Introduction: Wooden Kazoo
Kazoo must be one of the craziest sounding mini instrument there is! The best part is that it is super easy to build with only limited tools!
One day I was internet shopping with my friend who needed an electronic pickup for his ukulele. At the checkout, we realised, that we were 8 euros short of the free delivery. Looking through the seller's other items we saw a wooden kazoo that cost 9 euros. Only one euro extra and we could have had a "free" kazoo! On a closer inspection, I realised that kazoo is not a very complex instrument. As my woodworking enthusiasm kicked in I did exactly 3 minutes of research and promised to try and build one over the weekend.
Kazoo really is a super simple instrument. It consists of a body which acts as an amplifier, wax paper as a resonator and a little resonator cap which hold the paper in place. That is it! And if you did not know you are supposed to hum into the kazoo, not blow. Always makes me giggle a little when I give this apparatus to my friends for the first time and they do their best to get a sound out of it, only to end up thinking it is some kind of sorcery. The sound coming out of the kazoo to me resembles most a 900 cc superbike passing you on the highway.
It is a really great project for beginners as it requires only a few tools and can be built in thirty minutes or less. A great bonus is that it easy to make them in bulk and give out as gifts.
[GIVEAWAY HAS ENDED! The winner is AnitaV23]
As I made a couple kazoos more than I needed I would like to try and make a giveaway right here on the Instructables. To take part of the raffle leave a comment which Kazoo you like the most in the comment section (photos in the last step!). I will choose a random person to whom I will send one of my handmade kazoos! Let us see how it turns out. More information in the final step!
Step 1: Tools and Materials
Of course, like with everything in life, there is more than one way to to do things. So is it with this project. This project is totally doable with only hand tools but as I lack them, I decided to use my power tools.
- Table saw ( zero clearance insert!)
- Drill press with 16 and 14 mm spade bits and 4.5 and 5 mm wood bits
- Disc sander (speeds up the sanding process)
- Fine grit sandpaper
For materials I used
- 5x10 pan head machine screw
- M5 wingnut and a washer
- Different types of scrap wood
- Wood finfish e.g. Linseed oil
- Rolling paper for the resonator
I have also added a SketchUp file with measurements. This is something just to reference from! I strongly encourage you to experiment and build a kazoo that feels right for you ;)
Some questions you might have when building a kazoo
- Should the body be V-shaped? Well, have built many kazoos - V-shaped and not. I have not noticed any difference in sound. It is a purely personal preference if you ask me.
- Why use bolt and wingnut for the resonator? Why not just glue it down or use screws? Well, the resonator is really fragile - it can be pierced really easily. There is no way to change it once the resonator cap is glued down. Screws would work, but as the walls of the body are really thin there is a good chance that the screw hole becomes loose.
- What is the resonator made out of? It is made out of wax paper. Tobacco paper works the best for smaller kazoos. Baking paper is better for bigger ones. Trial and error!
Step 2: Cut
The first thing you need to do is to cut the material for the body of the kazoo. It is really easy as it only consists of four pieces - top/bottom and the sides.
There is really no right size for a kazoo (as you may see in the end). It is more of a personal preference. Of course, smaller instruments will make a higher pitched noise and larger ones lower pitched noise. But in the end, I think it does not matter much - kazoo will always be a funny sounding instrument.
I have found that kazoo around 10-12 cm (5-6 inches) long and 2-3 cm (1 inch) wide seems to be a good size, plus it fits really well in your pocket .
The thickness of the top and bottom should be around 3 mm and the sides should be 4-5 mm thick. This way there is plenty of wood to sand off without making the whole thing to brittle.
The resonator cap should be also around 3 mm - so you can cut it together with the rest of the parts (top/bottom).
Tip: Use pencils with an eraser as push sticks when cutting small pieces! The eraser gives plenty of grip and you will have good control over the workpiece. When using crosscut sled attach a stop block to your fence(in front of the blade). This way the cutoff won't get jammed between the blade and the fence.
Step 3: Drill
There should be a total of four holes in kazoo. Two at each end, one for the resonator and one for holding the resonator cap. For the first two, it is pretty straightforward but the last two you have to drill.
The size of your kazoo dictates also the size of the resonator hole. If you are making a kazoo that is 2.5 cm wide means that the hole can be around 16mm. I have found that this instrument is the loudest when the resonator hole is close to the mouth, meaning that it should be near that end in which you plan to hum.
On the same line as the resonator hole, you must drill a hole for the bolt. Hole size for the M5 bolt is 5 mm. On my first kazoos, I drilled the hole exactly 5 mm meaning the bolt was loose in there. It meant that it was much harder to tighten down the wingnut as the bolt kept spinning. The solution, of course, is to drill a smaller hole(4.5 mm) so that the bolt locks in there tightly (or you can use superglue).
The bolt hole should be around 1.5 cm from the edge of the resonator hole.
