Peli-Can Musical Instrument




Introduction: Peli-Can Musical Instrument

Some years ago my son was given a school project to do. Make a musical instrument from things around the house.

We happen to use a lot of peanut butter in our house so there are always peanut butter buckets around the house and Grandpa happens to play the Wash Tub Bass. From this the first Peli-Can was hatched.

This is not a refined instrument but it is a functional one.

You will need:

1 Bucket (Size and materials will affect the tone)

A board (At least 3X longer than the height of the bucket)

4 wood screws

A length of cord to make the chord. ( about the same length as the board)

Maybe some paint


Wood Saw


Screw Driver

Dremel Tool ( Handy)

Step 1: Parts

I used a bucket about 5 liters in size, 18cm tall.

I found a scrap board about 75cm long 2cm thick and 8cm wide. I ran it through the planer to clean it up a bit.

I wanted a board about 3X longer than the bucket was tall and thick enough to support a pin for a hinge.

Step 2: Cutting Out the Board

As this is not a fine tuned instrument yet there are no set measurements at this time.

I do know that by changing the length of the neck you can change the tone because it changes the length of the string. The type of string you use will also make a difference so try some different types.

Cut out the neck and drill a hole where you want the bottom of the fork to be. The hole should be slightly larger than the wood is thick so the head will have some space on either side, you don't want a tight fit. Cut down to each side of the hole from the end to make the fork.

Drill a hole across the forks where the screw/hinge pin will go. Make sure the screw threads can still get a grip.

It is not really needed but because of the type of rim that the bucket has I tapered the bottom of the neck so it would fit into a slot in the rim.

I then used the scrap from the fork inside the bucket as backing to screw the neck onto the side of the bucket. Make sure you do a better job of pre drilling than I did.

Step 3: Head Design

Mark a nice curve on the end of the head board and mark the pivot point. The distance between the end and the pivot point will have an effect on how responsive it is. The more stretch in the string the greater the distance should be.

Now you can take the rest of the wood and shape it to look as much as a Pelican or bird head as you like.

Step 4: String It Together

So the bucket will last longer you need to reinforce where the string goes through the center. I did this by cutting a short chunk of broom handle, drilling a hole just large enough for the string through the center. I added a couple more holes to complicate things but you could just thread the cord through the center and tie a knot to stop it slipping back through.

Thread the cord up through the hole you put perfectly in the center of the bottom of the bucket, just big enough for the cord.

Take a Dremel Tool with a sanding drum and make a groove for the cord to lie in that goes around the curved end of the lever/bird head.

Drill a hole in what would be the top of the bird head all the way through to the other side. It should be a bit larger than the cord but small enough that a screw will bind when put in with the cord.

Mount the bird head with a screw through the forks and the pivot point. Use the Dremel Tool with a cutoff wheel to cut the screw off flush. Hack saw works too but it doesn't make cool sparks like the Dremel.

Bring the cord up, lay it in the groove track and feed the end down the hole. When the cord is tight with a good angle be able to apply tension, secure it with a screw in the hole.

DONE you now have a working instrument, pluck the string under different tensions.

Make sure that the bucket is not closed by placing flat on the ground unless you want to muffle the sound. For larger buckets that you can't play in the hand you need a special stick that you place under one edge to lift it a little. It is called an acou-stick.

Step 5: Painted Peli-Can

For additional fun bring out the paints.

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    5 Discussions


    4 years ago

    It's like a home made whamola! Google Les Claypool and Whamola to see what kinds of amazing things you can do with this. I've thought for years about building something like this, really want to do it now. :)


    4 years ago

    Only thing would liked to hear you play it looks like fun


    Reply 4 years ago

    You may think you want to hear me play it, but what you really want is to hear someone who has some musical skill play it. :)


    4 years ago

    Interesting. I want to hear the pelican produce a beat!


    4 years ago