Down here in SW Florida, we have an annual music festival to raise money to buy musical instruments for the local schools. It's a great event with lots of really good bands, and we raised $35,000 this year. I've donated some of my instruments for their auction in past years, but this year I'm thinking of holding a workshop where kids could build their own CBGs. To keep things simple, I think Didlley bows would be the best option. I've made a bunch before, but I need a design that will need minimal cutting, drilling and gluing. It should be ready to play in 60 minutes (which will be 90 minutes with the kids...) Oh, it should sound good, too. 

My basic design is a 3/4 or 1" through the body square neck (discarded hockey sticks work great, but not a lot of those here in FL), Zither pin tuner, slotted screws can function as both bridge and nut. If I use screws to hold it together, the kids won't have to wait for glue to dry.

I welcome design ideas and any suggestions for getting supplies donated, if possible. If anyone has tried something like this before, I would love to benefit from your experience!

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Contact CBGitty, they may help out. Glenn Wsatt has done this before, so would be a good resource of ideas.

Good idea - I'll see if I can get in touch with Mr. Watt. I've seen a lot of his videos and his 'keep it simple' style is right in line with what I have in mind.

Sounds like a great project for the kids and the finished product could be a lot of fun for them to play. I guess my advice is to "think simple" with the minimal number of building steps and any precision steps taken care of (by you) ahead of time.

Have you considered having the kids build Canjos? Having the kids punch a hole through the center of the bottom of the can then running a string through it (with a washer tied to the string) would produce some decent volume and eliminate the need for a bridge screw.

You could take the re-purpose idea a step further If you could round up a bunch of old broom/mop sticks or some other readily available round household rod to use for the neck. In fact, the entire workshop could be themed around making musical instruments with available household items.

You might be able to use some heavy monofilament fishing line or weed-wacker line for the string. You should be able to hold either with the zither  tuner peg.

Anyway, you are to be congratulated for sharing your time and skills with the kids.

Thanks, Tom. I hadn't thought of the Canjo approach, but I have some months to consider it and try prototypes.

I’ve done this twice , I notched the neck & headstock of each stick to cut down time, which worked out really good? It also cut out any safety hazards as kids aren’t as aware of tool safety as we are? Dado cuts on a table saw is a super fast way to notch? I also pre drilled the few holes in them, another bit of safety since they were only 5th graders? Diddley bows & canjos are perfect for kids, they just need a tiny bit of help, you’ll be surprised how many kids actually enjoy making them? Especially when it comes to decorating them? Good luck to you Mark, you’re a good man!!! 

Hi Mark, I have had kids building instruments in my workshop, and also when working with people with a disability in my day job.

My thoughts on working with the young or a person with a disability is to give them as much of the work to do themselves as you can. The luxury I had was no time constraints and only one person at a time. The young people I worked with built a tin can fiddle (over 35 years ago) a biscuit tin banjo, a solid body guitar, a mountain dulcimer, and a 2 string CBG.

pre plannng is important, let them take chances and make decisions. Close monitoring and guidance is a must so having a few support people around would be good. 

The task my guys guys did was hand sawing, drilling, screwing, gluing, sanding by hand and machine, using the bandsaw, and drillpress. Also measuring and marking. Some even cut fret slots and tapped in frets.

l not only got joy from seeing their skills and confidence go, but also watching them show off their project to others.

good luck Taff

Last paragraph the word go should of course be grow.


Couple of years ago I agreed to be a demonstrator at a folklife festival. I set up and put a bunch of my instruments on display.

I had precut a bunch of sticks and cut the tops out of a bunch of soda cans and washed them. As kids came up I would staple a can to the stick and drill 2 holes that crossed ( bigger hole for a slot and smaller for a tuner). I flattened 2 sides of the head of a bunch of golf tees and shortend them for tuners. Spool of 40lb test fishing line for string.

I had it down to where I could build a fretless "canjo" in about 3 minutes or so.  Built them on demand and let the kids help as much as I could.

It wasn't a big festival, but I probably built about 50 of them. Didn't charge anything. If someone insisted on paying I had them put something in the jar for some charity that had set up across the way. I had too much fun to be making money.

Kids were walking around all over the place plinking on 'em. A parent asked me if I did birthday parties lol.

This one is a tad more elaborate but similar:


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