I love making my own musical instruments. Nothing beats the feeling of playing your own tunes on an instrument you made yourself. While the best instruments are made by skilled craftspeople with high-quality materials, it can be very rewarding to craft an instrument with simple components at hand.

A few years ago I got interested in the idea of making my own cigar box ukulele. I had a nice box and the wood to make the neck but I needed a lot of other parts, like frets and a slotted fretboard and tuners and strings, that I had to order and wait for them to arrive. But I wanted it done right then! So while I waited, I thought about how those parts functioned and what I could substitute.

I remembered someone using toothpicks for frets on cigar box guitars, and while I was wary of steel strings cutting into the wooden frets, I thought a ukulele’s nylon strings should be fine. Toothpicks for frets: check.

I’d also seen a lot of instruments built with cookie tins for the body, so I headed to the local resale shop to look for one. No tins, but what I did find was even better. Nice, rigid aluminum cake pans, in two sizes. “Resophonic instruments use aluminum cones, don’t they?” I thought. Cake pans for the body: check.

I brought my treasures home and found a nice piece of hardwood for the neck. Luckily, I had a set of tuners and strings on hand. I got to work and a few days later, I had a cake pan uke!

The name? Early in ukulele history, Alvin D. Keech introduced a banjo ukulele that eventually got the name banjolele. Looking like it does, it seemed natural to call my instrument a Cake Pan-jolele, or Panjolele for short.


From a hardware store:

  • Hardwood lumber, 1×2 nominal, 36″ length Actual size is ¾”×1½”. Choose oak, maple, poplar, or other hardwood, as straight and as knot-free as possible.
  • Wood screws, #6×1¼”, Phillips head (3)
  • Wood glue
  • Spray lacquer or polyurethane, clear (1 can)
  • Sheet metal screw, 2″, pan head

From a resale shop or department store:

  • Cake pans, aluminum or steel, 2″ deep: 9″ diameter (1) and 8″ diameter (1) — Cake pans have sides at right angles to the bottom, and are deeper than pie pans. Steel is OK, but rigid aluminum pans are easier to cut and have a better sound.

From a music store:

  • Ukulele friction tuners (set of 4) — I’m using a basic $13 set, item #UP26 from Elderly Instruments (elderly.com), but for just $15 you can get better quality tuners, Elderly #GUKNW.
  • Ukulele strings, concert scale length (set of 4) — I’m using a basic $3 set of Hilo black nylon strings, Elderly #HCU. For $5, Aquila’s Nylgut set, Elderly #ANCR, has the sound of old-fashioned gut strings.

From a grocery store:

  • Square wooden toothpicks (20) — You can also get these from Lego Education (legoeducation.us), item #W751742.


  • Pencil
  • Ruler with e” marks
  • Marking pen, fine tip
  • Square, adjustable
  • Handsaw or power miter saw
  • Sanding block and sandpaper — in various grits
  • Drill or drill press
  • Drill bits: 5″, 1″, 6″, 2″, and #6 countersinking bit
  • Screwdriver, Phillips head
  • Spring clamps (2 or more)
  • Hacksaw with fine-tooth blade
  • Rotary tool with cut-off wheel — such as a Dremel
  • Needle files including a triangular file
  • Rasp or Surform plane/rasp
  • Flush nippers, end cutters, toenail clippers, or a utility knife

Make Amends

In Step 2b of the print version, Step 4 of the online version, the two holes are shown 1¼” away from the end of the brace. This puts them a little too close to the end of the neck. Author Chester Winowiecki recommends changing that dimension to 1″ or 1-1/8″.

On page 83 (print; online Step 9) we advised readers to draw a chord and its perpendicular three times to find the center of a circle. It’s only necessary to draw two such perpendiculars; their intersection will mark the center. Thanks to reader Michael Nachtigal of Wesley Chapel, Fla., for the fix!

MAKE Volume 33 features our special Software for Makers section covering apps for circuit board design, 3D design and printing, microcontrollers, and programming for kids. Also, meet our new Arduino-powered Rovera robot and get started with Raspberry Pi. As usual, you’ll also find fascinating makers inside, like the maniacs on our cover, the hackers behind the popular Power Racing Series events at Maker Faire.

