Introduction: Homemade Diddley Bow Electric Slide Guitar (a La Jack White)

Picture of Homemade Diddley Bow Electric Slide Guitar (a La Jack White)
This is possibly the cheapest and easiest guitar you could ever hope to make. There are some similar guitars in other tutorials, but in my opinion this trumps them for ghetto factor. If you have seen the film "It Might Get Loud", or at least the trailer, you will be familiar with this. Jack White rocks one of these suckers:

Update: Working link for the trailer is here:

Step 1: Supplies

Picture of Supplies

First thing, gather your materials:

Some sort of plank of wood. The one I used here isn't ideal because it is thin enough for the nails to come through the other side.



Guitar string


Smaller chunk of wood for mounting pickup


Output Jack

Step 2: Setting Up the String(s)

Picture of Setting Up the String(s)

Decide where you want your string to be positioned. Stick a nail in each end of the board in that position.

Place the bottle up against one of the nails, and mark where the other side of the bottle is. Put another nail in this spot (this will keep the bottle in place).

Remove the bottle, and fasten the string around the nails on either end of the board. Make it tight enough that it's quite hard to slide the bottle back in.

Put the bottle in place. Now you've got the acoustic version of the cheapest guitar ever made.

Step 3: Wiring the Pickup

Picture of Wiring the Pickup

When making this guitar, I wired the pickup first before fixing the pickup in place so I could tell where to put it in order to get a good signal. The pickup I used is a DiMarzio Super Distortion humbucker, which has five wires for splitting the coils. Since I wanted to use both coils, I doubled up the wires from each coil. If you have a similar pickup, then refer to the pictures for instructions. Otherwise, I can't help you as I really know don't know much about wiring. Please excuse my poor instructions in this step. Here's what I did:

Black and braided wire - attached to tab on output jack connecting to shaft of the patch cord.

White wire - attached to tab connecting to patch cord tip.

Green and red wire - electrical taped over then taped out of the way.

For the moment, I have not soldered the wires in place. If you just want to wrap the wires around their respective connections, it works fine but is not very permanent.

Step 4: Placing the Pickup

Picture of Placing the Pickup

Next, take your pickup and output jack, and plug it in to your amp. Line up your pickup to your guitar, and find a good place under the string where you get a nice strong signal. Mark it on the board.

Next, take your smaller chunk of wood, and nail it in place. This board should be thick enough to raise the pickup to the desired height. Screw or nail the pickup to the board.

Step 5: Play It

Picture of Play It

Now you're finished. Get out your slide and play it. If you want to tune it, hammer in one of the end nails a bit until you've got the right pitch. Also, I've found that the nail holding the bottle in place can be used as a whammy bar. Wicked, huh?

The next thing you could do would be add another string or two and put them in drop-d tuning or something like that. Good luck.


jonescaleb1212 (author)2014-02-01

Alright, first of all Jack White did not come up with that design at all. Merely made a cute video about it.

freeza36 (author)2012-10-06

You should post a vid.

yoyology (author)2012-04-26

For additional DIY cred, make your own pickup.

freeza36 (author)2012-03-26

Jack White is one of the best guitarists ever, even though he used very simple means to play. One listen to "Seven Nation Army," and you will believe it.

TommY.KillER (author)2012-02-19

Since I saw this, during watching It Might Get Loud, I want to make one too! :D Tomorrow I'm going to go buy a pickup :)

freeza36 (author)2012-01-29

you gotta love Jack White

steve howe (author)2010-10-26

You can get cheap humbucker pickups as well as jack sockets from Janikas Music Shop at Steve

bigredlevy (author)2010-02-02

i made one a few years ago to play bottleneck style. it's made from pine and plywood, with a broomstick neck. it has a piezo pickup under the bridge.

rklinger (author)bigredlevy2010-09-11

beautiful...combo diddley bow and cigar box guitar any for sale? birthday in Nov

bigredlevy (author)rklinger2010-09-25

sorry mate, i don't sell any of my guitars. it really wasn't hard to make, though.

CaptainWow (author)bigredlevy2010-03-03

Nice job on that one. I imagine having a hollow body would make it sound a lot nicer.

JuCo (author)2009-07-13

not to nitpick, but this is a diddley bow. cool make, though. you could also use a soup can, instead of a bottle, and play it unplugged.

craig3 (author)JuCo2010-05-30

semi acoustic maybe? how would it sound with the soup can with a pickup?

JuCo (author)craig32010-08-01

like a piezo attached to the can? i dunno... i would imagine that it would sound sort of like a banjo with a piezo pickup played with a slide. in other words, strange and demented in the most delightful ways.

CaptainWow (author)JuCo2009-08-12

yeah i figured there was probably a better name for it. thanks for the tip.

JuCo (author)CaptainWow2009-08-26

no problem... i just checked and wikipedia's got a decent article. it's not very in-depth, but there's some interesting factlets. (like lonnie pitchford's headstone having a playable diddley bow on the side of it.... road trip, anyone?)

CaptainWow (author)JuCo2009-08-29

im down. so is bo diddley named after the guitar or the guitar after bo diddley?

JuCo (author)CaptainWow2009-08-30

double response... i just checked wikipedia and it's completely made up because his birth name was "bates" and he was adopted by his aunt (i believe, dang short term memory!), so he took on the last name "mcdaniel" before changing to the stage name. P.S.- his first name was "ellas", so that might explain why he chose to go by a pseudonym.

JuCo (author)CaptainWow2009-08-30

judging by the times for each being named, i'd guess that the man was named after the instrument. i'd have to check to see, though, if his last name was "diddley" and the nickname came from that (or was named by parents that had a sense of humor), or if it was a stage name that he created from whole cloth.

n3rdd (author)2010-05-29

I wonder about using an actual machine head for tuning

CaptainWow (author)n3rdd2010-06-08

Yeah I imagine that would work if your wood was the right thickness for the machine head.

sockless (author)2010-06-07

So what does the beer bottle actually do?

CaptainWow (author)sockless2010-06-08

It acts like the bridge on a regular guitar. Gives the strings something to resonate off of.

phant0m_sp00f3ra (author)2009-06-19

damn this is sooo sweet it looks like my next proyect, and also the movie! when will it b released?

sometime in august I think. Looking forward to seeing Jimmy Page shred it up. By the way, if you make this, probably use screws instead of nails or else a way thicker board because as soon as I tried to add a second string it cracked pretty badly.

whiteoakart (author)CaptainWow2010-05-01

If you haven't seen the movie, do whatever you can to get a copy.  It is really amazing.

O: Ok i'll take that into account mate. I am imagine mine with lots of colours (spray paint FTW!).

MteamyMcHotsauce (author)2010-01-10


tj1001 (author)2009-08-22

im sorry but i have no idea what to do when i get to the wiring step

CaptainWow (author)tj10012009-08-23

it really depends on what sort of pickup you have. sorry im not the most knowledgeable on the subject. try taking it down to a guitar shop and see if they'll show you.

ItsTheHobbs (author)2009-06-20

Nice project, can't wait to see the movie.

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