Introduction: 3 String Tin Can Erhu

An Erhu is a traditional Chinese 2 stringed bowed instrument. I've increase the string count by one in order to make is play chords. And, although it is usually played using a bow, this instrument is quite happy being plucked or strummed.

This is a quick and easy musical instrument with ideas borrowed from the SqUkulele project. It can be built in about 1 hr and uses a tin can as the body.

Using 3 strings tuned to a major chord, it is easy to play the 1-6-4-5 progression (think Baby Shark) using a max of 2 fingers! Of course, you can tune it anyway you like.

Happy Building!

Specially for covid lockdown, I've just published plans for a Can-u-lele that can be built in an afternoon with materials you should have at home... No need to break lockdown!! Find plans here: Can-u-lele Plans.



  • 1 - Tin can
  • 1 - stick (at least 1 " x 1/2" x 14")
  • Violin bow
  • 3 - 3/16" machine screws
  • 6 - nuts that match the screws
  • Fishing line or ukulele strings
  • Misc small pieces of wood


  • Hacksaw or Dremel
  • Drill with bits
  • Wood Saw
  • Hot

Step 1: Make the Tuners

We're going to borrow tuners from the Sq'Ukulele project as they are compact and easy to make. You'll need 3.

Take each machine screw and cut along the slot until it goes through the head. Try not to cut too deeply as it will compromise the strength of the screw and might break when tightening.

Step 2: Cut the Can

You need to cut 2 rectangular holes in the can in order for the stick to fit. It needs to be about 1/8" away from the bottom of the can (I removed the top and ate its contents). Use a hack saw to cut straight across until the stick fits. Cut the rectangle in half and bend the tabs in. Be careful, tin can be sharp!

Step 3: Prepare and Insert the Stick

Decide which end of the stick will be the head. From there, mark the middle and go down about 1/2". Drill a 3/16" hole for the middle tuner. Then mark about 3/8" to each side of the middle. Go down another 1/2" and drill 2 more 3/16" holes for the other tuners. Go down another 1/2" and drill three 1/16" holes all the way through. Another 1/8", cut a slot for the nut. It needs to be about half the size diameter of a the toothpick. At the other end of the stick, mark the half and 3/8" away and drill 3 more 1/16" holes about 1/2" in.

Insert the stick into the can. Don't worry if it is a little loose. Leave about 1" sticking out the bottom. Hot glue the can to the stick.

Step 4: Make a Bridge

You will need a small piece of wood about 1/4" tall and a little longer than the width than your stick. Sand this stick so that there is a point on top.

Step 5: String It Up

Insert the tuners with the heads to the BACK of the Uke. Add a toothpick into the slot.

Tie fishing line to the bottom of the stick. Run it over the bridge and through the top holes and into the tuners.

In order to insert the bow, undo the frog on the bow and slip it under the bottom string (the string on the right when facing the instrument and it is can down) ONLY. The idea is that is plays the first string on the back side of the bowstring and the other 2 using the traditional side.

You're done!! Tune it up and play some tunes!!

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