I thoroughly enjoy music. Nearly all kinds, and leaning toward the folksy in nature. I've tried learning to play instruments in the past but never stuck with it enough to get really good. Over the years I found I really like the process of making things (bikes, telescopes, amplifiers, speakers, gifts and screwdrivers). The intended end-use doesn't always pan out but I got the experience and joy of creating something. That predicament applies to musical instruments also.
To date I've made a 6-string cigar box guitar, a cigar box dulcimer, a “strum-stick” and a flute or two. None turned out amazing but I did get enjoyment, both musically and constructively, out of them. So follow along in my next endeavor as I attempt to build a 2-string, resonator-style, noise maker.
I guess you could call it a modified Diddley Bow. At its simplest a Diddley Bow is a stick with a guitar string nailed to it under tension that is played with a slide (glass or metal). Seriously, that is a thing. This will be a play off of that with 2 strings and a body borrowed from a tin that used to hold peanuts. My version is purely acoustic. It wouldn't be too hard to electrify it with a piezo pickup.
I don't guarantee it'll be amazing. But I know I'll have fun.
Step 1: The Principle of Moments
Get the tunes playing first. Whatever gets your creative juices flowing is fine. Since this is a slide-played instrument, The Eagles or Seasick Steve would be a good start.
After that, get the parts gathered up. You'll need:
- A tin for the resonating-chamber
- A 7/8” dowel rod about 3 feet long
- A short section of 1/4” dowel
- 2 guitar tuners
- 2 guitar strings, any kind
- A string stand-off for the bridge (I'm using a piece of angle aluminum 1/4” by 1/4”)
- Miscellaneous hardware for completing the instrument (use your imagination)
The tin can be just about anything metal that resonates when tapped or flicked with your finger. Cookie tins, oil cans, pie tins, etc. It just has to hold up to the string tension with out buckling in when tuned.
The tools needed are as follows:
- uni-bit or stepped drill bit
- assorted normal drill bits
- files and sandpaper
- pen or marker
- automatic center-punch
Safety glasses and caution should go without saying. Be careful.
Step 2: The Second Stage Turbine Blade
Start out by taking your beautiful new tin and drill a hole in it the same size as the dowel rod. For this design, keep the dowel close to the flat surface of the tin but don't let it touch. For example, My tin has a recessed lid that sits about a quarter inch into the body. I drilled the hole so that the edge of the dowel ran through the tin about an eighth inch from the inside surface of the lid. Start with a small pilot hole and then work your way up with the stepped drill bit.
Hopefully you haven't cut the dowel short yet. That's coming later. Slide the dowel through the tin until it butts up against the inside surface of the other side of the tin. At this point drill a small hole and install a screw to securely mount the dowel to the tin.
Step 3: Third Stage
Next you need to figure out your string length. Mine are about 27” long. You must leave some sting for the tuners so presume 1.5” to 2” shorter than total length. This will be the length from string mount to nut.
You will have to decide where you want your strings to mount. I drilled two small holes near the rim of the tin to pass the strings through. Whether on the end of the dowel or somewhere inside the tin's body, this will help determine the vibrating length of the string. The vibrating length is the distance from nut (at the head) to bridge (somewhere on the resonating surface).
Once you know where the strings mount, add the shortened string length and this will give you a rough idea of where the tuners need to be mounted. Make sure to leave enough space for the tuners and mark the dowel for the final cut. Break out the hacksaw and trim the dowel down.
I jumped the gun a bit with the first picture. But it does show you where the strings come through the tin and the screw that holds the dowel in place.
Step 4: Four Wheel Drive
With the dowel trimmed, figure out the placement of the tuners. As you can see I decided to make mine mount cross-ways in the head. Drill then holes and screw the tuners to the head.
Just below the tuners on the neck of the dowel, file a shallow slot for the short piece of 1/4” dowel. This is the location of the nut.
Step 5: Sing Loud, Sing Proud!
By now you should have a stick poking out of a metal tin with guitar tuners stuck on the end. Grab the two strings and string up the instrument. Take the string stand-off and file two shallow grooves in it for the strings to rest in. Place the string standoff in the middle of the tin under the strings and squeeze the small dowel under the strings up at the head.
Congratulations, you now have a nutty noise maker. Tune up the strings to whatever sounds good to your ear and grab a slide. A glass bottle neck or a short section of copper pipe work great. Pluck the strings and run the slide up and down the strings to make this thing sing. I can't claim to be any good at playing this thing 'cause I only started playing it the day I typed up this Instructable. But as with all things, time will help you figure out what sounds good.
For help making better noises or just getting ideas, here's a few links to sites that inspired me in this project.
And since I opened the door by mentioning them, I've added a picture of the guitar and dulcimer I made along side this project. I bet you can tell where I got the tuners for this project.