Use a Kit to Make Homemade Instruments

Learn about purchasing a kit to make homemade instruments, with a little elbow grease and perserverance you can build a treasured instrument to hand down from generation to generation.
By K.C. Compton
April/May 2003

Use a kit to make homemade instruments.
PHOTO: FOTOLIA/DIEGO CERVO
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Discover how using a kit to make homemade instruments can become an exciting project for you or the entire family.

Use a Kit to Make Homemade Instruments

If you enjoy handcrafts, you may want to build your own instrument. Several companies make kits and offer good technical support. You don't need to be a master carpenter, but some basic skills and basic tools are necessary. If you don't already have the skills, you might want to ask someone who does to help you build your first instrument.

"The neat thing we see is whole families getting together to build an instrument," says Jerry Brown of Musicmaker's Kits in Stillwater, Minnesota. "It doesn't require so much skill as it does time, motivation and interest. So it really can be a great way for the family to work together. Then, they have something really nice that can stay in the family."

Companies often rank their kits in order of skill level and the number of hours required for the project. A simple hammered dulcimer takes about 10 to 20 hours, a mandolin — one of the more complex projects — can take in excess of 40 hours.

Reputable kit manufacturers have hotlines available for free technical support and also offer replacement parts, often for free, in case you really mess something up.

Kits can range from $85 for a teardrop dulcimer to more than $2,000 for top-of-the-line instruments. Although a handbuilt instrument can cost about half the price of a finished instrument, most kit builders do their projects for the satisfaction of creating something by hand, says Jay Hostetter of Stewart-MacDonald Guitar Shop Supply in Athens, Ohio.

For good discussions of which kits to buy and which to avoid, spend some time on one of the online music forums. Here are a few of the kit-makers that have been recommended:

Stewart-MacDonald
Athens, OH
www.stewmac.com

Musicmaker's Kits Inc.
Stillwater, MN
www.musikit.com

Cripple Creek Dulcimer Kits
Manitou Springs, CO
www.dulcimer.net 

Janet Davis Music Company
Bella Vista, AR
www.janetdavismusic.com

Rhythm Revolution
Links to many websites for drumming circles and drum makers.
www.drummingcircle.com/links.html

Drum Brothers
Handmade drums, or kits for do-it-yourself.
www.drumbrothers.com

Lyrics

Cowpie Bunkhouse:
Lots of country, plenty of Western.
www.roughstock.com/cowpie/

Lyrics World for Pop/Top 40 songs by decade:
www.ntl.mairlx.com.br/pfilho/summer.html

Lester S. Levy Collection of Sheet Music:
Images of covers and sheet music.
www.levysheetmusic.mse.jhu.edu/index.html

One of the most extensive lyric repositories and link libraries you'll find:
www.geocities.com/Area51/Zone/6338/lyric.htm 


K.C. Compton is senior editor at MOTHER EARTH NEWS, and formerly was Editor in Chief of our sister publications, The Herb Companion and GRIT. A huge fan of the food chain, from molecules to meals on the table, K.C. is passionate about the idea that most of what we need to be healthy can be found in the garden. Find her on .


Read more about becoming part of a music group: Making Homemade Music.


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Post a comment below.

 

mike_58
12/26/2007 11:08:47 AM
a great instrument to add to your sound and fun is the cigar box guitar. they are just what they sound like, a guitar made from an old wooden cigar box. they're fairly easy to make and provide a nice early delta blues sound. many famous guitarists got their start playing these including jimi hendrix! i've made two so far, and plan on making more. cigar boxes aren't required for these either, i made one from a box i found at an arts and craft store. for the tuning machines i used some ones i had lying around from an old electric. but you could fairly easily just make tuning pegs like violins use. just do a search on the internet for "cigar box guitar", there's a wealth of information and pictures to get you on your way to being your own local blues star! ;)








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