10 Easy Steps to Make Your Own Cello!

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*Updated 12/13/15 I apologize for any trauma or

bodily harm inflicted by my 9th grade grammar

My friend and I attempted to build a cello for my 9th grade Science Olympiad Sounds of Music competition--these are the results.

Wood:

-Body: plywood (not the most traditional material I can readily admit)

-Fingerboard: unknown, scrap railing found at Home Depot

Metal

-Strings: Stock cello strings bought from local music store.

-Tuners: An L-bracket, a washer, and a screw.

-Metal Bar: I used a metal bar for the area where the fingerboard met the peg box.

Range

C2 to F6, the range of a normal cello

Sound quality

Relatively muffled but plays well for a homemade instrument

Video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MN-EsLC4eeY

A quick timeline

1. Construction began with finding dimensions. Plans and measurements are readily accessible on the internet

2. Once plans were obtained, I mapped out a blank of the faceplates.

3. Using these blanks, I copied them onto two sheets of plywood.

4. Taking the leftover wood (save the planet!) I cut out the bouts (sides) of the cello.

5. I soaked the plywood in water overnight, this unorthodox method surprisingly worked! You will notice that the veneer of the plywood peels off.

6. I cut out two f-holes onto the faceplate using a power drill and handheld jig saw.

7. Creating the bridge was a bit more involved, I had to borrow a table saw and a belt sander from my school’s woodshop.

8. The scrolls and peg box were simplified for ease of construction. Note that the pegs are lubricated with graphite and/or bow rosin to control its coefficient of friction.

9. The Fingerboard was created (see above)

10. All the pieces were glued together using wood glue, with hot glue where needed, or with deck screws.

This cello was constructed for a retired Science Olympiad event called Sounds of Music. We had to created two different instruments of different registers, take a sound physics test, play Canon in D by Pachelbel, compose an original piece of music, and play both pieces. We placed second at states.

Step 1: Tools

What you'll really need for this project varies
with how nice you want your cello to be. I was under a deadline (the competition) but depending on your skill and time limits you can obviously take this above and beyond!

-Handheld Jigsaw: this gives you so much freedom when it comes to cutting the plywood, just be sure to use the proper safety procedures

-Power drill: this will help, especially when it comes to creating the peg holes and the f holes

-Hot Glue Gun: self-explanatory

-Ruler, pencil, calculator

-Sandpaper/ belt sander: this is imperative! It saved me so much time by cleaning up rough edges and sanding down the wood where I wanted slopes and curvatures, especially on the bouts.

-Access to a woodshop: this will help but is not necessary.

-A reliable recycling bin: I used a trusty recycling bin in lieu of an actual table.

-Creativity & Innovation: to have as much fun as you possibly can!

Step 2: Marking Out the Measurements

After doing some preliminary research online, I
found some blueprints. I translated them to a canvas- yes a painter’s canvas- as a basic guide. It’s probably faster and more accurate to trace the outline from a cello, but at the time I only had a ¾ size cello at home and was aiming to create a full size cello.

Measurements: http://woodsoundstudio.com/setup.htm

Step 3: Cutting Out the Faceplates

Here I used the guide created in the last step to cut out a wooden blank. This blank will be used later to help set bouts.

Step 4: Bending the Bouts

Unfortunately it didn't occur to me to take many pictures of this process, but it is relatively simple to recreate. I poured hot water into a garbage bag lined wagon and set the cut bout pieces overnight. In the morning the plywood gave more slack, just enough to bend without worry. It is important to note that I peeled off the veneer. Using the blank, I bent the pieces and fit them on the sides of the blank using dumbbells to hold them in place. Then I glued them together and to the back face plate and set it overnight.

Step 5: Putting Everything Together

Here you can see the process by which the bouts were glued down. The face plates were then subsequently placed on top, followed by drilling the f-holes.

Step 6: The Endpin

The end pin was somewhat of a pain to create. I used a small block of wood to reinforce the bout and used a scrap rod that can easily be scavenged from a blinds to go.

