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How to Make a Diddley Bow

How to Make a Diddley Bow by Doctor Oakroot

he diddley bow is a traditional one string instrument fundamental to the early blues.

You can easily make a diddley bow using a cardboard cigar box, a guitar tuner, and a few other things.

Here’s what you need:

Tools

Drill with small bits for screw starters plus 3/8” bit.
Screw driver.
Files and sandpaper for shaping the neck (optional)
Serrated kitchen knife or small saw (X-acto with saw blade).
Super glue or other hi-tech glue. (E-6000, a jewelry glue available at hobby stores, works well).

Parts

Cardboard cigar box
Guitar tuner with small screws for mounting
A 3 foot 1”x 2” poplar project board (available at Home Depot, Lowes, etc. (the stick)
2 screws (large, for attaching neck)
1 small diameter 2” bolt (for the nut). May substitute a 1/8” dowel.
1 large eye bolt (for the bridge). May substitute a 3/8” dowel.
A string. Fishing line works well. Music wire is available at hardware stores. Or you can just use a guitar string.
A small washer (to tie the string to).

Now just follow the figures below:

Members Tips

The one I played live with was a one-stringed-diddleybow.

I build her using a small cigarbox and a 900mm broomstick. I had an old guitar tuner laying around and used that one too. The first problem I ran into was that the string cut through the tailpiece. I solved this by drilling a new 4mm hole straight trough the broomstick and put a piece of copper tubing in this hole. This kind of tubing you find in central-heating as the thermocouple. The string then goes through the copper tube and can’t cut into the wood of the tailpiece anymore !

The second problem I had to solve was the poor quality of sound. To try to improve the sound I made a big round hole in the body and used a paint-can-lid as a resonator. The brass bridge I moved also to that resonator, and I glued a piezo-pickup directly to the bottom of the paint-can-lid and tried to insulate it acoustic from the rest by using some silicone kit.

The results can be heard at the CBG-forum as you know! I used her live two times, but I think it wasn’t a real success, because there was too much feedback and too much microphonic effects. I called her “mien Maidje” and got really addicted to play the blues on her! Then, oh trouble trouble trouble, she got that terrible fatal accident. It was late in the evening and we had a deep going blues experiance. Then the beer worked to strong on my bladder, so I had to go to the toilet.

Tried to lay her on the table but I stumbled over the cord. She fell on the floor and the box exploded into a 100 pieces! That was the end of “mien maidje”, so I had to design a complete new Driesbow, if possible with handwounded pickup, and back to the basic, just a nice plank of oakwood, sorry NO Cigar Box.

Within now and a few months I’m gonna build me a thing like that, make a lot of photo’s, make some recordings and keep You all informed !

- Gitaardrieske
email: driesbow@zonnet.nl