Check it out: Guide instrumental in making music

Learn how to make a cigar box guitaror a hubcap banjo



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Do you march to the beat of your own drum? How about your own cookie tin guitar, or soup can diddley bow? If you’re the type of person who can make finger-snapping music from simple objects such as spoons, rubber bands and washtubs, this week’s title should set your toes a-tapping.

Making instruments from scratch is a common craft idea for children, but finding that same kind of information for older music fans can be a bit challenging. While “Handmade Music Factory” showcases instrumental ideas for all ages, I think it has special appeal for those with musical and diy (do-it-yourself) skills. Turning an ironing board into a lap-style guitar might sound simple, but electrifying this humble instrument moves this how-to guide to a completely different level. Chapter 8 provides all the details for transforming an acoustic instrument into an electric one, including information on creating piezo discs and potentiometers for amplified guitars. This is terminology I’m not familiar with, but a helpful caption on page 108 advises that door buzzers are a good source for piezo discs.

At the back of the book, you’ll find patterns and templates to assist with some of the projects. A photographic gallery showcases a variety of handmade string instruments, including a license plate guitar, a hubcap banjo, and several cigar box guitars. Tidbits of history and trivia scattered throughout the book reveal that New Alexandria, Pa., is home to a cigar box guitar museum; another name for the washtub bass is a gutbucket; and molecular scientist David “One-String Willie” Williams is one of the best diddley bow players around.

Humans have been creating ad hoc musical instruments for as long as music has been around. Whether it’s plucking a gutbucket, blowing on a jug or scraping across a washboard, tapping your foot to tunes played on homespun instruments strikes a chord for many music lovers.

Jan Johnston is the Collection Development Coordinator for the Fort Vancouver Regional Library District. Email her at She blogs at