I have never built a canjo, but it seems simple enough! I just have 0 clue on how to build them. I want to fret it, and dont know a stink about fretting either. What all do I need to know to get started? about both canjo's and fretting. Thank you!

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I have only built one myself so far, but marking the frets was pretty simple really(FYI-i've never actually installed the frets themselves yet, just burned them into the fingerboard/neck with a woodburning pen). It's no worse than calculating a guitar neck.

There are several methods to measure for frets, but this is the one I learned from Uncle Crow and it's never let me down yet:

1) measure the distance from the Nut to the bridge(can in this case) in centimeters
2) then, Nut measurement X 0.9439= 1st Fret, then (fret 1) X 0.9439 = 2nd Fret, etc etc until you decide you have enough frets or realize you need to save some room for strumming.

The one thing I wasn't able to do on my canjo was to adjust my intonation at Fret 12-I had actually anchored the strings in my can lid (it was a sturdy can) and couldn't adjust my can, so the notes at the 12th were just touch sharp. If I had anchored the strings on the stick and left the can free until later that would have left me room to adjust...my next one will be on a small plank platform so I can adjust and slide until I like the tone, then screw it down to stay.

You know I just realized that I have no idea how much you know already about this-When I talk about intonation I mean that the tone at the nut and the 12th fret or marker should be a full octave- If the string is tuned to C, then high c should sing out at fret 12..

As far as the Canjo itself-it's a stick, a can, one or more strings an some way to tighten them. That's it. You're definitely in the right Group here, just browse the threads here and you'll see a dozen different variations on the Canjo. I myself am a total amateur at this stuff, have nerve damage in my left hand, arthritis in my right hand and no power tools, but my three string, soup can ,leftover Dulcimer tuners and 0.50 Garden stakes Canjo came out okay...and now that my coworkers all have Cigar Box guitars for Christmas i'm going to try my hand at-a Canjo Cello! I expect to fail in a spectacular fashion the first few times but that's half the fun!

Oh and Robert-welcome to the site. Be warned however-the denizens dwelling here WILL drag you into a dark alley, jam the needle in and make you an Addict like the rest of us here and YOU WILL NEVER STOP BUILDING NOISY STUFF!!!! If that doesn't sound like a bad way to go, stay and soak up the ambiance.. : )

I am a nwbie as well not only to canjos but music in general.  I have some woodworking skills and I found making a canjo was quite easy.  I just used a scrap 1X6 board and a sauce can.  For string I am using fishing line.  I made the peg out of a penny and piece of dowel rod.  The only power tools I used was a table saw, a drill, and a belt sander.  I used no real plans, just looked at a few online and built away.  They really are a fun little intrument to play and experiment with

Hi All,

Canjos are a great instrument for both beginner players and builders due to the great simplicity of its design. As far as fretting goes, if you don't quite understand how to do it, or you are afraid your wood working skills are not "up to the task", consider using thin nylon tie-wraps (zip-ties, the kind electricians use to "dress up" their wiring) for the nut (or fret 0) and all the other frets.You can also use a fret calculator like the Stew-Mac fret calculator; just be to select 'dulcimer' as the instrument type if you plan to implement the diatonic fret layout used on most canjos. The nice thing about tie-wraps is that they are easy to put on, easy to move once in approximate place, so you an actually tune your frets using a chromatic digital tuner. So, you can experiment a lot with fretting on your early builds to make sure you understand them well before committing to fixed position frets made of real fret wire.


Just experiment.  It's just a can (any can will do) but try to find an interesting one, a stick (make it 27" long) (dulcimer scale is 25" from the nut to the back of the can), string (heavy fishing line) (30lb test or better), old guitar e string, weedwacker string), the most expensive part is the tuning peg. I used a 3" eye bolt (1/4"), one nut, two 1/4" washers and a wing nut ( total price under $1).  I use 1/4" hardware so that if you finally get a real tuner it fits the hole perfectly. This makes a cheap compression tuner.  I hope this helps.  Just remember there are NO RULES in Cigar Box Guitars making!!!

for fretting check out  wfret . just print out a strip and mark it off

I don't play any type of instrument and I can't sing  ,but i've just finished my second tin guitar ,both were sweet/cookie tins not bean tins (sorry cans).Found both easy to make using scraps and bits from around my shed,one was a 4 string slide and the other is a 4 string fretted.I don't understand the tech stuff about frets so i just used a scale diagram of a 26" plectrum banjo scale.Added a peizo pick up and volume and tone  too it ,i used acoustic guitar strings ang some cheap pegs.

Gave it too my brother who plays and he and his friends (all who have been playing for years) reckoned there really good.

So if you play your self ,you should find i a doddle.  

seems to me that zip-tie frets would be great!




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