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Traditional Type Diddley Bow

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Project by GnarlyErik posted 11-20-2016 11:19 PM 348 views 1 time favorited 8 comments Add to Favorites Watch

This is the first of several Diddley bows.

I don’t know much about music except I enjoy listening to it, particularly traditional or folk type music. “Diddley Bows” popped onto my radar somehow, and I researched them and decided to try my hand. One attraction is these don’t need to be tuned so long as you can get them to sound. When tuned they should be tuned to either a high,’C’  or high ‘D’ I’m told, but I liked the sounds better with it tuned to “G”. Since there’s only one string I figured I might even be able to play a little, but as it turns out not so much. My son-in-law however can really make this thing walk and talk. I failed to record his playing before his family left on a Thanksgiving cruise, so sadly, I don’t have anything for you to listen to yet. Maybe I can catch some sounds by him when he returns. It sounds somewhat – a lot – like a one-string slide guitar.

I’ve long been fascinated by the fussy art and craft of building stringed instruments. My ‘Diddley Bows’ are my first efforts, which are intended as gifts for grandchildren. There will be at least four altogether, perhaps more.

Diddley bows usually have no frets and the single string (traditionally the wire winding from an old-fashioned straw broom) is simply stretched until it ‘twangs’, and ‘tuning’ happens as you play, and find where the notes occur as you go. It is usually played with a ‘slide’ in the left hand (for a right-hander) and either strummed, plucked, or struck with a rod or stick with the right hand.

The ones I’m building are a bit more elaborate than most of the ones found online. But, they are gifts, so I wanted them to be a little more ‘special’. I hope the kids like them well enough to get them away from computer games now and then. These are fitted with inexpensive piezo pickups so they can be connected to an amplifier if desired. You can just see the pickup jack port in the next to last picture, lower right side. The last picture shows the pair I’ve made so far, one for an older child and one for a five-year-old. They are nearly the same except for size.

The fretboard (without frets) is walnut on a painted poplar neck which goes all the way through the sound box, but clear of the back and soundboard. The tuning pin box has a modified scroll in walnut. The body sides are A grade spruce sawn to shape and about 3/16” thick. The back is 1/8” hobby shop ply and the sound board is very thin (about 5/32”) cedar with some internal bracing. The single tuning pin was turned on the lathe and the string is a .012 guitar string. The whole is finished in paint and high-gloss varnish. Everything is wide enough so they might be converted to a 3-string guitar should a recipient want that later.

-- Candy is dandy and rum sure is fun, but wood working is the best high for me!





8 comments so far

View tyvekboy's profile

tyvekboy

1334 posts in 2473 days


#1 posted 11-21-2016 12:51 AM

Nice looking instrument.

-- Tyvekboy -- Marietta, GA ………….. one can never be too organized

View johnhutchinson's profile

johnhutchinson

1193 posts in 1089 days


#2 posted 11-21-2016 12:58 AM

Love it. It’s beautiful !!!

Have you seen Rob Scallon playing the 1-string electric shovel guitar?
Here’s the link … https://youtu.be/IyQOw-_H4yE

-- John - Central Ohio - "too much is never enough"

View Brinth's profile

Brinth

68 posts in 383 days


#3 posted 11-21-2016 08:58 AM

How long is it?

-- Brinth, Denmark - "nothing is impossible and everything goes; if you have the will (and the time) to do it"

View GnarlyErik's profile

GnarlyErik

255 posts in 1594 days


#4 posted 11-21-2016 02:11 PM

Thanks, John – and yes I’ve explored all the YouTube videos I can on this type of instrument. I am very taken by a Vietnamese instrument called a ‘đàn bầu’ and am trying to find out all I can about those. It is a similar instrument, except that the single string is set up so it may be stretched while being played, making for some very interesting sounds. If I can find out what I think I need to know about them and the time, I may try building one of those.

Brinth, these are 32 inches long overall.

Cheers,
Erik

-- Candy is dandy and rum sure is fun, but wood working is the best high for me!

View helluvawreck's profile

helluvawreck

23122 posts in 2327 days


#5 posted 11-21-2016 03:14 PM

These look so interesting and it seems like they might be enjoyable to make.

helluvawreck aka Charles
http://woodworkingexpo.wordpress.com

-- If a man does not keep pace with his companions, perhaps it is because he hears a different drummer. Let him step to the music which he hears, however measured or far away. Henry David Thoreau

View muesli's profile

muesli

231 posts in 969 days


#6 posted 11-21-2016 05:15 PM

Great looking instrument!


Vietnamese instrument called a đàn bầu and am trying to find out all I can about those. It is a similar instrument,

Seems to be the Vietnamese Strat, don’t you agree? :)

View GnarlyErik's profile

GnarlyErik

255 posts in 1594 days


#7 posted 11-21-2016 11:34 PM

Muesli – yes, very haunting music from these. Here’s a taste:

https://youtu.be/Vthl0e7tIts

-- Candy is dandy and rum sure is fun, but wood working is the best high for me!

View Brinth's profile

Brinth

68 posts in 383 days


#8 posted 11-22-2016 11:46 PM

Thx. I may try to build one som day. But first have 2 new instrument building this Christmas. (and one i have not finished yet…)

-- Brinth, Denmark - "nothing is impossible and everything goes; if you have the will (and the time) to do it"

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