strung Harmony banjo. It’s a little chunk of brass with a saw-cut to take the string, a thumb-screw to keep it tight, and some felt stuck on the bottom to protect the fretboard.

As supplied, the string slot was too narrow to take nylon strings, and too low to effectively fret the string. What I did was:

  • Open out the slot with the patient application of fine sandpaper. This took a long time, and kept gouging up the edge of the sandpaper sheet.
  • Replace the felt with a thicker piece of neoprene cut from an old mouse mat.

The capo still bobs about, but stays on the neck where it should. I still haven’t solved the problem of where to store it, though.


Took advantage of the holiday to scoot down to The 12th Fret to have my banjo looked at. I’d managed to do a bad thing to the tailpiece (which I’d rather not talk about, thank you), and had Grant fit capo spikes at 7, 9 & 10.

While working on the fretboard, Grant confirmed that these really were model railway track spikes — or more correctly, model railway enthusiasts use capo spikes to hold their rails down!