Introduction: Make a Cigar Box Fiddle and Bow!

About: I like fixing up old technology in my spare time!

Hey everyone! In this tutorial I'll show you all how to make a cigar box fiddle and bow. This instrument is fairly easy to build and is fun to play!


-Cigar Box for the body.

-Bamboo pole 30 - 40 inches long(76 - 102 cm) for the neck. ¾ to 1 inch thick(2 to 2.5 cm).

-Bamboo pole 25 inches long(64 cm) for the bow. ¾ to 1 inch thick(2 to 2.5 cm).

-Piece of quarter round wood 3 ½(9 cm) inches long for the tuning peg.

-Small piece of wood for the bridge(you can use one of the pieces we remove from the cigar box for the sound holes!).

-Old guitar string. I like to use the plain steel ones with the little ball on the end.

-Monofilament Multipurpose line 15 lb(6.8 kg) for the bow string.

-Violin rosin for the bow.

-2 small screws to hold the cigar box lid shut.

-2 zip ties for the bow. I used 11 inch(28 cm) 75 lb(333n) ones. You could probably use different ones these are just what I had.

Step 1: Cut Bamboo for Neck.

First off we need to use a saw to cut the longer piece of bamboo to the right length for the neck.

Bamboo pieces are divided into sections called "internodes". The dividing rings are called "nodes".

For the neck I cut the bamboo so an internode extends from the "top" of the fiddle body down through the bottom of the instrument with a node stuck at the top side. I then cut some extra bamboo off the top of the neck as well. In the photo above I have shown where to make the cuts and why.

The internode above the top side of the body can serve as the "finger board" on our fiddle.

The spot above the upper node is a good spot for installing a tuning peg. Right above a node should be slightly stronger structurally.

Step 2: Put Holes in Cigar Box.

Next up we have to put two holes in our cigar box body for the bamboo neck and cut some sound holes out.

I used a spade bit to drill the holes for the neck into the cigar box. I choose a bit that was as wide as the internode on my piece of neck bamboo. This way a node will get stuck at the top end of the instrument and string tension will hold the whole instrument together!

I used a coping saw to cut out some sound holes so that the body kinda.... sorta has the shape of a real fiddle. You could get creative here and cut all kinds of different shapes into the box if you felt like it.

Step 3: Make and Install a Tuning Peg.

Next up we need to make a tuning peg and fit it into our bamboo neck.

Basically I used the tapered round file as a model for how thin my tuning peg should be and what taper it should have.

I used a marker to mark off a portion of the file that is the same length as my tuning peg. With the file marked off I can compare between the tuning peg and file as I carve the peg.

I then drew a rough outline of what I wanted to whittle away from my quarter round of wood.

I then carefully whittled the quarter round piece of wood into a rough tuning peg sort of shape.

Next I choose where I wanted to install my tuning peg in the bamboo neck. I then marked the spot and drilled a pilot hole.

I then drilled the main hole for the tuning peg. I choose a drill bit that is the same width as the tip of my round tapered file. I did that so that I can use the file to make the hole wider from the back of the neck, and tapered to match my tuning peg.

Next I gently used the file to enlarge the tuning peg hole from the back side of the neck. I filed away until the file could go about 1/3 of the way through my marked area. This way the hole is about the same size and tapper as my tuning peg.

After that I cleaned up the tuning peg hole and tuning peg a bit with my knife.

Then I test fit the peg into the hole and it fits! You want it to fit in the hole tightly and not be too easy to move.

I then took the tuning peg back out and used the smallest drill bit I had to drill a hole in it for the guitar string.

Step 4: Make a Bridge and Install String.

You could make something really cool like an actual violin bridge but I always like to reuse stuff so.... I just used one of my sound hole cut outs for the bridge. It works! And it makes the instrument look kinda like a duck... which is great!

To install the string I looped it around the part of the bamboo neck that is sticking out the bottom and then up over the bridge and through the hole in the tuning peg.

I also put a few small screws into the back side of the instrument to keep the cigar box lid shut.

Step 5: Make a Bow.

Making a bow is not too hard with the power of zip ties!

Grab that other piece of bamboo and see if it is bent. If it is we want to use the more concave part for where our bow string will go.

I drilled two holes for the zip ties. One a 1.5(4cm) inches from one end, the other about 5 inches (13cm) from the other end of the bow bamboo. The holes should be parallel with each other.

Next I looped the zip ties through the holes and closed them so they still had a few inches of slack in each one.

I then measured out about 20 lengths of monofilament fiber. The length I used here was the distance between the ends of the two zip ties.

Next I tied one end of the monofilament fiber off to one of the zip tie loops.

I then ran the monofilament fiber back and forth between the two zip ties making sure to keep tension on the line as much as possible.

Once I ran out of fiber I tied it off to the nearest zip tie.

I then pulled the zip ties as tight as I could and cut off the ends.

Next up I ran it across my violin rosin a bunch of times, with this kind of bow it is going to need quite a bit of rosin on there!

And now our bow is done! Try it out on the fiddle. If it doesn't sound quite right try putting some more rosin on the bow or adjusting the string tension. You can also play this instrument with a guitar slide and pick, it really has a cool bluesy kinda feel when played this way.

Step 6: Conclusions

So now we have finished the bow and fiddle!

Some ways you could expand this project include: adding a piezo electric pickup and jack, adding more than one string, add a actual finger board maybe made out of another piece of bamboo. The fun thing about making your own instruments is that you can really do anything you want!

Here is a demo of how this instrument sounds:

Well that's about it. I hope you enjoyed this tutorial! Happy making!

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