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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. 

105 Comments on Make your own banjo

  1. Spy tech man // January 7, 2015 at 7:02 pm // Reply

    It’s a awesome idea

  2. Brilliant

  3. white salmon // January 8, 2014 at 4:47 pm // Reply

    Awesome idea and a will-do at home project.

  4. This worked really well, great project!

  5. Great Source

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

  7. Looks cool.

  8. Awsome

  9. didnt work

  10. thts pretty cool!

  11. thats just weird

  12. i hope it works

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

  14. we thought of using a tin but this sounds cool

  15. country scout // July 10, 2012 at 7:42 pm // Reply

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

  16. Looks cool

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

  18. What should I uses for frets? please reply.

  19. looks awesome. i am going to try it

  20. Educated Person // December 20, 2011 at 7:54 pm // Reply

    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.

  21. very nice

  22. my uncle makes banjos rally nice ones too

  23. does it sound like a banjo

  24. boyscout21 // August 8, 2011 at 9:50 am // Reply

    yes you can use gutair strings

  25. Bigbuckhunter77 // July 26, 2011 at 5:09 pm // Reply

    Does it actually sound like a real banjo

  26. Bigbuckhunter77 // July 26, 2011 at 5:07 pm // Reply

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

  27. wow thats cool

  28. that is a awsome banjo

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

  30. 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.

  31. brutesquad // March 17, 2011 at 9:32 am // Reply

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

  32. meeeeeeeeeee // March 13, 2011 at 4:14 pm // Reply

    im gonna make one

  33. 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

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

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

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

    • 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.

  34. expertbassplayer // February 28, 2011 at 11:30 am // Reply

    real banjos have 5 strings

  35. DERBY CHAMP 24 // February 3, 2011 at 10:53 pm // Reply

    AWSOME, I’ll try it.

  36. nice , i might try that out

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