Try your hand at 22 great DIY projects, like the Optical Tremolo guitar effects box, "Panjolele" cake-pan ukelele, Wii Nunchuk Mouse, CNC joinery tricks, treat-dispensing cat scratching post, laser-cut flexing wooden books, sake brewing, growing incredibly hot “ghost chili” peppers, and much more.

On newsstands now, by subscription, or available in the Maker Shed

Buy now!


Step #1: Prepare the neck and brace.

The Panjolele Cake Pan UkuleleThe Panjolele Cake Pan UkuleleThe Panjolele Cake Pan Ukulele
  • Using a power or hand miter saw, cut 2 lengths from the 1×2 board: 13-3/4" for the neck and 10-1/2" for the brace. Save the leftover piece for other parts.
  • Decide which side will be the fretted (top) side of the neck, and use a sanding block to sand it flat and smooth. Start with coarser grits and work up to finer grits.

Step #2:

The Panjolele Cake Pan UkuleleThe Panjolele Cake Pan UkuleleThe Panjolele Cake Pan UkuleleThe Panjolele Cake Pan Ukulele
  • At one end of the topside of the neck, mark out the cutout as shown. This is the Panjolele's headstock.
  • Carefully cut away the wood from this area using a handsaw and then sand away any saw marks.

Step #3:

The Panjolele Cake Pan UkuleleThe Panjolele Cake Pan UkuleleThe Panjolele Cake Pan Ukulele
  • Mark out the placement of the tuner holes as shown. Drill the holes all the way through the headstock using a 3/16" drill bit.
  • Following the same holes, drill down 1/8" from the top of the headstock with a 3/8" bit. Test the fit with one of the tuners.
  • TIP: Mark the bit with a piece of tape to help you stop at the right depth.
  • NOTE: These hole dimensions fit the UP26 tuners. Adjust if necessary to fit your tuner's shaft and bushing.

Step #4: Attach the neck to the brace.

The Panjolele Cake Pan UkuleleThe Panjolele Cake Pan UkuleleThe Panjolele Cake Pan UkuleleThe Panjolele Cake Pan Ukulele
  • Mark out the areas where the neck and brace will join. Draw a line on the bottom of the neck 1-1/2" from the uncut end. Make a similar mark 1-1/2" from one end of the brace. This is now the top of the brace.
  • On the bottom of the brace at this same end, mark out the 3 holes as shown.
  • Drill the holes all the way through with a #6 screw countersinking bit.
  • TIP: Alternately, use a bit slightly larger than the unthreaded part of the screw’s shaft, then use a larger bit to countersink the top of the hole.

Step #5:

The Panjolele Cake Pan UkuleleThe Panjolele Cake Pan UkuleleThe Panjolele Cake Pan Ukulele
  • Leaving one hole uncovered, clamp the neck and the brace together on a workbench with the 2 marked areas facing each other and each edge squared up to the marked lines.
  • Using the hole as a guide, use the #6 bit to drill ½" into the neck on the centerline, fret side down, being careful not to drill all the way through.
  • Install a #6 wood screw into this hole and tighten well.
  • Remove the clamp, recheck the alignment of the 2 pieces, and drill the other 2 holes. Install the remaining wood screws to check for fit, then remove all the screws.

Step #6:

The Panjolele Cake Pan UkuleleThe Panjolele Cake Pan UkuleleThe Panjolele Cake Pan Ukulele
  • At the other end of the brace, mark out the string holes as shown in the diagram. Using a 1/16" bit, drill the holes all the way through the brace.
  • Measure 5" from this same end, and drill a 1/8" hole through the brace, centered from side to side.

Step #7: Lay out and glue the frets

The Panjolele Cake Pan UkuleleThe Panjolele Cake Pan UkuleleThe Panjolele Cake Pan UkuleleThe Panjolele Cake Pan Ukulele
  • Using a pencil, mark a line on the topside of the neck 3-7/8" from the headstock end. This is where you’ll glue the nut.
  • Starting from this line, mark out the placement of each fret as shown in the chart.
  • NOTE: Double-check your measurements and be sure the lines are square to one edge.