Step 7: The Bridge, Peg Box and Tail Piece

Okay here's where things get complicated. To build the bridge I drew the outline of a bridge onto a flat piece of wood and SLOWLY cut it out with the jigsaw. Slow and steady wins the race. Then I used a belt sander to taper the bridge form top to bottom. To make the heart I drilled three holes and slowly carved them out, same for the kidneys.
The peg box, as you can imagine, is a box fashioned out of 3 pieces of wood. For the pegs, I used 4 1 inch wooden dowels with fashioned pegs attached with wood glue. To make sure the pegs sticks to the peg box I used pencil graphite to make them easier to tune, then crushed rosin stop them from sliding.
The tuners are created using an L-bracket, a screw and a washer to control the tension.

Step 8: Finding the Right Fingerboard

This is probably the most important step- the fingerboard. If your fingerboard is too flimsy, the neck will snap. If it's too thick you won't be able to play it- find the right balance.

For this cello I used a l-brace, glue, and a screw to attach the board to the body. I MUST STRESS THIS PART, AS IT IS PROBABLY THE WEAKEST PART OF YOUR CELLO!! In fact I dropped a cello once and this is the exact area where it broke.

Step 9: Putting Everything Together

Now you should have
-your body finished
-tail piece finished
-bridge, pegs and pegbox
-fingerboard *note the fingerboard in this picture is not the actual final product*
-endpin
Now all you have to do is put them together!

Step 10: The Bow!

The bow is simply made from fishing line under high tension. I used sandpaper to barb the fishing line to give it more drag on the strings of the cello. The tension on the bow is achieved the same way the tuners on the cello operate.

Step 11: Time to Play!

That's IT!
Test your cello and make any modifications if necessary. Feel free to contact me with any questions, comments, or concerns.

-troubleshooting-
Strings are too high
- i personally had this problem- i didn't map out the angles, lower the bridge, your bridge is too high

No sound??
-First check that there is nothing there to muffle the string, for example the string is too close to the fingerboard to vibrate, then check that your bow is working properly. A good rule of thumb would be to use a real bow- then use your homemade one.

I can't tune it!/ The pegs won't stick!
-by this point you really want to use a lot of rosin powder on the pegs, but DON'T OVER DO IT. Make sure to hear a bit of creaking, but if you hear A LOT of creaking that's not good your, pegs will break! Use some pencil graphite to counter the rosin.


That's it! Hope you had as much fun as I did and enjoy your new cello :).

Make-to-Learn Youth Contest

Fourth Prize in the
Make-to-Learn Youth Contest

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    70 Discussions

    A lot of instruments are made from non-traditional materials. I have an inexpensive mandolin and owned a Harmony archtop that are both made from "laminated wood".
    When I worked for a music store, we farmed out our violin repairs to a shop in Broad Ripple where they had a bass in the rack that had a body made of pressed aluminum. The story was that they were built during WWII for Army orchestras because they were light, rugged, and not made from as strategic a material as Spruce.
    It sounded OK

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    Oni_of_Sound

    7 months ago

    Great design! I do recommend Red oak for this project, though. It gives the strings the ability to produce a better sound. I am a Cello/Violin player myself, and this helps as a start. I would recommend this to your friends.

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    billbillt

    1 year ago

    LOVE THIS!!!...

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    brewgoat

    1 year ago

    Nice job on the instructable. Don't "despair" on the comment below. The poster leans toward critizing without actually having created one himself.

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    JaredL16

    2 years ago

    That's awesome! I play violin but want to learn cello. All the cellos are way too expensive. I would like to build my own if I can. What thickness plywood did you use? It sounded really good in the video. I think it's awesome. Could this simplistic design idea be applied to other string instruments?

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    Lelmaster1000

    2 years ago

    How did you make the angle that the cello takes? Im trying tobuild a cello myselff and I dond know how to make it. I was thinking about using a cello but im not sure.

    1 reply
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    shallnot

    5 years ago on Introduction

    I despair that so many "Instructables" are so poorly written and by no means is this one the worst I've seen but it is above average (or should that be below average?)

    Previous commenters have pointed out the usage of "finishing line" instead of "fishing line" and "table [jig] saw" instead of "scroll saw" (with the ubiquity of Google or Bing search it should take seconds to find out the right term) in this document. They could have easily started with the first sentence "So i'm attempting to make a cello with my friend.. and here were the results." Here we have a confusion between present tense "attempting" and past tense "here were". "My friend and I attempted to make a cello--these are the results" or "My friend and I are attempting to make a cello and this will be a documentation of the results" might be better depending on when the text is being written.

