Drywall banjos make quick work of the whole taping process during your construction project, and if you’re serious enough about drywall to buy one of these specialty tools, you’ll want to know which is the best drywall banjo for the job.
There are plenty of drywall banjos and tape dispensers out there, but the number one on this list goes to the Bliev Drywall Taping Banjo because it’s an excellent combination of good value and ease of use. It features two rollers for flat and corner drywall seams and narrow spaces and straps on either side for left and right-handed use.
These are very specialized tools, and every drywaller and finisher will have his or her preferences and styles.
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What Makes a Good Drywall Banjo?
Finishing walls can be a repetitive and exhausting task. A drywall banjo cuts taping time by allowing you to quickly mud and tape drywall seams with nearly one fluid motion. Large-scale drywall taping on conventional construction sites is often done with a bazooka – a long, lightweight pole that applies compound and tape automatically to walls. These specialized tools start at around $1,000, and higher-end models cost several thousand. The drywall banjo is an affordable alternative. They are still reasonably expensive tools, so you’ll want to get one that gets the job done. Here are some essential features to consider when purchasing a drywall taper tool.
Dual Wheel Vs. Single Wheel
Some more basic drywall banjos do not have the option to swap the wide, flat wheel for a serrated wheel for interior angles and narrow spaces. These are usually lower-end models, but there are some advantages to this design. The outside, quick-change corner/flat models, often don’t have a serrated cut-off blade, and you’ll have to cut the tape with your knife. They’re also a little more unwieldy. If you know what you’re doing, you’ll be well-served by a dual corner and flat joint model, but if you’re a novice user, you might want to get your feet wet with a simplified flat-only style.
Drywall banjos are pretty standard for how much drywall compound and joint tape they can hold. Though the amount of compound a given drywall banjo can hold may be listed in terms of ‘feet of tape,’ they all hold less than about five pounds. More capacity isn’t necessarily better – drywall banjos are awkward to hold, especially up to ceilings, and you don’t want to overload your taper with heavy mud. The models listed all hold a generous amount of compound, but bigger doesn’t mean better. Some models even come with an extra pail on the back that you can load up with additional compound for a hybrid mud bucket and banjo tape tool. This style was not included because they get so heavy, and most users have a lot of issues with the extra weight and bulk.
The drywall compound and roll of tape loaded into the tool will make up the majority of the heft. The body weights vary by a few pounds. If you’ve ever held up a drywall tool for an extended amount of time – you know that can make a big difference. Usually, what you’re giving up with a lighter drywall banjo is design quality, but it should be considered. Some novice users might like a lightweight plastic meant for small jobs rather than a heavy-duty metal hinged model.
Drywall taper banjos start pretty inexpensively – around 40 dollars. At the very low end, you’re going to run into issues with poor mud flow, breakage, and joint tape bubbling, and often they don’t have an option for a corner applicator for internal angles. High-end models are over 200 dollars. In the middle are some fantastic value tools that do everything you need.
The Best Reviewed Drywall Banjos
Goldblatt G15301 Banjo-Dry Tape
- Made of rugged lightweight aluminum
- Mud control adjustment knob
- Holds up to 500 ft. of linear drywall tape
This is a classic drywall banjo. It’s more like the old-style aluminum banjos, with the joint tape roll housed inside the body and sturdy construction with a wood handle. The tape stays close for tight application, and the braid knife tape cutter end makes mudding a breeze. The body has a hinged metal cover which makes it easy to refill. Instead of a padded handle, this model features a wooden handle.
Some users note that this model works best with thick compounds. There are different opinions, but many professionals like thin mud for the first coat because it’s lighter and easier to spread. The Goldblatt also doesn’t have a wheel for inside corners. This isn’t necessarily an issue for beginners since corners are tricky, and often it’s easier to tape by hand. One strap means it’s much easier for right-handed users.
This is an excellent tool with a high-quality construction that’s great for people not super familiar with a drywall taper banjo. It’s also great if you are used to the old-style banjos. It’s a little more expensive, but these types of drywall taper banjos tend to last much longer than the plastic version. If you like to keep things simple or enjoy the classic style, this is the banjo to get.
- 4.2 Pounds
- Hold 500 ft of Drywall Tape
- Enough Mud for 40 ft of Tape
- Tape Cutting Blade
- 1-Year Warranty
Bliev Drywall Banjo Taping Tool
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This banjo is a great all-around tool. It’s well made with ergonomic handles on the top and sides, so you can use it left or right-handed. It has two wheels that can be changed from the outside – a big wheel for corner angles and a smaller serrated wheel for flat joints. The mud control knob lets you adjust the thickness of the mud applied for flat joints vs. corners. It’s also moderately priced.
Get this banjo if you’re comfortable using a tool or want to learn on a simple version.
- Side Nylon Handles
- Durable Alloy Body
- Mud Control Knob
- Holds a standard 500-Feet Tape Roll
Yootree drywall Banjo Taping Tool With Reversible Inside Corner Roller Wheel
This is a reasonably standard drywall banjo. Its lightweight construction makes it easy to use for more extended periods and has all the features you’re looking for – serrated wheel for corner joints and standard wheel for flat joints, easy-change wheels, double handle straps, and a mud adjustment knob for your mud flow. The single latch cover is hinged for easy open and refill and has d straps for left and right-handed users.