Step #8:

The Panjolele Cake Pan UkuleleThe Panjolele Cake Pan UkuleleThe Panjolele Cake Pan UkuleleThe Panjolele Cake Pan Ukulele
  • With a very small amount of wood glue, glue one toothpick at the headstock side of each line, and clamp carefully with a pair of spring clamps. Allow the glue to set for a couple of minutes, remove the clamps, and carefully wipe away any excess glue with a damp rag.
  • Set aside to completely dry overnight.
  • TIP: To keep your fingers away from freshly glued frets and do the job faster, stagger the gluing order: #1, #7, #2, #8, #3, #9, etc.

Step #9: Prepare the cake pans.

The Panjolele Cake Pan UkuleleThe Panjolele Cake Pan UkuleleThe Panjolele Cake Pan Ukulele
  • On the back of the 9" cake pan, mark the center and drill a 3/16" hole.
  • On the back of the 8" cake pan, mark the center and draw a line through it, from edge to edge. Draw parallel lines ¾" on either side of this centerline.
  • To find the center of a circle: Draw a line across the circle, near the edge. Measure that line and divide it in half, then use your adjustable square to draw a second line from the midpoint, perpendicular to the first. Do this 1 more time (2 to be sure). The 2 perpendicular lines will intersect in the center of the circle.

Step #10:

The Panjolele Cake Pan UkuleleThe Panjolele Cake Pan UkuleleThe Panjolele Cake Pan Ukulele
  • Transfer the parallel lines down each side.
  • Between these lines, mark a base line on each side 1/2" from the back of the pan, using the adjustable square.

Step #11:

The Panjolele Cake Pan UkuleleThe Panjolele Cake Pan UkuleleThe Panjolele Cake Pan Ukulele
  • Using a hacksaw, cut a notch in the side of the pan along the parallel lines, from the rolled top edge to your base line.
  • Cut along the base line with the rotary tool’s cutoff wheel. (You might also be able to score, bend, and snap the piece off.)
  • Repeat on the other end of the pan.

Step #12:

The Panjolele Cake Pan UkuleleThe Panjolele Cake Pan UkuleleThe Panjolele Cake Pan Ukulele

File away any burrs and test-fit the brace into the notches. If necessary, file enough metal away for the brace to fit.

Step #13: Sand the frets

The Panjolele Cake Pan UkuleleThe Panjolele Cake Pan UkuleleThe Panjolele Cake Pan Ukulele
  • Using a saw, pair of flush nippers, end cutters, toenail clippers, or utility knife, carefully trim the ends off of the toothpicks.
  • TIP: If you use a saw like I did, clamp the toothpicks and cut downward to avoid pulling off the frets.
  • With medium-grit sand-paper and a sanding block, sand the edges of the toothpicks flush with the edges of the neck. You can also sand the ends of the frets at a 45° angle.

Step #14:

The Panjolele Cake Pan UkuleleThe Panjolele Cake Pan UkuleleThe Panjolele Cake Pan Ukulele
  • With fine sandpaper and a block, sand the tops of the frets so that they’re all level.
  • Sand the top edges of each fret to make them nice and round.
  • CAUTION: Don’t sand too much, as this will change the maximum height of the fret.

Step #15: Finish the neck and brace.

The Panjolele Cake Pan UkuleleThe Panjolele Cake Pan UkuleleThe Panjolele Cake Pan UkuleleThe Panjolele Cake Pan Ukulele
  • Using a rasp or Surform tool, ease over the corners of the neck, and round the back.
  • NOTE: Stay about 1/2" away from the headstock area and the area that will be screwed to the brace.
  • From the leftover parts of the 1×2 (or other hardwood scrap), cut the nut and bridge pieces as shown. File the notches with a triangular file.
  • Glue the nut on the nut line on the fretboard side of the neck, the same way you glued the frets.
  • Set the bridge aside; you’ll use it in the final assembly.

Step #16:

The Panjolele Cake Pan UkuleleThe Panjolele Cake Pan UkuleleThe Panjolele Cake Pan Ukulele
  • Sand the entire neck smooth, removing all pencil lines and tool marks. Sand the brace.
  • Attach the neck and brace with the 3 wood screws.
  • Finish the entire neck/brace assembly and the bridge with spray lacquer or polyurethane and allow to dry completely.

Step #17: Final assembly.

