Strings: Materials, Techniques, Sound, Etc.

I asked this question on a previous post, but I'd like to start a discussion here as well.

What to use for string?

I've used actual guitar string, makes a canjo sound very metallic, almost like a guitar.

I've also used a lot of fishing line, really heavy stuff, and it makes it sound more like my ukelele.


What have you used, and what were/are the results?

You need to be a member of Cigar Box Nation to add comments!

Join Cigar Box Nation

Email me when people reply –


  • Which way does the can go?? Opening toward the nut or opening away from the nut?

    Silly me! I built a one-string with the string attached to the (solid) bottom of the can and the open end of the can pointing AWAY from the nut. That gave me 24.9 inches of room between nut and effective bridge so I could have room for 14-16 diatonic frets and still leave room for picking the string. Rand Moore's diagram from April 8, 2011 (See above.) seems to imply the same arrangement with a 25-inch scale.

    However, virtually every other one-stringer that I've seen--including Ben's for sale on CB Gitty AND Rogers Magee's builds based on his infamous 1994 "can dulcimer" patent (See general discussion area: December 26, 2011.)--have the open mouth of the can pointing TOWARD the nut. With the can turned this way, nearly 1/4 of the string length is "baffled" inside the can. The open mouth of the can doesn't provide as sturdy a base for the picking hand, and the number of possible frets is severely limited (typically 9 or 10).

    I see problems with this, but surely this issue has already been argued to death and the best solution carefully thought out. I have no intentions of re-building my instrument (with which I am completely happy), but I'd love to hear thoughts or facts on why everyone else is doing it the other way around. (And, yeah, I know there's no wrong way to do any of this, but I'd love to hear the reasoning of the assembled great minds with vast experience.)

    Thanks in advance,


    • The can opening points toward the nut because...that's the way most people build 'em. Either way works, but may give different tones, depending on the usual things: can size, scale length, string diameter, tuning, etc. Also, with the opening toward the nut, it is easier for the player to hear the sound than if it faces away from him.

      Heck, there's a pic somewhere here of a bass made from a 5 gallon plastic water bottle, bolted to a 2x4, and strung with weed whacker line.

      Here's a thought: why not face the opening of the can toward the player, at right angles to the neck? Instant sound port. Could also get some unusual resonances by running the string across the mouth of the can that way. Hmmmm....
    • Yeah, I've got other can-based configurations in a Diddley Bow and what I call a Stratocanister (made with a cookie tin), but I saw somebody's video of a diatonic one-string "canjo." I loved it, built it (with bobby-pin frets), and have played it at a couple of picking sessions. It was only after the fact that I realized "Oh, crap, my can is pointing in the wrong direction."

      A peculiar advantage of my can arrangement is that the instrument is easily miked. I just set a boom stand with an SM-58 beside my chair and pointed the mic into the open end of the can. It picked up sound great and stayed out of the way of my picking hand.

    •   Look on the bright side-if the can is pointing in the 'wrong' direction(like  several of mine) it's easier to play with the design. In the past I have had great fun with outward-pointing canjos, by:

      -adding a second soup can with both top and bottom missing (via the magic of JB chemweld) for extra volume

      -cutting a can in half and adding it to the bottom of the stick in order to deflect the sound forward like a standard guitar (improving the volume just a little as well since the 'baffle' resonates a little as well)

      - placing the original canjo just inside a larger coffee tin and fastening with screws-the resulting monstrosity resembles a tommy-gun and sounds like echoey musical thunder without an amp  :)

        And as was previously mentioned, the 'backwards' canjos are easier to point at a mike and waste less string...

    • I stand in awe!

      Thank you! I'll try all your suggestions...


  • Just made two Canjos using 50 lb mono, not sure I like the sound, plus a lot of stretch doubt it will stay in tune for long, of course it's a 1 string Canjo so who cares.

  • I was thinking of using 20-50 lb test monofilment or maybe grass trimmer line.

  • Hi, I have used 500 pound bass Fishing Line and my canjo rocks!  I haven't changed the string in over 5 years and it still sounds great. 

  •   My first Canjo overcame that particular issue just by being overbuilt- I was ambitious enough to want to try a 3 string(GDg) first time out, so I basicly glued three poplar garden stakes together (1.5" deep) with the middle stick extending about 4" out for the head after laminating the sides with spare cedar...sawing that level I then attached two more stakes(1" deep) about 8" into the first three(3.5" at the thickest portion), seated the can and Dremeled a Strum hollow just in front of the can.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            Good news-the can rested perfectly in the hollow.                                                                                                          Bad news- heavier and far sturdier than it needed to be, and almost mistaken for a carbine by a nervous Sheriff's deputy on dark November night... ended up putting knurled nuts and a Necktie strap on it due to my overengineering...                                                                                                                                                                                        I'm really liking the minimalist approach on C Cook's design and think that would be just perfect with an arm added..





  • Thanks for the idea of a adjustable arm rest for them. Sometimes all it takes is some one to mention something like that to get the ideas rolling around in my head and me thinking why didnt I think of that. Thanks again, C Cook


This reply was deleted.