We recently had a 7th birthday party for my son. It was originally scheduled to be an outdoor party, but due to northern CA winter weather, we needed a quick, fun indoor activity for the kids to do.
I was inspired when I saw Mark Frauenfelder's (http://boingboing.net/2011/02/15/simple-2-string-guit.html) post on making 2-string guitars and my son thought that the idea was awesome, so we set out to build not one, but 10 of these babies.
I really liked Mark's canjo, but when I went to look for strings and tuning pegs, this turned in to a really expensive project. Since I was building a bunch of these for 7-year olds, I was less concerned about the sound quality and more concerned about making a cool project on the cheap.
Here are the parts that I used:
- The neck - 1 piece of 2 x 1 pine - $0.98 - I made my necks about 24" long, but it could be smaller for a different sound.
- Strings - I bought about 19 miles of 24 gauge picture wire for about $6. I tried 18 gauge, but it snapped as I tightened it. 24 gauge can hold about 10 lbs.
- Screws to hold the neck to the can - About $0.03 a piece. I used a sheet metal screw because I wanted a flat, not tapered head.
- A big washer for additional support - About $0.05 a piece. It is about 1 1/4" in diameter
- Nuts to hold the strings in place - About $0.01 a piece
- A good size bolt for the bridge at the top - About $0.08 a piece.
- Eye hooks for tuning pegs - About $0.45 a piece. You'll need two of these if you're making a two string guitar
- A can - This is the most expensive part - these were about $3.00 a pop. I think that I could have used a plastic bucket, but I don't really know how it would sound.
Total cost per canjo - About $5.00 USD
It was a huge hit with the kids, though a bit more complicated than I thought that it would be for them. I was thinking that they could have built these on their own, but screwing the neck and tightening the strings was a bit more than they could handle.
Step 1: Make the necks
I cut the necks to 24 inches. Like I said, you could probably make them shorter or longer, but for 7 year olds, it seemed to work.
Once I cut them, I drew a line a few inches from the top which is where the bridge would go and then drew a line about half way between that as a place to drill out the eye bolt / tuning pegs.
Finally, I drilled a hole in the center of the bottom of the piece where the can will be connected to neck.