How to Build a Cigar Box Banjo

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Jug bands are a fun winter activity that the entire family can enjoy. Homemade, improvised instruments are what makes a jug band so interesting. A cigar box banjo has its own special twang. Most of what you need to make one is already lying around your house. Making homemade instruments is a fun way to clean house and recycle a few items that would otherwise clutter the house or wind up in a landfill.

Things You'll Need

  • Cigar box
  • Yard stick
  • Instant adhesive
  • 4 36-inch leather shoelaces
  • 20 inches of 1/2-inch-diameter half-round molding strip
  • Hacksaw
  • V-edge cutting tool
  • Glue lid of cigar box closed. Carefully cut a slit 1/4 inch wide and 6 inches long in the center front side of the cigar box lid.

  • Turn box over and use instant adhesive to attach a yardstick to the back of your cigar box. This will become the neck of your banjo. Cut the 1/2-inch half-round molding strip into 5 1-inch long pieces and 3 5-inch-long pieces.

  • Beginning 6 inches from the end of the yardstick, going toward the cigar box, glue the inch-long half-round wooden molding pieces across the yardstick every 3 inches or so. The last strip should be 3 inches from the top of the cigar box.

  • Center and glue one of the 5-inch-long pieces of half-round wooden molding strip to the front of the cigar box, at the top front edge. Center and glue the second 5-inch strip about 2 inches from the bottom front edge of the cigar box.

  • Use a V-shaped carving tool to carve four grooves, 1/2 inch apart, into each of the 5-inch-long wooden strips.

  • Attach leather shoe laces to the top fret you made with the 1-inch pieces of wooden molding. Run strings across and through the grooves in the first 5-inch strip, then through the grooves in the second. Attach the final 5-inch wood strip with instant adhesive so that it holds the strings tight against the bottom fret. Shorten strings by wetting the leather shoe laces and allowing them to dry. if necessary, cut them shorter and pull them tighter until they can be plucked.

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