The body is light but not as durable as other models.
This is a tool for small or medium jobs. It’s a good value for a user with small to medium projects though not the cheapest option.
- 2.55 Pounds
- Ergonomic Handle Design
- Durable Polycarbonate Body
- Easy to Clean
- 4-position switch
Homax Drywall Tape and Mud Dispenser Tool
- One-step drywall taping tool applies both mud and tape simultaneously
- Cuts taping time in half
- Holds 5 lbs. Of mud & 500 ft. Of tape
This is an inexpensive and streamlined banjo. It doesn’t have the dual flat joint and corner joint banjos features, but it’s about half the price. It’s still lightweight and holds roughly the same amount of mud and joint tape as the more expensive versions, and it is easy to use.
This model doesn’t have a cutter, despite being only for flat joints. The user has to cut the joint tape with a smoothing blade or drywall knives.
This is an excellent tool if you need to speed up a small or medium job. The body is small but light.
- Applies 60 feet of tape and mud in 60 seconds
- Padded Handle
- Adjustable Mud Control Knob and Tape Tracking Wheels.
- Holds 5 lbs. of Mud and 500 Linear Feet of Tape.
Delko Zunder Drywall Banjo Taping Tool
- NEW DELKO ZUNDER BANJO TAPER PLUS PRO GRADE CAST ALUMINUM AND STAINLESS STEEL INSIDE CORNER ROLLER for fastest bedding of tape in corners.
- QUICK CHANGE INSIDE CORNER APPLICATOR WHEEL snaps out and in easily to swap with flat applicator wheel. No need to open the banjo or disassemble anything.
- Dual adjustable handle straps - one on each side for right or left-handed use. >> Single latch with hinged lid opens easily and quickly for loading tape and mud.
Delko is a respected name in drywall tools, and this drywall banjo is a well-made piece of equipment that gets the job done. It’s also the only model that includes a holster. That’s great if you’re doing a lot of taping, you’ll want to stop after each line to smooth out your work, and a leg holster is an excellent way to save some bending. A nice feature of the Delko plastic banjo is the hinged cover, which makes loading tape and mud efficient and easy. Other models require you to snap off half the body.
There is no tape cutter attached to this tool, so you’ll have to carry knives or a smoothing blade with you. Most people do this anyway because they’ll have to use it to smooth the joint tape immediately after. Some users did find this to be an inconvenience.
This is one of the more expensive models listed but is a good choice if you’re serious about drywalling. The holster and build make it perfect for medium-sized projects, especially if you’re working alone.
- 2.9 pounds
- Quick-Change Inside Corner Applicator Wheel
- Belt Holster with Leg Strap Included
- Two Adjustable Handle Straps
- Holds Standard 500-Feet Rolls of Tape
How to Choose a Drywall Banjo
As far as drywall banjos go, all of the products’ features are relatively similar. A drywall banjo is a hollow-bodied tool filled with drywall compound that applies joint compound to tape as you stretch it along a seam. Choosing the right drywall banjo comes down to the type of projects you’re using it for.
Size Of Project
Drywall banjos are meant for small to medium-sized jobs. There are other tools professionals will use for a large drywall job. If you’re patching drywall or doing a couple of walls – there isn’t much of a reason to invest in a drywall banjo. For a room that you’re doing alone, a drywall banjo is a great tool, and if you’re regularly doing your own smaller projects and can get used to a drywall banjo, invest in a nice one with both a dual flat applicator wheel and corner joint rollers. For someone that wants a small project done fast, a flat joint drywall banjo will save you some time.
How Experienced Are You?
Drywall banjos have a learning curve. If you’ve never manually mudded and taped drywall or don’t know what an excellent first layer of mud looks like, you are best off getting the hang of mudding and taping before you jump to a drywall banjo. Some of these will leave tape bubbles if not used precisely, and it will take time to work up to an efficient speed with the tool. For the very beginner, try using the banjo with the flat joints only. A less expensive model might be for you.
How Much Do You Want To Spend?
Like most tools, there’s a significant jump from the least expensive to the most costly drywall banjo. The amount you spend is going to be reflected most in the life of the banjo. If you need it for one project, go cheap or rent a drywall banjo. If you want to keep drywalling for years, spend the money on a more long-lasting model. Alternatively, you could rent a drywall banjo or an even more heavy-duty piece of equipment like a bazooka.
How to Use a Drywall Banjo
Drywall banjos are all going to function nearly the same. One big difference you might notice between models is how you change the wheels. Some banjos require you to open up the body to swap the wheels. In other models, the wheels click onto the top of the body, and you can change them in the middle of working. In older banjos, the traditional structure is an aluminum body, wood handle with a single latch, and the tape is encased in the body. Some banjos have a tape cutter at the end (usually the older style aluminum banjos), and some you’ll have to rip the tape with your fingers or along a drywall knife. There are many great instructional videos and user videos explaining how to each type.
Related: Best drywall knife.
