My wife got this brilliant idea that I should make some single string canjos for the grandkids for Christmas.  I guess she saw the thing on TV.


I do woodworking but have no idea the demensions of this thing or how it is put together.


Can anyone help me find a plan for a simple single string canjo?


I'm looking for the ones that are made from beer/pop cans and small cookie tins.


you can email me at blackemmons<at> if you wish.




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I did see that one.

Some details i need are:

How is the can attached to the neck?

Is there a bridge or is the string just resting on the hole in the bottom of the can? If so, I would think it would wear through the can in a short time.

What about adding frets? How? Material? Placement? etc.

Alternatives for tuning pegs? Eye screws? etc

What about the use of cookie tins?

I'm sure there are many more questions as one starts to construct.


Naz Nomad said:
I wanted to let Jim know that I found a plan for the canjo at  I just ordered it, and hope it explains what I also want to know.

Layout two locations for screws on the board matching the length of the can, say an inch in from each end of the can a bit bigger than say #8 screws. Drill holes in board. Repeat for the can, measure the distance between your two holes and drill the holes. It may be easier to set the can on the board and then mark hole locations. Place masking tape on can so it's easy to see marks. It may be tricky to start the threads on the flush head screw inserted thru the board and the can farthest away from the opened can, needle nose pliers would help. Use flush head screws and tighten. Done


I've thought a bit more about mounting a soup can that would be even easier. At the rear of the can which has a lip screw a pan head screw that catches the lip into the board.. Repeat at the other end. Done.



Those plans are kinda old per se. I've made better ones since. I attach them to the bottom with a small bolt now. the neck is 3/4" high and I use a 3/4" bolt and nut but I have to inset the nut. The string threads thru a hole in the back of the can. No 'bridge'. I put frets on them but they are real fret. I will post pics soon.




Jim Eller said:


I did see that one.

Some details i need are:

How is the can attached to the neck?

Is there a bridge or is the string just resting on the hole in the bottom of the can? If so, I would think it would wear through the can in a short time.

What about adding frets? How? Material? Placement? etc.

Alternatives for tuning pegs? Eye screws? etc

What about the use of cookie tins?

I'm sure there are many more questions as one starts to construct.


Naz Nomad said:

Hi Jim Eller.

Canjos are easy to make and a good learning experience for building and playing home made stringed instruments. I got my start building home made instruments by building them. In fact, I was the one who originally suggested the need for a canjo discussion group on CBN (Cigar Box Nation) which Diane from Chicago took up and called "The Can Jo  Consortium". This is a well organized discussion groups with discussion areas for different kinds of can-based home made instruments. My recommendation would be to read through these discussions and CBN in general for ideas. There's a ton of information here. Here are some of the plans I used to build my early canjos, likely the kind you are thinking of building.


The original Canjo Plans:

Another Canjo Plan:

And My Canjo Plans

My recommendations for a beginner are these:

1.) Use nylon tie-wraps (the kind electricians use to dress up their wiring) for frets. You can use a fret calculator and an electronic tuner to position and fine tune your frets. I use the thinnest tie-wraps. You can experiments with different fret schemes. Most guitars are fretted using what's known a chromatic or 12TET fretting, and a popular alternative is the mountain dulcimer diatonic fretting scheme which eliminates all but one the accidentals (sharps and flats). The diatonic fretting scheme is  easier to teach and learn for young children. Other fretting schemes include the bluescimer and pentatonic fretting schemes (can search CBN for more info on these).

2.) Use diatonic fretting scheme (easiest to teach and learn for beginners)

3.) Use nylon strings, preferably classical guitar strings, because as compared to wire strings, they are a lot easier on the tender fingers of children.

4.) An open geared tuner is easier to tune (and they maintain tuning better) than friction tuners, so I recommend using them, but they are a bit harder to install because the pole around which the string is wrapped is at right angles to the tuning knob. With ukulele tuners, they both are inline and so a simple hole drilled though the headstock is all it takes to install them. With friction tuners, you need to orient the tuner so the gear is facing the nut side of the headstock, and the pole is roughly in the middle of the headstock. There needs to be enough clearance between the tuning knob and the headstock to allow you to easily tune the instrument, and you will have to drill out a couple of pilot holes for the two mounting screws that should come with your geared tuners.

5.) For children, consider shortening the scale length so it's easier to move between fret positions when the child plays. Children have shorter fingers than adults, so a 20 inch scale length should work better than a 25 inch scale length. Some people have gone as short as 17 or 15 inch scales for children. I certainly don't know the optimal size. But when the scale length gets too short, it gets harder to fret the higher frets because they are too close together.


As an alternative to friction or geared tuners, you can consider using zither pins. They typically require a hard wood headstock, and a special tuner. You can buy zither pins and the tuner from sources on the Internet. They even make cool clock key tuners which will work on zither pins. Check before buying to make sure the diameter of your zither pins match the diameter of the zither pin tuner.


Good luck, and have fun building. I think after building a few canjos, you'll be ready for more advanced canjo designs with multiple stings and then maybe cigar box guitars. Beware, the hobby is addicting.




Where do you get your scale for your frets?

I know this is an old post, but some observations from me, Happy Tom. :-)

I've been making a few Canjo's for the past 2 months out of regular food cans (corn, beans ECT) and one thing that I have done, is instead of the opening of the can pointing to the tuning peg, I have reversed the can so that the bottom of the can is facing the tuning peg. I feed the wire thru the opening and out of the front (bottom) of the can. To me, this seems to make the Canjo "louder" to the point that my Wife complains down stairs.. even when I have the door closed! LOL..

I also use a small think piece of metal that I cut from a smoked oyster can, to reenforce the 1/8 string hole inside of the can. Some people have recommended using 1/8 rivet sleeves... which also may to be a good idea.

Another thing that I do, is I leave this fretless.. however.. I do mark were the fret lines are using light pencil marks. Sometimes I play with a slide.. sometimes not.

I am not saying this is better for all.. especially if the end goal is making these for children.. just wanted to post this alternative method. Happy Holidays for all of read this at this time. :-)

I build my canjo's "bottom up" also. I find that it leaves a lot more room for the strumming area.

I am looking to make a couple of these myself for gifts this xmas. Its been hard to find any kind of definite plans on them. 

My main questions really is, I don't see a bridge, So not sure how to get the scale for it. Is the bridge the end og the can? And does it matter which direction the can points? I personally like it open end pointing towards tuner. So if the end of the can acts like the bridge, then that would make more sense. otherwise I can easily make it thereafter. Thanks for any responses/advise.


The end of the can is indeed the bridge. There is a discussion ongoing on the front page of CBN about making a bridge on the Canjo Consortium group here at CBN. It's referred to in the old discussion thread above.
Cools. Makes sense, but as,mentioned wasn't sure.. Thank you very much, I'll check it out.


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