Greek Lyre

For school, we had to do a project on Greek mythology and I decided to do mine on Orpheus, a hero and musician. He charmed Pluto into allowing his dead wife to come back to the living world to be with him by using his talent in playing the lyre. Thus, I made a working lyre out of quarter inch wood, fishing wire, and eyelet screws.
Originally, I wanted to find an instructable or a ready template, but I couldn't find any good ones, so I decided to make my own.
What did I make? A wooden lyre that can actually play in tune. It has no sound box, so it's quiet.
How did I make it? I created my own pattern using large circular objects as guides and then used my own method to make it symmetrical. I used my dad's jigsaw to cut the smooth curves and then sanded it to shape.
Where did I make this? I made it at home, mostly on the kitchen floor and in the garage, but I made it for school.
What did I learn? I learned that veneers are annoying when you need to sand because they tend to get ripped off. I learned that fishing wire is much stretchier than the average violin string and is therefore harder to tune and needs more frequent tuning. I learned that making a design is actually quite easy if you weren't expecting a musical instrument but instead a representation. It was a happy accident that it can actually be tuned and played. I learned to play "Twinkle Twinkle Little Star" on a lyre.
I designed it myself, cut it myself (mostly), tuned it myself, learned to play a song on it, and got an A+ for my hard work.

Step 1: Making the Template

I used a large lid, a tin, and a cup to create the basic curves of the lyre on a piece of wrapping paper. I then copied it onto thin paper (a paper towel) and used it to copy the image to the other side and keep it symmetrical.

Step 2: Making the Pattern

Use the paper towel template to copy it to the other side by placing the template on the other side and letting a sharpie bleed through. Remove the paper towel and connect the dots.

Step 3: Cut the Lyre

Tape the cut-out pattern onto a piece of quarter inch plywood with veneer. Use a jigsaw or other saw that can cut smooth curves to match the pattern. Also cut a small section out of he scrap as shown in the second photo and a 1 and 1/2 inch bar that fits across the top.

Step 4: Assemble and Wait

First, sand with coarse sandpaper to smooth the edges, making sure to go in the direction of the veneer. then go over the edges in lighter, then very light over both faces in the direction of the veneer so it doesn't peel. I used Elmer's wood glue to put it together. Position the crescent a couple centimeters below the scooping part of the lyre and the bar a few below the scrolls of the lyre. Glue it and clamp in place, making sure not to tighten too much because it makes dents in the wood.

Step 5: Tuning

Drill six holes on the top and six holes in the raised crescent, then partially insert the eyelet screws in the crescent. Cut two pieces of cardboard and cut holes that align with three of the holes in each one so it can act as a stopper. Cut pieces of fishing wire long enough to span the lyre and attach them to the cardboard one at a time and string through the lyre to tie onto the eyelet screws. Tightening the screws will now tighten the strings so that they can be tuned. If they cannot be tightened enough, unscrew almost all the way, keeping the string loose by moving it on the eyelet, then re-tighten it. The sound it makes will be quiet, but if you press the scroll to your ear, it will sound loud, making it easy to tune.

Step 6: Play It!

Play a song! Twinkle is a good one. I tuned the leftmost string to A followed by B #C D E and #F.

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    9 Discussions


    Reply 2 years ago

    Not true, Pluto is the Greek god of wealth and metals, which were found underground, and so was also associated with the underworld. Hades and Pluto were often confused even by the Greeks.

    The Roman god of the underworld is Dis Pater, but they adopted the name Pluto and often referred to him by the Greek.


    3 years ago

    Pluto is a Roman god!!!!!!!!!

    super cool! i'll have to make one, on a side note Pluto is roman, so the name you want is hades


    5 years ago

    try putting a dish behind the open space with the strings. it resonates the sound and works better

    1 reply

    5 years ago on Introduction

    You did a good job on making it, but I have a few questions on some of the instructions.

    1. Should you use metal fishing wire or regular fishing wire (clear), and what test line number is it?

    2. Did you drill through the top piece?

    3. Are the two cardboard pieces aligned in a straight line behind the top piece?

    4. Did you do a standard knot on the cardboard piece to secure the fishing wire?

    Please reply to answer my questions, and thank you for your assistance.


    6 years ago on Introduction

    Try using nylon guitar strings. That might help you get good sound quality, and make it a little easier to tune. This is an awesome project, great job!


    6 years ago on Introduction

    Very cool! I am doing a unit right now with my students on greek mythology, they were asking about the lyre!