When you are already at drilling it is also a good idea to drill holes in the resonator cap. Copy the hole locations from the top part of the kazoo. When the bolt hole for the body should be slightly smaller than the bolt (so it could lock) then the hole in the resonator cap should be bigger so that the cap could spin easily in case you need to change out the resonator. The resonator hole should be as big as the hole in the body but I suggest you make it a few millimetres smaller. This way it will hold the wax paper better.
Step 4: Glue
It is important to start by screwing it the bolt because you can not do it later!
Apply glue to one edge of the sides and spread it evenly with a finger. Place the sides on the top part of the body making sure the sides are not covering the resonator hole. Apply glue to the second edge of the sides and place the bottom on there and clamp it down. The top and bottom should be cut slightly bigger to allow for any error for example when the pieces slide when clamping down. There is also a great tip that helps prevent this sliding. You are supposed to put some salt on the glue surface before clamping the workpieces together. Just be sure not to put too much salt in there or the glue won't work so well.
Regular spring clamps work well. I used four of them to get an even pressure. My cat Nurris came to inspect whether I am following all the safety rules. She was not disappointed :)
Step 5: Sand
Of course, an essential part of any woodworking project is sanding. Before gluing I decided to give the top and the bottom a quick sand to remove the saw marks. It is much easier to do before gluing as you have to screw in the bolt. I made a quick little jig to prevent blisters. It allows holding the thin workpiece firmly as you are sanding it.
Disc sander works great for removing most of the material such as the ends and the sides. Rest of the work has to be done by hand. I started with 120 grit and ended with 180 grit sandpaper. This gave a nice and smooth finish. I also chamfered the edges slightly to make holding it more comfortable.
Talking about the finish - easiest and prettiest is probably oil. But if you feel like putting more effort in, use lacquer or something similar - it is totally up to you. I used linseed oil and it popped the grain really nicely and gave my kazoos a beautiful look.
Step 6: The Resonator Cap
The last thing to do is to cut out the resonator cap. The size and the looks of it are up to you. I did one freehand and copied others from it. To cut it out you can use a variety of saws but I decided to use just my disc sander. It worked really well as the material was thin!
The resonator itself is cut out of some rolling paper.
Finally, I also made a little sack to protect my kazoo from scratches. I just sewed a little "sock" from some scrap material I had laying around. Nothing fancy but it does the job.
Step 7: But Can You Go Bigger?
Well.....yes you can!
As I was making a few of them smaller kazoos I thought to myself "how big could the worlds biggest kazoo be?" A little research on the WWW showed that no one except some dude who failed at didgeridoo making had ever attempted to build a big kazoo. I knew this was my big moment! No matter how big of an instrument I would build it would still be the biggest in the world!
I followed the simple steps of kazoo building except on a much larger scale. Here is the result!
World´s biggest kazoo measures 53.5 cm in length 15 cm in width and 5 cm in thickness!
Maybe this is a beginning of a monstrous kazoo building craze and someone will beat my record. Wink Wink*
Step 8: The End
That is it, folks! I hope I have inspired you to build your own kazoo! It is a fun little instrument that can entertain you for hours. Just be sure not to lose your grip on reality or you might end up like the Kazoo kid!
[GIVEAWAY HAS ENDED! The winner is AnitaV23]
So as I said before I would like to give away one of my handmade kazoos. To win one leave a comment down below on which kazoo (1-6) you like the. On 20th of April I will choose a random winner to whom I will ship the prize!
- Angelique* - European oak
- Angelique - Grey alder
- European oak
- Cherry - Grey alder
- Grey alder - European oak (this specific one I do not have anymore butI still have European oak - Grey alder)
- Cherry (top) - Angelique - European oak (bottom)
*Angelique (Dicorynia guianensis) from French Guiana
I hope you liked this project!
Let me know if you have any questions!
Second Prize in the
AaronE24 made it!
We have a be nice policy.
Please be positive and constructive.
They are all beautiful! Besides the obvious ukulele in step 3, is the 3mm measure for each thickness of each panel? I don't understand completely how you explained the dimensions. If it matters, I vote for #2.
Heh, fixed that writing mistake. Thaks for letting me know!
Yes, the thickness for top/ bottom and resonator cap is around 3mm. The sides should be a tiny bit thicker (4-5mm). Let me know if something is still unclear :)
i will leave a comment below as well with my favorite one included but have to ask what rolling paper is. It may be a stupid question but i really don't know if it is something specific or rolled up paper of any sort. Can you please help me out?
Love this project!
Hi! There are no stupid questions! Rolling paper is a specialty paper used for making cigarettes.
For the resonator are there any alternatives to rolling paper?
I also tried regular baking paper. For smaller kazoos it was not as good as rolling paper but for the big one it was perfect.
CraftAndu provides an alternative already: What is the resonator made out of? It is made out of wax paper. Tobacco paper works the best for smaller kazoos. Baking paper is better for bigger ones. Trial and error!
I think Carbon paper (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Carbon_paper ) might work too.