    To quote fully from AutoDesk co-founder John Walker's Reading Unedited Text http://www.fourmilab.ch/documents/strikeout/ :

    '[Some argue that] the Internet is a dynamic medium; there's no time to carefully proofread text before posting it.

    Consider what the folks who advance this argument are saying. "I'm in such a hurry that I can't be bothered to critically read what I've written before I dispatch it to be read by hundreds, thousands, or millions of other people. My time is so valuable, the five or ten minutes it would take to spelling and grammar check my posting, then read it over for coherence and edit it accordingly cannot be justified. Better all of my readers spend the time to figure out what I was trying to say than I spend a minute making it clear." '


    Perhaps this site needs a cadre of editors to review first-time submissions? They could provide feedback to the poster to improve his or her writing. In the mean time I would suggest that posters ask three to five people to read their text and make suggestions for improvement. Perhaps then their writing may deserve the superlatives commenters give it.

    I highly recommend borrowing the book How Not to Write Bad, by Ben Yagoda, from your local library. It is a quick read and very useful.

    6 replies
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    cellochic shallnot

    Reply 2 years ago

    I am aware that this response was written three years ago, however I felt the need to inform you that in the second to last sentence in the sixth paragraph "their" needs to be changed to "his or her." This is called pronoun confusion, now a days rather than saying "his or her" people trying not be gender specific so they wind up saying "their." Their is a plural pronoun and does not agree with the singular antecede nt (singular pronoun=singular antecedent and plural pronoun=plural antecedent). The sentence says "I would suggest that posters ask three to five people to read their text and make suggestions for improvement" this makes it sound as five people should read his or her own text rather than five people should read the writers text before it is posted. Even though is sounds correct being "their" it is very much wrong.

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    Benbearshallnot

    Reply 5 years ago on Introduction

    That proves that we are all human beings (but I don't know about you, I think you're an exception to that) :)

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    Benbearshallnot

    Reply 5 years ago on Introduction

    That proves that we are all human beings (but I don't know about you, I think you're an exception to that) :)

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    bugman113shallnot

    Reply 5 years ago on Introduction

    Are you just constantly complaining about things? You always talk about how poorly written instructables are and I've yet to see you publish a single one. If you want to offer friendly criticism that's one thing, but sod off if you're gonna just complain about everything.

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    allnightshallnot

    Reply 5 years ago on Introduction

    This man obviously spent a fair bit of time working on this project.
    Why are you insulting him?
    If you have nothing positive to contribute to the article why even bother.
    As far as "How Not to Write Bad" how about you spending some of your time reading "How Not to be Obnoxious"

    I'm just glad he posted this. There were some typos, but nothing I would cry about. It was a very good instructable, considering that it's the only one I know of to make a cello from scratch.
    I understand you were trying to help, but it came off slightly offensive. Just thought I'd let you know.

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    AlexandraR2

    3 years ago on Introduction

    Hi, there.

    Thanks for your instructable. It's very nice.

    I just want to add a piece of information which is actually a piece of wood to your cello. :)

    It's missing its "soul": the sound post. It's the small rod that connects the bottom and the lid, below the A string, inside the "box".

    You can find more info about it here:

    http://www.aitchisoncellos.com/publications/cello-...

    And how to place it here:

    http://www.violins.on.ca/luthier/soundpost.html

    http://www.dailymotion.com/video/x7py45_colocar-el...

    You'll see that after this, your cello will gain a new soul and life when you play it!

    Alexandra

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    KellyCraig

    3 years ago on Step 10

    This is pathetically ingenious (I hope that came out as a compliment).

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    mkeshti

    3 years ago

    Thank you again for the cello.
    Do you know the cubic inches of the bouts?

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    mkeshti

    3 years ago

    Thank you for your cello. I've made one out of cardboard. It's an 'emulated cello - viol da Gamba'. My next build will be of 1/16 inch pine. Oh, G-D willing. Again thank you for your cello.

    1419255706380-1398253036.jpg
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    turtledrake

    4 years ago on Step 4

    Hi there!
    I'm considering doing this myself. What did you use as a frame to bend the wood?