A few weeks ago I was browsing Instructables and came across this post. Now as a musician I’m really into strange instruments and custom built instruments and it’s a really inexpensive build, I really wanted to make one of my own.
Here are the materials I used:
1 x Altoids tin
1 x Piezo element
3 x Guitar machine heads (I had these laying about from when I turned one of my guitars into a basitar)
3 x Guitar strings (I used the e B and G strings because they cause less tension)
1 x 1/4 Inch jack socket
Wood (I used some old laminate wood flooring it’s about 0.5mm thick)
Screws (I’ve not specified an amount and you’ll see why later)
Clamps (Not something I used but I could have really done with some)
How I made it:
First things first..
Mark the holes for the strings and the jack socket, then measure out a 1.5 Inch gap for the neck.
Cut the gap for the neck in the tin like pictured above and drill the holes for the strings and the input. I also cut the same gap in the lid so I could have the tin and the neck sitting flush, but after it had been fully built and stringed, the neck and tin has warped/bent a little so you could get away without cutting the lid to add some more support.
Once you’ve cut the tin, get your wood and cut one length that measures 12 Inches and another two that measure 10 Inches. As previously mentioned, I used some laminate wood flooring boards for my neck, but you could possibly get something a little thicker and harder because after construction, I found that the wood was too soft.
Glue the lengths of wood together but have the 12 inch piece at the bottom with the two 10 inch pieces on top, clamp them together (if you have them) and leave it to dry overnight. I improvised at this point and left a sledgehammer on top, pressing the wood together.
After leaving the glue to set over night, it’s now time to sand and neaten up the edges, remove any excess resin and make it look pretty!
In the Instructables tutorial above, they glued the neck to the tin, I didn’t do this, and that’s where those screws come in, I marked some spots on the back of the tin, drilled them and screwed the neck to the tin. I’m glad I did this because if I had glued the neck to the tin, it would have come off due to the wood being so soft.
If you’ve gone out and bought some decent hard wood, then you’re probably safe to glue it.
Before glueing or screwing the neck to the tin, measure up and drill the holes for the machine heads at the top of the neck. (If you can’t get machine heads or just want a cheap build, get some hook eyes from your local DIY store, they’ll suffice.)
Make sure everything fits and then screw everything together.
It’s now up to you whether you want to string and test the instrument before attaching the jack & soldering the piezo or if you want to go straight into the soldering keep reading..
Before you do anything, test the jack and the piezo together, either with crocodile clips or just twisting the wires temporarily around the jack.
If it works, great! If not, check that the piezo isn’t touching anything conductive, if it is, move it and try again, if its still not working, switch the wires, if its still not working, something is at fault! I suggest buying new parts.
So, tighten the jack into place, and then get your soldering iron out, solder the two ends to the points on the jack and then attach the piezo to the lid of the tin. I had awful trouble getting the piezo to work until I realised that it conducted everything it touched, so I insulated the tin and anything else that was metal with electrical tape and that solved the problem.