Wednesday, January 20, 2016

DIY electric canjo guitar

I really like making musical instruments, so I decided to make a canjo, out of an old tin biscuit box.

First of all I removed all the paint from the tin, using paint remover. Paint remover is really toxic and I used rubber gloves to handle it. One should always read the instructions, before using something like that. I applied the remover with a brush, let it act for 30 minutes and then wet sanded the paint to remove it. I repeated this process a few times.

After that I cut two spruce pieces on my table saw. I glued the pieces using wood glue and clamps.

I used a plane to flatten the sides of my pieces. I used a coping saw to round over the two edges.

Using a hand saw I made a rip cut. And then I used my v carving chisel to make a rounded cut. This way I shaped the wood to fit inside the tin box.

I then used my jigsaw, to shape the wood in the way I wanted it.

I secured the piece on my vise, and used a spokeshave to round over the back of my neck.

I made a mark using the neck, in order to make a hole on the tin for it. I used my rotary tool to make the hole.

I also marked the position of the pickup and cut out the hole to receive it. I made the hole in a way, that I can fold the edges of the tin, so they won’t be sharp anymore.

I marked the position of the pickup on the wood. To make a notch, I made several cross cuts with a saw, and then removed the material using a sharp chisel.

I sanded the piece using a sanding block.

I marked the position of the nut. I cut out a notch for it, using a saw, a miter box, sandpaper and a file.

My canjo’s scale is 60cm from nut to bridge. I went on an online fret calculator, to find the positions of the frets.  I marked the positions of the frets using a sharp pencil. I cut the fret slots using my coping saw and a miter box.

To make fret position finders, I drilled holes on my drill press to receive dowels. I glued the dowels in, and when the glue dried, I cut them flush using my flush trim saw. I then gave a sanding to the fretboard using a sanding block.

I cut the fret wire roughly to size. I placed it over the fret slot and using a piece of wood and a clamp, I pressed the fret in position.

Using my rotary tool and a cutting disc, I cut most of the excess fret wire. To even out all the frets, I sanded them flush with a sanding block.

To secure the frets in place, I added a drop of super glue to their sides.

To wire all the electric parts, I used a wiring diagram from Seymour Duncan’s web site. I used a digram for 1 hum bucker, 1 volume pot and an output jack. I soldered all the components together. 

The neck is screwed on the tin box. I added the pickup and then the guitar’s neck. I then I added the pickup’s springs. I also drilled holes for the jack and the potentiometer. For the jack I used a step drill bit.

I added the keys. I used rivets to protect the wood from the string tension.

I prepared the bone for the nut and bridge on belt sander. 

I cut a piece of hardwood for the guitar’s bridge and shaped it on my belt sander. Using a hand saw I made a slot on the bridge for the bone to sit in.

To make all the slots for the strings face each other. I secured the bones of the nut and the bridge, on a vise and cut the slots using a saw. I opened up the slots using a v shaped file.

I used two part epoxy to glue the bone on the bridge.

Using my rotary tool, I predrilled a few pilot holes on the neck and screwed in a few metal circles to hold the strings from falling over the keys,

I used my wood burner to add fret position markers on the side of the neck.

I added a piece of hardwood on my DIY drill lathe. I rounded it over using my scraping chisel and then used the skew chisel to shape a knob for the pot. I sanded the piece and drilled a hole on my drill press. I added the knob on the guitar.

My guitar was now ready. I added the strings. I used 10 gauge electric guitar strings. I tuned the guitar in EBGD from high to low. Just like the 4 higher strings of a regular guitar.

I hope you like my canjo!


  1. Stumbled across this video on youtube. This looks and sounds awesome!

  2. Stumbled across this video on youtube. This looks and sounds awesome!

  3. which is the measure of wood and cuts? please respond :D thanks

  4. Please can you make one for me? 3string electric? Cell: (916)871-5317 No rush I can wait. I am a beginner.
    Thanks in advance. Efrain Toledo