Recycled Bottle Guitar (3 Parts, NO Tools)

16,928

172

24

Introduction: Recycled Bottle Guitar (3 Parts, NO Tools)

About: I like turning boring things into awesome things! Usually on video.

This project is one of the simplest, fully functional guitar designs you will ever see. It requires only three parts: a 2 liter bottle, a 3 foot (90cm) length of PVC pipe or wooden dowel that fits inside the bottle (in the US this is a 1/2" pipe for the mouth of a standard soda bottle), and a string about 3x longer than the pipe.

To listen to how this guitar plays check out the full video here:

The trickiest part about assembling this guitar is learning the different knots used in stringing it up. Once the knots are learned the actual building process only takes 2-3 minutes. We'll start with the one and only bit of work that needs to be done to assemble the body of the guitar before focusing on the string.

Step 1: Filing a Notch

On the top of the neck, this guitar will need a notch for the string to rest in. To accomplish this you can use a file, but my goal was to design this guitar to be easily made without any tools at all. Filing the groove is easily done on the edge of a sharp stone or cement stairs. Once finished the pipe can be inserted into the bottle to act as the guitar's neck, and it's time to string it up!

Step 2: Learning to Tie a Bowline Knot

Stringing the guitar starts by looping the end of the string around the bottom of the bottle as shown in the first image above, then tying a knot that will rest half way up the side. It's important that this knot doesn't slip, which makes it a great place to use a bowline. The bowline knot is one of the most commonly used knots among sailors, tree workers, and most professions that involve rope. It forms a loop that will never slip, and even after being tightened with thousands of pounds it remains easy to untie.

In the above image series I demonstrate one of the most intuitive ways I've learned to tie a bowline, by holding the end of the rope between two fingers with your palm facing down. These two fingers are then looped over the other side of the rope in a twisting motion to result in your palm facing upward, and the line that was between your fingers now going through the center of the loop that was created. This end of the line then goes behind and around the "tree", and back through the hole. Tighten it up and you have a bowline.

This is the knot that should be tied in the guitar string, and positioned so it rests as shown in the final image in the series. Note: the string I am using for the guitar is a fairly strong synthetic gardening string. The thickness of the string will determine how high (or low) of a note the guitar can be tuned to. A string as thick as a clothesline can be used for a bass guitar.

Step 3: Tying a "guitar Tuner" Knot

Once the bowline has been tied on the front of the instrument, the string is looped over the end of the neck (so it rests in the notch filed earlier) and brought all the way down to the bottom of the bottle. The string then wraps back upward once again to form another loop, this time secured by a very useful sliding knot that will act as the guitar's tuner. This knot is called a taut line hitch. As it's name implies a taut line hitch is used for tightening a line.

Again the above image series shows the steps for tying this particular knot. The end of the string is looped around the trunk, twice. Then it passes over itself, back under the trunk, then up and through the opening above. This forms a knot that will slide easily if the knot itself is grabbed and moved along the rope, but when the end of the rope is pulled the knot self tightens to prevent sliding. By tying this knot on the back of the instrument, it can be slid to tighten or loosen the guitar string and in that way it serves the same purpose as a guitar tuner.

Step 4: Adding the Bridge

All guitars need a bridge to lift the string off the body, which in this case is a soda bottle. Once the string is tight thanks to the taut line hitch on the back, the cap of the bottle can be slid under the bowline knot in front. This lifts the string off the surface of the bottle which improves the guitar's resonance (volume), and reduces undesirable buzzing. Adjusting the bridge position can change the tone of the instrument dramatically so it's worth moving it around to find where it sounds the best.

Step 5: Playing the Guitar

A one string guitar is commonly known as a diddley bow, and many tutorials are available for playing instruments of a similar design. There is no need to tune the instrument precisely unless you plan on playing music with others, as with only one string there's no way for it to sound out of tune. A simplified version of just about every song is possible to play on a single string, and the best way to learn them is finding the notes by ear.