The Panjolele Cake Pan UkuleleThe Panjolele Cake Pan UkuleleThe Panjolele Cake Pan UkuleleThe Panjolele Cake Pan Ukulele
  • Press-fit the bushings into the front of the headstock and install the tuners.
  • Put the 8" cake pan over the brace, taking care not to scrape the wood finish.

Step #18:

The Panjolele Cake Pan UkuleleThe Panjolele Cake Pan UkuleleThe Panjolele Cake Pan UkuleleThe Panjolele Cake Pan Ukulele
  • Tie a knot in the end of each ukulele string and thread them through the holes in the end of the brace. Check the diagram to get the placement just right.
  • Thread the strings through the holes in the tuners and knot them. Turn the tuners to tighten the strings.
  • Attach the 9" cake pan to the back of the brace with the 2" pan head screw.
  • Put the bridge under the strings and move it 15-5/8" away from the nut. (The extra 1/8" compensates for any string stretch.)

Step #19: Final adjustments, tuning, and playing

The Panjolele Cake Pan UkuleleThe Panjolele Cake Pan UkuleleThe Panjolele Cake Pan Ukulele
  • Tuning up: Tune up your ukulele with an electronic or online tuner, tuning the strings G-C-E-A (most popular) or A-D-F#-B. Ukulele strings take a long time to stop stretching, so you’ll need to keep retuning for a couple days, but it’s good practice! If the tuners turn back after you let them go, tighten the screw at the end of the tuner.
  • Fine-tuning the action: If the strings feel really hard to push down to the frets, you can lower the “action” at the nut and the bridge. The bottom of the strings should be about 1/32" from the top of the first fret and 3/32" from the top of the twelfth fret. Deepen the notches in the nut first and then sand the bottom of the bridge. Do a little at a time, and check frequently so you don’t overdo it. If you find that the strings pop out of the nut or bridge, use a precision knife to cut deeper slots.
  • Playing tunes: Here are few chords to get you started. For right-handers: use the fingers of your left hand to press the strings down to the frets in the spots shown in the diagrams. The numbers under each string show which finger to use. Strum all 4 strings with the first finger or thumb of your right hand. Lefties: reverse!
  • Going further: Use this same method to make instruments with longer scale lengths, more or fewer strings, metal frets and steel strings, or different sound boxes. One of my favorite instruments right now is a tenor banjo with 4 steel strings, metal frets, a 21" scale, and a cake-pan soundboard and resonator.
Chester Winowiecki

Chester Winowiecki

When he’s not diligently avoiding work, Chester Winowiecki makes functional pottery and musical instruments from clay and other fun junk. He lives a happy rural life with his artist wife, Cara O’Brien, and their cat, Gizmo, in Whitehall, Mich.


  • Erin

    Chester’s instruments are amazing! Great quality and good sound.

  • Chester WInowiecki

    Thanks Erin!
    For anyone wanting to try this project out, feel free to leave notes or questions here and I’ll try my best to answer them.
    I have one little adjustment: in Step 2b the two holes are shown 1 1/4″ away from the edge. This puts them a little too close to the end of the neck. I’d recommend changing that dimension to 1 1/8″ or 1″.
    Have fun!

  • Buddy Lunceford

    What happened to the instructions for the panjolele? I need them to finnish mine.

    • Chester Winowiecki

      I think that you’ll be able to see the whole project here someday, but only after the issue is no longer being sold. Get yourself a copy and help support the magazine who can then pay authors like me to write articles like this.
      In the meantime, if you have any questions let me know and I’ll do my best to help you.

  • Craig Couden

    Hi Buddy, sorry for the delay! Some of our most recent projects are late making the transition to our new projects site. We’ll try to get this back up as soon as we can. Hope your panjolele’s coming along well!

    • Buddy Lunceford

      Thanks. I panickedtoo soon, I just got a subscription to the hard copy and digital eddition and discovered that I have the article.

  • Just made my own panjolele this weekend. Fairly easy build, but I couldn’t find the right friction tuners at Guitar Center. I ended up buying guitar 6-string nylon tuners and trimming them down to 4 strings with my dremel cutting wheel. I also needed to make the head wider and angle it back, so I glued 6 pieces of wood together and then sanded them down into the shape I wanted with a belt sander turned upside-down and clamped to my workbench. The end result looks a little different, but that’s what it’s all about, right?

