BL Workshop

Make your own banjo


banjo-200x148.jpgBanjos were first brought to America by African slaves in the late 17th century, and their music became part of the culture of the South. Much of the South was settled by Scottish and Irish immigrants, and they brought their musical traditions of Celtic fiddle songs with them, as well.

The mixture of the two brought about the musical traditions that have become uniquely American, including the blues, bluegrass, country, ragtime and Dixieland.

Here’s how you can make music with a simple banjo of your own:

WHAT YOU’LL NEED

  • large plastic container (2 to 4 quart)
  • scissors
  • 30-by-1-by-2-inch wood strip
  • hammer
  • two 1-inch nails
  • 2 screw eyes
  • 3 yards nylon fishing line
  • two, 3/4-by-2-by-1/4-inch pieces of wood
  • saw
  • sandpaper

WHAT YOU’LL DO

banjo1.gifStep 1: Cut off the top half of the plastic container. Discard the top. Cut two trap-door flaps on opposite sides of the container. These flaps should be about one inch above the bottom of the container and about the size of the wood strip, which will be the “neck” of the banjo. Slip the wood strip through the trap doors; the fit should be fairly tight.banjo2.gif

Step 2: Hammer the nails in side by side at the very end of the neck of the banjo on the end closer to the container. Only about 1/4 inch of the nails should be showing. Next screw the screw eyes into the opposite end of the neck, leaving them partially unscrewed (you will tighten them later).

banjo3.gif

Step 3: Tie pieces of the fishing line between the nails and screw eyes, and knot them so that they are very secure.

Step 4: Take one of the smaller pieces of wood (this piece will make the “bridge”) and insert it under the strings at the point where the strings cross the center of the bottom of the plastic container. Cut string-size grooves in the bridge so that the strings can sit securely on the bridge.

banjo4.gif

Step 5: Place the other small pieces of wood under the strings next to the screw eyes. This will give the strings extra tension. In order to tighten the strings, screw the screw eyes in tighter. Strings should be tight for maximum resonance.

Project adapted from “Great Civil War Projects You Can Build Yourself” by Maxine Anderson, published by Nomad Press. 

Comments about “Make your own banjo”

  1. HiGuy says:

    Brilliant

  2. white salmon says:

    Awesome idea and a will-do at home project.

  3. Dee says:

    This worked really well, great project!

  4. G4ng$t4h says:

    Great Source

  5. dirty dan says:

    How do you make frets that u use when u play, like that change the pitch on a real banjo
    ?

  6. Me says:

    Looks cool.

  7. cool guy says:

    didnt work

  8. cool scout says:

    thts pretty cool!

  9. bsc says:

    thats just weird

  10. mk says:

    i hope it works

  11. Greg'os says:

    I cut off the bottom of a plastic bucket and it works great

  12. sjk says:

    we thought of using a tin but this sounds cool

  13. country scout says:

    im a banjo player and this one works better than mine!!!!

  14. Bubba555 says:

    Looks cool

  15. random kid says:

    cool never thought of doing that try it with a drum insead of a container

  16. Mib says:

    What should I uses for frets? please reply.

  17. fishingxprt says:

    looks awesome. i am going to try it

  18. Educated Person says:

    They did not “mix” the two. They simply used African instruments and African call and response, bambara rhythms, and African song structures along with some European instruments in addition to African instruments to create a uniquely African sound. There’s nothing celtic about a banjo.

  19. jik says:

    very nice

  20. boy says:

    my uncle makes banjos rally nice ones too

  21. boy says:

    does it sound like a banjo

  22. boyscout21 says:

    yes you can use gutair strings

  23. Bigbuckhunter77 says:

    Does it actually sound like a real banjo

  24. Bigbuckhunter77 says:

    Can I use guitar strings on it??? Would it still sound like a banjo??? Please respond ASAP

  25. fundor says:

    wow thats cool

  26. nana says:

    that is a awsome banjo

  27. J-doG says:

    This reallly works its so cool im going to start my own skiffle band.

  28. akloetzel says:

    you can also use a gourd, and some rawhide stretched over the gourd, and buy some real banjo strings, and make frets out of pieces of wire.

  29. brutesquad says:

    it looks really cool and all, but what about frets? you could use paper clips.

  30. meeeeeeeeeee says:

    im gonna make one

  31. greg'o says:

    Insted of a container use the bottom 3in. of a plastic bucket.Then just cut that off and just do the same thing shown in the directons.Has a lot more sound and looks alot cooler.Insted of two strings put 4 or 6 on.Just like a real banjo.If you want more info just reply

    • jason says:

      well i would want do one but it is to big to take to school sorry

    • helpme says:

      greg’o how do i go about putting 4-6 strings on the banjo instead of just having two?

    • bert says:

      hey yeah same question, should i just put more screw eyes at the top?

    • bobio says:

      I’m trying to make a banjo similar to this for a physics project. one problem I have found is that the strings are really high off the neck, because of the bridges and plastic bucket. Also, what did you use for the plastic bucket. I’m trying an ice cream pal and It seems to work fine but the sound isn’t very loud. Finally do you know if adding frets will increase the intensity of the sound. Thank you for anything you can help me with.

  32. expertbassplayer says:

    real banjos have 5 strings

  33. DERBY CHAMP 24 says:

    AWSOME, I’ll try it.

  34. mooman says:

    nice , i might try that out

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