In the full video for this project I demonstrate several other modifications to these guitars, including using thinner strings (which requires learning a third knot), as well as adding frets and lowering the guitar's action. These things are not required for the simplest version of this bottle guitar, but you may like to watch the video to see/hear the differences between versions.

I hope to see a lot of guitars made in this style as I'm quite happy with the simplicity of the project, and with the educational value of learning the knots involved along the way. This would be a great intro to knots for something like a boyscout group.

I hope you build one and enjoy it!

Again here is the full project video with a demonstration of the guitar's sound:

Toys and Games Challenge

Participated in the
Toys and Games Challenge

1 Person Made This Project!

Recommendations

  • Colors of the Rainbow Contest

    Colors of the Rainbow Contest
  • Box Challenge

    Box Challenge
  • Home Decor Challenge

    Home Decor Challenge

24 Comments

0
rise-program-20
rise-program-20

7 months ago

This is AMAZING!!! So making this with my music classes!

0
lukehayes05
lukehayes05

11 months ago

Suchhh a lovley bird....
RIP Billy.... Mine would have loved to site on something like this....

0
lukehayes05
lukehayes05

11 months ago

Suchhh a lovley bird....
RIP Billy.... Mine would have loved to site on something like this....

1
ali_snyder
ali_snyder

11 months ago

Just loved it. Your bird is adorable too. Can't wait to try this myself.

1
Duplo for Daddies
Duplo for Daddies

1 year ago

I’m totally showing my son this! He’s just dying to make things, and is a born musician. Thanks for excellent instruction! You got my vote by the way.

2
WUVIE
WUVIE

1 year ago

This is SO cool! I loved the video, for the clarity, and your smooth voice. Nicely, nicely done. You definitely have my vote. Loved your companion, too!

1
Emerald04
Emerald04

1 year ago

I love this! Great job! You have a beautiful bird also!

4
FabrizioB4
FabrizioB4

1 year ago

Great! just a question: could it be a good idea to make the guitar frets using metal rings on the pvc pipe? The sound would be cleaner I think (but it is already good now).

1
NightHawkInLight
NightHawkInLight

Reply 1 year ago

Metal rings from wire would work. Zip ties are an easy choice

3
shereenah65
shereenah65

1 year ago

i love this site. thank you for creating and sharing such an insightful talent.

4
Dakotamouse
Dakotamouse

1 year ago

That was so cool! Great video!

4
MissAcanthophis
MissAcanthophis

1 year ago

Had to comment on your black headed caique! Beautiful!

2
mr.green
mr.green

1 year ago

Great post!

3
jimwi
jimwi

1 year ago

Simplicity at its best. What more can i say awesome. Thanks

0
jimwi
jimwi

Reply 1 year ago

Now look what you have done. You have inspired me to think out side the box and maybe make a small improvement. lol What if you use a lid off a ice coffee bottle ( bigger diameter) for the bridge and off set the grove on the end of the stick to have two groves are now you can have two strings. To off set the extra tension on the side of the bottle you could seal the bottle and put a n air valve in the side or end of the bottle. Have a look what Exscaly did on here. www.instructables.com/id/Upcycled-Bottle-Hang-Drum...
Please take any and all ideas / improvements and run with them would love to see how far the you can take this. Thank JIM.

5
jsellers202
jsellers202

1 year ago

I was planning an after school maker club for 2nd and 3rd graders for next year. I recently built an electric canjo and was trying to figure out how to make something that would give them the feeling of the canjo without all the work. This fits the bill perfectly. Inexpensive and easy enough. Plus they will get to learn a few knots. Hope you don't mind me using this idea. Thanks.

1
NightHawkInLight
NightHawkInLight

Reply 1 year ago

Please use it! And send me a picture of the results. I'm always very happy to see one of my projects used in that way. To electrify it you may be able to slip a piezo pickup in/under the bottlecap, or stick it to the bottom of the bottle.

0
jsellers202
jsellers202

Reply 1 year ago

I was thinking of trying piezo pickup in those places and maybe tin the end of the pipe opposite the bottle, just to see if there's a difference.