Friday, February 22, 2019

Hey, It Makes Noise, and That's Good Enough


This is Dead Man's Hand:


I wanted to go primitive in building a "diddley bow." For example, none of those new-fangled metal geared tuning machines. I ordered four wooden friction pegs on eBay (and broke two of them before I got the hole in the "headstock" just large enough for a tight but turnable fit):


One good excuse for going "primitive" is that the only power tools I own are an electric drill and an electric stapler. I didn't use the latter at all. I used the former to drill the tiny hole for the string at the tail, to drill a tiny pilot hole in the headstock, after which I used an awl to enlarge it in tapered fashion for the peg, drill the sound holes, etc.

Other than that, the instrument is:

  • Body -- A little cigar box I found for 50 cents at a garage sale, which I painted green and decoupaged the "dead man's hand" (aces over eights) onto from a dollar store deck of used casino cards (from the Flamingo, IIRC -- so now I've got Bugsy Siegel in addition to Wild Bill at play). Used a hand saw to cut holes for the neck to fit through. 
  • Neck -- A piece of wood I found hanging loose off of a dresser that someone had left at the curb as trash. Cut it to length with a hand saw and cut/chiseled a bit off the top to account for the cigar box's lid thickness (didn't go a very good job).
  • Bridge and nut: These are a couple of "bats" for smoking you know what. I ordered them specifically to use as bridge and nut for a different (cigarette-themed) homemade guitar project which quickly went to hell. I am probably going to replace the one I'm using as a bridge with a couple of souvenir casino chips.
  • Tuning machine: The aforementioned friction peg, presumably meant to be used on a violin.
  • String: A used guitar string I had lying around.
Things that went wrong:

  • That neck is very old, very dry wood. It developed a crack/split by the time I got the friction peg into it. I may try to repair that, or I may just let nature take its course.
  • I had planned to drill the centers out of the aforementioned casino chips and use them as borders around the sound holes. Who knew that casino chips were metal in the center? So now my plan is to use them (I have two), stacked, as the bridge once I get to the store and buy some super glue.
  • The body is just too small to put very big sound holes in. So it's just not going to be very loud.
  • I had planned to slowly and carefully build the thing over "Christmas break." Got busy. Put it off. Then did it in a sudden fit of activity one Friday afternoon a couple of weeks ago. When you hurry through something, it's half-assed.
  • When I sat down to record something with it for this post, I hit "record" and then realized I hadn't thought about what to play. So I fumbled badly through a few bars of Mississippi Fred McDowell's "You Gotta Move."




I'm sure I'll get back to homemade instruments in the near future, and maybe come up with something better (I've got an old cake pan and ideas for making it into a bass guitar). For the moment, my musical energies are going into practicing the D major pentatonic scale on the mandolin.

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