  • John

    I started to learn to play the ukulele a few months ago and decided to make this project just for fun. I LOVE IT!! I made one for under $20 and it sounds better than my ‘normal’ ukuleles. Everyone who has seen it loves it and in the hands of a couple professional musicians I know who have picked mine up, it sounds amazing! (I can only dream of playing it that well).
    I already have ideas for my next one but I would like to make a tenor model. Since I see that you have already made one, Is there any way you might be willing to share the measurements for the fret board??? I have no idea how to even begin to figure that out on my own.
    Thanks for sharing this to begin with and I’ll be sure to make whatever you come up with next, providing I can put down my panjolele long enough.

    • Chester WInowiecki

      I’m so glad that you’re loving your panjo! For me the great thing about the uke is that it’s pretty easy to get started playing and it’s so much fun that you want to play more. And that’s the quickest way to get better.
      Now that you have the basic model down, it’s very easy to make different scale lengths. Assuming that you’ll be using the same size pans, the brace will be the same length and the bridge in the same location. This project has a 15 1/2 in. scale length (concert). To make a tenor scale length add 2 inches to the neck length (soprano would be 2 inches less.) There are a ton of scale length calculators on the web where you can input the scale length and number of fret positions desired. Here’s one: http://www.stewmac.com/FretCalculator
      Most of the time, I use a freeware program called wfret that allows you to print out a template of the fret positions and tape that to the top of the neck to mark them out. I can’t find the original source right now, but there are plenty of copies around.
      Good luck on your next project!

  • Marie

    Do you have a link to a video? I’d like to hear how it sounds.

  • S

    Looks awesome… just got the parts to make it.

    Any chance you could upload the vid on youtube? Vimeo really doesn’t work.

    • Chester WInowiecki

      Possibly next week….my upload speed is terrible and a video this size takes forever, but I’ll put it on my list of things to do after I complete a few deadlines.

  • Eli

    my 2″ sheet metal screw doesn’t reach past the pan, Should I pick up a 2.25″ screw?

    • Chester WInowiecki

      Yes, get whatever length you need so that the screw goes at least 1/2″ into the brace. (Some cake pans are deeper than others, so you’ll need a longer screw for these.)

  • Sean

    Thanks Chester. Just bought materials and i am about to start fabrication. You mentioned adjusting a measurement in step 2b. These electronic steps don’t show a 2b but I am assuming you are talking about step three and the tuning key holes.
    Are you saying that all of the tuning key holes should be 1/4″ farther away from the the nut?

    • Chester WInowiecki

      Sorry for the confusion…here on the web, the measurement is in step 4.
      If you look at the second picture, you’ll see the 1 1/4″ measurement. That puts those holes only 1/4″ away from the end of the neck on the other side. While it’s OK to do it this way, I’d feel better if that measurement was 1″ or 1 1/8″.
      Let me know if that doesn’t make sense.

      • Sean

        Ah! That makes perfect sense. Thanks for the plans and clarification.

  • Steve Jackson

    What a cool project. I just ordered/found the parts.

    One question comes to mind about the fitment of the 8″ pan. It does not appear to be attached to the brace. Is it loose? Does it wobble when you play?

    Thanks for the awesome article.

    • Chester WInowiecki

      Great! I hope you have fun building and playing it.
      The 8″ pan is notched to fit over the brace and once the strings are on, the downward tension holds it in place very well. I’ve never had a problem with any of the ones I’ve made. If you really feel the need, you could put a screw into the brace near one of the ends but it will reduce the volume a bit.
      If you use a very thin pan for the back, that one can move a little bit. I try to use heavier gauge pans for it or if necessary: (1) use a large washer outside of the pan or (2) use a foam block between the pan and the brace. Either or both with stabilize the back pan nicely.
      Have fun,

    • hatmanelectronics

      The pressure from the strings and the close fitting on the notch you cut to go around the wood hold it down tightly while still allowing the pan head to resonate

  • eric3dee

    Chester- Thanks for such an awesome project! As soon as I found this in my Make magazine, I couldn’t wait to get started. I made a few cosmetic tweaks to mine and posted an Instructable about it along with a downloadable copy of the art I designed for it. I hope you’ll check it!

