photo by Nancy Stephenson 2014  Colin Vance at a gallery exhibit featuring some of Vance banjo's work.

photo by Nancy Stephenson 2014

Colin Vance at a gallery exhibit featuring some of Vance banjo's work.

About Vance Banjos

Owner, Colin Vance built his skill set for instrument production during the seven years of manufacturing electric guitars and banjos at Wild Woods company in Arcata, Ca. After thousands of electric instrument parts and hundreds of banjos were produced over those years, the tools to begin Vance banjos own shop were gathered in 2006 and began formal building in 2008.

Being open to artistic inclinations in this niche artisan market, is what Vance banjos thrives on. A sharp aesthetic eye and honed craftsmanship make it possible. Over the years, understanding of the setup, playability and tonal qualities, allows highly specific requests to be met spot on. Vance banjos is always working to develop it's craft of building the finest banjo for it's clients. With 15 years experience already and many more tools and skills gathered, instruments of the highest artistic quality and craftsmanship are being shipped nationally and internationally out of the shop.

 2008 photo by Terrence McNally

2008 photo by Terrence McNally

Almost all of my skills in this trade I've learned from many local builders here in Humboldt county who have become good friends and mentors over those years. Phil Crump of P.W.Crump Instruments has taught me everything I know about finishing and building acoustic boxes(guitars). Jason Romero and Ken Lawrence, taught me how to have the liberty and right execution in my artistic expression and ability. Last but not least Mark Platin, Wildwood Banjos, taught me the hard knocks of production wood work and how to do it right and with integrity. He also taught me how to make banjos. 


Some history


My interest in American folk music was ignited
when I was a teenager collecting records of all sorts...from Cheech and Chong to Bob Dylan.  I loved the tactile
feeing of an old record, with its large canvas
for art and the seemingly endless array
of music available. The mystique and intrigue
of old records and the music on them was incredibly compelling. Soon I was discovering older music than the old classic rock stuff that we all know. All of a sudden anything that had to do with fiddles, banjos, blues or any
folk instrument really, I gravitated towards. This
began my venture into the broad realm of Old-time music. 


When I was 18 years old and had made my way to Humboldt county for college, I found and bought a banjo. Of all things. This was an old Harmony from the sixties probably and I had that banjo apart in about a week of playing it. This was a contraption that I would tame. Not before long I had it set up playing nicely for the Bluegrass music I was inclined to at the time. Of course that banjo some years down the road became something I took the resonator off of and played my first inklings of clawhammer on. 


While working and going to school, and playing lots of banjo, I got into a car accident (fell asleep, hit a tree at 60mph). I had abdominal trauma from the seat belt impact to my stomach and a split eyebrow from the steering wheel. I stepped out of my totaled truck into and through blackberry brambles to finally reach the road where I laid down with a flashlight and looked up at a starry night sky and promptly blacked out. I woke up to a truck driver and another woman who called the ambulance. After over a month stay in the hospital and 4-5 months of post recovery, I was now a 20 year old who came real close to expiring and needed to get a job and move forward.


I found a job with a painting contractor doing harder work than I think I ever had up till then. This probably wasn't the best for post traumatic car accident but I was 20. Eventually I was in charge of the paint van and all that came with the 'foreman' gig. This was the genesis of my first entrepreneurial thought. I thought that, well, why can't I get a spray pump and some ladders and have my own biz. (Always the case in the trades). Sometime around this career illumination, I had my eyes open to the fact that people build musical instruments and it also was it's own trade, called Lutherie. (I thought they grew on trees). The bells rang and gears turned and I quickly found out who all the local folks were making instruments. The only promising job making musical instruments was with Wildwood Banjos mfg. However, owner, Mark Platin told me to take some woodworking classes, get some experience and come back. So I went back to school for 3 semesters of the fine woodworking program at College of the Redwoods. 


Promptly after completing, I brought Mark the banjo I made in one of the classes and he stuck to his word and gave me a shot in the Wildwood shop. He told me it was not going to be a glorious luthier job like he could see I was thinking it would be. He was quite right that it was not glorious, as it was a lot of repetitive work on many levels. In spite of this, I learned more about milling wood and the procedures of manufacturing musical instruments to very high tolerances in the 7 years I worked at Wildwood than I ever could have on my own. These were my formative years of building. 

2003... be continued and brought up to date............. banjos to be made in the now.



Thank you for the interest in my  work and story.