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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. sounds better if you use a few strings twisted instead of 1

  2. this sounds a little like a strum stick. 3 strings played like a dulcimer.

  3. this looks awsome…but shouldn’t it have more strings? sorry.

  4. that sounds hard…but easy

  5. looks interesting, thogh I wonder why it only has two strings? Maby I could add more?

  6. looks great, gonna try it

  7. CRAZY for OATMEAL // June 28, 2010 at 2:51 pm // Reply

    Sounds pretty diffulcult to make

  8. y, THOUGH MAN LOOKS AWSOME. IM A GUITAR PLAYER MYSELF BUT I CAN PLAY BANJO

  9. super beatle // June 8, 2010 at 8:27 am // Reply

    use a piece of industrial stength cardboard 8 inch form for casting concrete available at home supply stores ($9.00) in lieu of the jug…much more resonant and will last a long time-use the half of form two inches high-from the top add a piece of scrap paneling for a top and voila you have your banjo pot-also you can substitute round clothes pins for tuners also toothpicks placed in correct position make great frets -12 toothpicks cost 5 cents

  10. I’ll do this!!! (Rigt after I find someone who’ll teach me how to play it.)

  11. cool dude gonna do this

  12. thats awesome man im gonna do this

  13. banjoplaying dude // May 4, 2010 at 8:35 pm // Reply

    my friend loves playing air banjo

  14. badge erner // April 24, 2010 at 3:42 pm // Reply

    GREAT now I can show my friends!

  15. looks cool i think you need different thing for the box thingy

  16. im gonna try this out if it doesnt work i’ll try a diffrrent idea

  17. dose it have to be an inch from the bottum

  18. use Goat skin for a Sound Box and definitly five strings.

  19. isuggest that you use non-plastic materialfor the sound box a Goat skin!

  20. is it possible 2 mae this and just add a couple more strings? cuz i have 2 make 1 for class but there has 2 be 4 strings…

  21. BLAH BLAH BLAH // April 4, 2009 at 9:07 pm // Reply

    YEH! at least i have an idea on how to make a better one

  22. NICE there probebly can be more strings

  23. I agree that you need 4 strings O.K. and if you don’t make it 4 strings i’ll come there and fight you and obviosly you’ll lose

  24. the game 7123 // September 5, 2008 at 4:33 pm // Reply

    that is an awesome idea i

  25. Listen to that mountain music!

  26. is it easy 2 make

  27. lobstahboy // July 26, 2008 at 7:32 pm // Reply

    i made a banjo a few weeks ago with a reaaly weird desighn it sounds ok but ill make this one and see if it sounds better

  28. banjos are small

  29. Banjos r awesome. i didnt make one of these, but by heck they r cool

  30. Yummy. Banjos. :D

  31. that is a great idea!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  32. I agree that you need four strings. Best would be to purchase a set of tenor banjo strings w/loop end- put the nails through the loops. Wind the strings around the screws at the peghead, then tuck ‘em under themselves so they’ll tighten when you tighten the screws. Make sure your “bridge” is high enough to raise the strings off the “fretboard” too. You can use a #10 can in place of the bleach bottle. Tune to an open chord, and have fun!

  33. This rocks I made 10 BANJOS!

  34. Ok, now seriosly to make it sound good, you need AT LEAST 4 strings. five would be perfect. make 5 and you would have the perfect AMATUR, banjo

  35. Pretty cool idea. I might try it out. I think it might need some more strings, though.

  36. guitar player 199 // June 7, 2008 at 7:12 pm // Reply

    mine worked all right but it should have 5 strings,also i play electric guitar ,dosent sound anything like a banjo……………….

  37. BadgerCam // June 6, 2008 at 9:10 pm // Reply

    Sound cool (no pun intended), but I have some misgivingings about the quality of the sound. This does not seem as if it would sound that much like a real banjo.

  38. popcorn master // June 5, 2008 at 3:47 pm // Reply

    banjos are cool but two strings are kinda lame. You need a chrome body and a patagonian mahogany branch. Only the finest.

  39. brownsfan17 // June 4, 2008 at 3:55 pm // Reply

    It looks fun,but how are you supposed to play when it has two strings.

  40. Dan The Man // June 3, 2008 at 2:53 pm // Reply

    Im going to make this over the weekend.

  41. Me and my friends have a rock star band with these! Cool!

  42. yeah, you need more strings dude.

  43. banjos have five strings

  44. Thank you for a wonderful idea. I plan to use this for my Webelos den this fall. They should love this!

  45. If you would use sycamore for the neck it would sound better…

  46. I think this will be awesome

  47. shouldn’t there be more strings?

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