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I’ve been trying to make homemade bows for some years now, and have discovered a method which should allow you to build a simple but functional bow.  However, you will need a “secret ingredient”, which I will reveal later.

You will need:

  • An empty coffee can with the plastic lid.  Make sure that the can is clean and has no sharp edges

  • A little bit of Shaky Stuff: small pebbles, paper clips, tiny seashells.... anything small but kind of heavy.  Cotton balls wouldn’t work, for example.

  • A pencil or chopstick



Ask an adult to help you with this step!  Put on the safety goggles, and using the sharp knife or the coping saw, cut a series of small slits at each end of the strip of wood.  The more slits you can cut, the better your bow will work, but don’t weaken the wood by making too many slits (for my inch-wide bow I was able to make five slits).  Make sure the slits on each side line up with each other – if you cut five on one side make sure that there are five on the other. 

Trash Bow Musical Instrument Step 1


Cut a piece of fishing line slightly longer than the wood. Tie a single knot at one end of the string and slide the string into one of the slits with the knot flat against the wood.  This should anchor the string in place.

bow knot anchor.jpg


Stretch the string along the wood and tie a knot at a length slightly shorter that the piece of wood.

Build a Trash Bow Musical Instrument


Ask an adult to help you gently bend the wood until you can slip the knot behind the wood and slide it into the slit (see ill 4).  If you feel that the wood is going to break you may need to re-tie the knot a bit further up the string.

Repeat steps 2-4 until you have filled all the slits with the strings – make sure that the strings don’t criss-cross – they have to go straight to the other side of the wood

bow bend.jpg


You want to gather all the bow-strings as close as possible, so use the twist-ties to bunch the strings together (see ill 5). Slide the block of wood between the wood and strings near the end of the bow.  This lifts the strings a bit and adds tightness to the strings. 

bow twist ties.jpg


For your bow to work, you will need something to make the bow strings sticky (the stickiness creates the friction that makes the instrument’s strings vibrate).  I’ve tried rubbing the strings with pencil erasers, rubber cement, glue sticks and even the sticky side of scotch tape.  But nothing works as well as what real string players use:  ROSIN.  Rosin is the dried sap from pine trees.  Try asking the music teacher in your school if they have any rosin.  You can also find rosin at your local music store. 

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