Holster the roll of tape, with the tape feeding clockwise. Pull the tape through the body along the curved banjo wall inside. Feed the tape a few inches through the gate.
Pour your premixed drywall compound into the body underneath the tape. Make sure you don’t overfill and cause a big mess when you secure the cover. Snap the body together. You can pull a few inches of tape to ensure the mud is being applied to your desired thickness. Turn the mud adjustment knob as needed.
Applying The Paper Drywall Tape
Start with horizontal wall seams, then vertical seams, then internal angles. Press the taper along the seam. As you pull, the tape should stick securely and lay flat without any bubbling. If you see a lot of bubbling tape or the tape is peeling away, you need to adjust the mud flow. For inside corners and tight spaces, switch to the corner wheel and drag tape along inside seams. If your drywall banjo doesn’t have a serrated wheel, you can pull a bit of tape from the banjo gate, press it down into the corner and use your fingers. Drag along the inside corners as you lead the banjo down the corner joints. You can also drag a corner trowel behind the banjo.
Cut And Smooth
When you reach the end of the seam, either use the braid knife to rip the paper tape or cut the tape with a drywall knife. Run a smoothing blade along the tape to adhere the tape to seams, squeezing out the excess compound and releasing any bubbles.
Cleaning Your Banjo
Keep the mouth of the banjo clear by wiping away any drying compound after you take a break. Always thoroughly clean out the body of the banjo when you’re done with water and a damp cloth.
Keep the opening clean. The drywall compound will collect in the space where the tape leaves the body. You may have to wipe it occasionally with a cloth. Letting the banjo opening get clogged will cause lumps and voids on your drywall tape.
Adjust the tension in your tape. If you find your rolls of tape are sliding off the spool tape holder, squish the roll down into a slight oval and reseat it.
Go slowly. Get to know your drywall banjo. Applying tape too quickly can cause clogging and voids on your drywall tape.
Use hot set mud first. If you’re not getting good results with just the drywall banjo, you can put a layer of hot setting-type joint compound between gypsum boards first.
Practice. If you’ve never used a drywall banjo before, try setting some tape on scrap wood or gypsum board.
Drywall banjos are meant to speed up applying the tape, but there are other options depending on your needs and preferences.
You can always apply strips of tape to drywall by hand. This might even give you a better result as a beginner; it’s just a matter of time. You first apply about 1/8 inch mud about five inches wide along the seams and press the paper tape along the mud. Smooth with a drywall knife.
For corners, you can crease your own flat tape or use paperback corner tape. If you’re new to drywalling or have a patch job or a small project, it’s best to stick to manual mudding and taping.
Super – Taper
This drywall taper tool is like a hopper but for paper joint tape. The Super Taper sits on a bucket of compound and feeds the tape through to coat one side. You have to collect the mudded tape in a bucket and apply it by hand.
Devices like the super taper are much cheaper than a drywall banjo but are not as quick and can be messy.
This product is also a one-step drywall taping tool used by professional tapers. It’s a very long pole loaded with drywall compound that’s squeezed out along with the tape. These tape applicators are much quicker than drywall banjos and don’t need to be refilled as often, but too expensive for the DIYer (well over one thousand dollars). They also take a lot of time to disassemble and clean.
What Kind of Mud Should I Use in a Drywall Banjo?
Since you’ll only be using this for the initial layer of drywall compound using an all-purpose lightweight joint compound. You can mix it yourself or buy a ready-mixed joint compound. You may need to thin it out a bit depending on how it’s going through your particular banjo.
Can I Use Mesh Tape with a Drywall Banjo?
No. Drywall banjos are designed for paper tape and standard drywall compounds. Self-adhesive mesh tapes shouldn’t go through the drywall compound. There are mesh tape applicators on the market that have a handle and smoothly apply mesh joint tape on bare seams.
How Thick Should Mud be in a Drywall Banjo?
Use premixed drywall compound, or mix your compound per manufacturer’s instructions. See how it works in your drywall banjo, and if you’re having an issue getting an even, 1/8 inch coating, thin out the compound. Some banjos work best with thin mud; some leak if the compound is too runny.
Is a Drywall Banjo Taper the Same as a Drywall Taper?
No. When someone says ‘drywall taper,’ there are a few things they could be referring to. Usually, it’s a simple tape applicator like a tape roller that acts as a spool for the tape. Sometimes a taper means a tool like the Super Taper or this Buddy Tools TapeBuddy Drywall Taping Tool that applies drywall compound to strips of tape by running the tape through a bucket of mud. It takes a little more time using this method and is a rather sloppy process.
How Much Does a Drywall Banjo Cost?
As far as joint tools go, a drywall banjo is a bit of an investment. You can find models that are around 40 dollars, but you could also spend over 200. If cost is an issue, you could always rent a drywall banjo.
Is a Drywall Banjo Worth it?
If you watch a professional drywall taper use a drywall banjo, you can see them tape across a whole room in a matter of seconds. You will not start that fast. Once you get the hang of your particular drywall banjo, it will save you a lot of time, and you’ll spend less time with your arms above your head taping ceiling seams or going over the area twice with mud and tape applicators.