    • Chester WInowiecki

      Too F’in Cool!
      What a great job. I love all the details! Thanks for sharing all the info and the artwork.
      Love it, love it, love it!

      • eric3dee

        Thanks so much Chester! I’m really pleased with how it turned out. I’d love to do another DIY instrument if you have plans to post any more!

        • Chester WInowiecki

          I’d love to write another article too! I’ve been working on some washtub basses lately that would make a great article. Please let the people here at Make know how much you liked this project and we’ll have a better chance to make it happen.

  • Several of the measurements on the far right side of the images have been cut off – specifically the distance of the string holes from the end of the base, and the height of the bridge. Any help? Thanks!

    • Craig Couden

      Should be fixed now!

  • John Jetmore

    I just built one of these and really enjoyed the experience, thanks so much.

    Two comments (which I think are just echoes of others on here) – I really think you ought to change the “2-inch, pan headed sheet metal screw” to 2.5 inches. I understand your response to Eli that some cake pans are deeper than others, but your instructions call for a 2″ deep pan and a 2″ screw – that will clearly never work.

    The other comment is about the spacing of the string through-holes in the brace. I used the spacing from the instructions in the magazine and the result is that the lip of the rear cake pan is sitting directly on top of the back of the strings, instead of flush against the brace. It’s not the end of the world, but it’s annoying. It would definitely look better, and possibly sound better, if the pan was sitting flush to the base. If I were to make another one I would likely leave the brace long (maybe an inch longer) and leave the through-holes undrilled until closer to the end. When I have the neck attached to the brace, I would dry-fit the rear pan and decide from there where to drill the through holes and where to cut off the brace (longer would be slightly less visually appealing but I could change the strings without taking the back off, which I can’t now. Or I could leave the brace the length it is now and move the strings inside the rear pan diameter – I would still have to take the back off to change strings, but the back pan would be flush.

    Anyway, those are my two pieces of practical feedback. I wrote up my (mostly for my own memory and reference) build log at http://www.jetmore.org/john/blog/2013/07/cake-pan-ukulele/. Thanks again!

  • chesterwinowiecki

    Great job on your build! and a great walk-through on you blog! Your panjolele looks great.

    I’m sorry that you had some trouble but I think it worked out great in the end. Hopefully, your experiences will save other people some time and headaches. As far as the cake pan depth and the 2″ inch screw goes, I’ve never had to buy a new cake pan and all the used ones I find are 1 1/2″ inches deep. Someday , I should be able to edit the instructions here and I’ll change the screw dimension to read : “1/2″ longer than your 9″ cake pan is deep.”

    Your new pans also flare out more than my old ones and the rim of the pan is just before the string exit holes on the back of the brace. Sorry for that too, but here are a few suggestions for ways you can fix your version: 1)You can plug the old holes with round toothpicks and drill new holes 1/4″ further down.2) You can countersink the existing holes so the knot sits beneath the surface. 3)The brace is probably the easiest part to remake, so you could make a new one 1/2″ longer with the holes further along, as you suggest above. If you decide to leave it, don’t worry, it won’t really affect the sound and you won’t need to change the strings very often. Even on my daily player, I only change my strings twice a year.

    Re: other little things in your blog post:

    I like to clean the pencil lines off my pans with a kitchen scrubby and dish soap. Sometimes I use an abrasive cleaner like Barkeepers friend when I need to get marker lines off.

    You do need to put the frets on before shaping the back because if you round the back a little more than you did, the clamps will have less flat surface area on the back and will continually slip off. As far as clamping the neck for shaping, I don’t use any spacers. I just clamp it down from one end only with most of the neck hanging off into space. I brace the loose end against my body and carve away. Flip occasionally to keep things even.

    I hope that you’re having a great time playing your uke!


    • John Jetmore

      Thanks for your reply Chester! I will definitely try your suggestions for removing the pencil marks.

      Great point on the timing of placing the frets vs. shaping the neck. I agree now that the frets do need to go first. They weren’t a huge impediment to shaping with the risers, so I’ll either do that again next time or use your method of clamping one end and bracing the other with my body.

      I could probably “fix” some of the problems with the ukulele I made (more rounding on the neck, moving the through-holes, etc) but I’m not going to. I’m really, really proud of it and I want to keep it as the first instrument I made, warts and all. I’ll fix those issues on the next one I make =).

