Category Archives: Low Cost ($)

Film Can Strummer

Difficulty: Intermediate

Cost: $

Strummers (Strumsticks, stick dulcimers)  are very easy to play and super fun to build.  This is a smaller strummer with a 17 inch scale length.  I tune it Low G, D, G.  I used an old film can, but any type of wooden, plastic, metal, or even sturdy paper would work for the body.  By printing out the fret guide and watching video a few times, you should be able to make a cool instrument.  Let me know if you have any questions by leaving a comment.


Parts needed:

  • .75 by 1.5 by 25.5 inch wood (for neck)
  • .25 by 1.5 by 10 inch wood (for fretboard)
  • Wooden or metal box
  • 3-on-a-plate tuners
  • Assorted small screw.
  • 1.5 inches angled aluminum or steel (for tailpiece)
  • Small piece of wood for bridge
  • 20 inches of fretwire
  • 3 thin, metal guitar strings

Printable fret guides:

(Make sure that you print these at 100% size)

8.5 by 11 paper

A4 paper


Don’t use the 1st, 3rd, 6th, 8th, or 13th frets.



Learn how to build this!


Cigar Box Strumstick

Difficulty:  Intermediate

Cost:  $ or $$

Stick Dulcimers (also are known by the trademarked name “Strumstick”) are extremely easy and fun to play. Learn more about them here. I made this one for my brother.


I picked up the empty cigar box for a few dollars.  The neck is poplar and the fretboard is oak.

strumstick dots

I wanted to make this easy for a beginner to use, so I added numbered beads to the top of the fretboard.  Having numbered frets makes it easier to use Strumstick or dulcimer tablature.



See it in action!

Cookie Tin Ukulele

Difficulty:  Easy

Cost:  $

This is quick and easy project.  Most of the parts came from a Grizzly Ukulele kit.  I found a suitable tin that was sturdy enough and had an interesting design.  The neck was attached to the tin with screws and epoxy.  A small piece of moulding was slotted and shaped to serve as the floating bridge.

See it in action!

Altoids Ukulele


Quite a few people have asked about plans for the Altoids ukulele.  They are now available!

Download the free plans and start building.  Before building this ukulele, I would advise you to read through all of the steps to get the overall picture.  Also, make sure to be familiar with the tools you are using and PLEASE use caution.  Follow the plans to make an Altoids Ukulele with a concert (15 inch) scale, or tailor the plans to make you own masterpiece.  Use a different tin or a wooden box for a different look.

Download the free plans!

Altoids Ukulele Plans

Email if you have any questions or comments.

Check out my other Altoids Instruments.

Paddle Ukulele

Difficulty:  Intermediate

Cost:  $-$$ (Depending on the cost of the paddle)   

This project didn’t take a long time, but it turned out to be a really fun instrument.  A friend gave me a child sized paddle that was 30 inches long.  I decided to give it a 21 inch scale with 15 frets.  If you have never made a custom scale fretboard, this fret calculator tutorial  will help you get started. I used a zero fret  as the nut.

I glued a wooden bowl on the back of the paddle to act as a resonator.  I got the wooden bowl from a second hand store.  With a forstner bit and a drill press, I made a flat area for the bowl on the back of the paddle.  The soundhole was made with a 1.75 inch forstner bit.

String holes were drilled at 45 degrees through the headstock behind the zero fret.  Having the four string holes at the desired string spacing, along with the zero fret eliminated the need for a traditional nut.

For my paddle I needed to flatten out the handle headstock before I installed the outside down tuners.  On the bottom end of the paddle I drilled four holes for the strings. When I strung up this ukulele I tied knots in the strings and feed them through these holes.  Some scrap wood served as the floating bridge.

Leave a comment if you have any questions.