The bouzouki is a long-necked string instrument. It originated in Greece and is a member of the lute family. It is popular in Greek folk music but is also used in Irish folk music. The strings are paired, which creates a spacious, doubled sound. Making your own bouzouki enables you to build a custom instrument to your own specifications while saving money on shop-bought equipment. You can get parts individually or as part of a kit. Luthiers and kit makers sell blanks that you can drill and cut to your own specifications.
- Skill level:
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Things you need
- Neck and head blank
- Side panels
- Soundboard blank
- Back piece blank
- Tail block
- Kerfed lining strips
- Truss rod
- Wood glue
- Standard electric drill
- Standard 3/4-inch drill bit
- Ball peen hammer
- Metal file
- Bench clamp
- Clothes pegs
- 80-grit sandpaper
Sketch out the holes for the tuners. Plot four tuners on each side of the headstock blank, equal distances apart.
Glue the sides to the tail block. The sides are curved and join at the bottom of the instrument, in the centre. Glue the bottom end of each side panel to the tail block so that the tail block hols them together. Fix the joint into a bench clamp for three hours.
Glue the soundboard panels together. There are typically two pieces that form the complete soundboard. Fix the joint in the clamp for three hours.
Sketch the outline of the bouzouki body and cut it out with a jigsaw. Cut a sound hole in the centre with a dremel tool.
Slot the sides into the neck groove. The other ends of the side panels slot into the pre-cut groove on the neck. Apply glue to the inside of the groove, the groove will hold the panels in place as the glue dries so there is no need for clamping.
Glue the kerfed lining strips onto the top and bottom of the side panel. These decorative bindings bond the front and back panel to the sides. Glue them on individually, side-by-side. Clip them with clothes pegs while they dry.
Mark out the position of the braces on the sound board. The braces are internal struts that support the structure of the bouzouki. Glue on the braces. Place heavy books on top over night while they dry.
Glue the soundboard onto the lining strips and clamp in place for three hours. Sand the edges. The body is now almost complete, save for the back panel.
Insert the truss rod with the hex key end at the top. Use this to adjust neck position when the bouzouki is fully assembled.
Glue on the back board. Apply glue to the top of kerfed lining strips and place the back panel on. Clamp it for three hours.
Glue the fretboard onto the neck. Clamp it for three hours.
Tap in the frets using a ball peen hammer and file off the edges using a metal file.
Use a cross-head screwdriver and the screws provided to screw on the tail piece. This sits centrally and straddles the top and side panel.
Use a cross-head screwdriver to screw on the machine heads. Fit the strings.
Tips and warnings
- Sand and varnish the wood to give it a smart appearance.
- Wear goggles when drilling, sawing and gluing.
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