      Thanks again to you and to Make for this guide, I really, really enjoyed the project!

  • Just completed this project this evening. Been playing uke for a year or so, and when I first saw he project knew I wanted to put it together. Been a long road of pulling together parts and learning how to use some new tools.

    The parts were probably the most difficult. Down here in New Zealand it is apparently nigh on impossible to get small quantities of nice wood from the hardware stores. So I ended up getting a length of 5×1 decking timber and reducing it down to size. Also struggled to find square toothpicks, but eventually tracked down some very thin sheets of wood and cut some myself.

    The cake pans were also really difficult, unless I wanted to ship from US for about $60. Apparently no one wants not-nonstick cake pans any more. Eventually sourced one in a clearance rack at a boutique kitchen shop and the other at a restaurant supply store.

    Had a few challenges and false starts when making the instrument too, but seeing it finished is amazing. I can even ignore spending three times as much on new tools as materials and parts! Wonderful first project for me to complete, now need to look for the next one!


    • chesterwinowiecki

      Sounds like you had quite a time with this project! Good job hanging in there and figuring it all out. That’s really keeping in the spirit of how I built my own.

  • I’ve been slowly working on this project and finally finished it today!
    Thanks Chester! Awesome project.

    It’s the first musical instrument I’ve built, and I’m hoping the first of many. So fun!

  • cynthia Wolff

    Hi Chester,
    I was wondering if I could use an old tin that has a fitted top and bottom…
    my question is, are sound holes required as the body would be one piece…
    right now, I am using the top of the tin, and a 9 inch pan for the bottom, but because the top is only about 1 inch deep, there is a big gap between top and bottom…so I figured if I use the whole tin it would look better…but do I need some kind of sound holes and would this work?

    thank you i will send pics if you need to see it….
    looks fab hope it sounds great…
    cynthia from The Ukettes….

    • chesterwinowiecki

      You can totally use the entire tin; lots of people make them this way. You may or may not need a sound hole. I’d try it without and then if you think it need a hole use a step drill bit to drill out a 1/2″ hole and fill it with a brass grommet (which will cover the sharp edges of the hole.)

      Tins can make great instruments, but I find that often the lid and the body don’t fit very well and they can rattle against each other. Keep an eye out for an 8″ cake pan and I think that you’ll like the final sound better. Luckily, you can build it one way and very easily swap them to hear the difference!

      Good luck!

  • cynthia Wolff

    thanks…I already have the cake pans…but this tin is calling out to me…
    I’ll let you see the final results…waiting on tuners from Elderly…they have them
    on backorder…

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  • Uku V

    Pan is attached on neck with just one screw?
    At least two screws are.better.That way pan can’t spin a round.
    Bridge is better if its screwd or glued on. That way there not going to be tuning problems.

    • Rob Schneider

      I’m not sure, but adding a second screw may not allow the rear pan to resonate properly, and may result in a lower sound volume.

      If you glue or screw down the bridge you will not be able to fine tune the intonation of the strings. It is best to let the tension of the strings hold it in place.

      • Lito Lopez

        Is it ok to paint the pans? Thanks. Very helpful and good tutorial.

        • Rob Schneider

          I think painting them would be fine. It shouldn’t affect the sound much at all. I built one using Teflon coated steel pans, and it actually sounds warmer than my aluminum ones.

  • lizzy

    this says to use pans that are 2″ deep. Is that accurate. I’m having a helluva time finding pans with these dimensions. The pans in the images also don’t look like 2″ deep ones, though I can’t discern the depth well… Possible error in the materials list?

    • Rob Schneider

      He’s not talking about the exact dimensions of the cake pans there. It’s a nominal dimension, like the 1″ x 2″ boards used for the neck and brace. Cake pans that are called 8″ x 2″ round or 9″ x 2″ round are usually a bit smaller than the numbers would suggest, but they are reasonably close.

  • Jeffrey T. Wells

    Got here through

  • Belia Krouse

    I am sure you’ll learn how to make it if you’ll read woodprix instructions from cover to cover :)

  • Ed

    Is the top pan held by only string tension at the bridge and friction on the brace, or is there something I’ve missed?