Woodworking lets you make some absolutely amazing pieces. Whether you make tables from reclaimed driftwood, cabinets with a rich lacquer finish or restored antiques that will be cherished for countless future generations, there’s a beauty found in working with wood that’s hard to replicate in any other medium. Do you sometimes find yourself craving something more, though?
If you’ve never considered it, you might try your hand at making custom wooden musical instruments. While there’s definitely a learning curve, you can create some truly one-of-a-kind instruments that will then allow others to express their own art.
If you specialize in furniture or art pieces, you may never have considered trying your hand at making wooden instruments, but countless types and sizes of instruments are historically made of wood. Even xylophones traditionally have wooden bars on them (which is amazing when you think of the range of notes that a xylophone can create). Guitars, lutes, recorders, fiddles, drums – with the right accessories, you could even start making harmonicas or accordions.
Learning the Craft
Depending on the instruments you want to make, there are several ways to get started. There are books and videos available on making instruments like drums, electric guitars and various solid-body instruments. Once you learn the basics you can add whatever embellishments you want based on your woodworking experience. Some instruments may require you to learn the craft directly from someone else, which may take a little more time. If you can find someone who’s willing to teach you the basics, you can learn to make some pretty complicated instruments completely from scratch.
What If You Don’t Play?
Musical talent isn’t a prerequisite to making instruments, but it does help to know what an instrument is supposed to sound like. This is especially important if you plan on selling any of the pieces you make. Some instruments are very sensitive to the size and shape of their echo chambers, so if you aren’t careful you could create something that looks pretty but will never really be playable.
Your best bet if you don’t play is to get in touch with local musicians and see if they’d be interested in testing your instruments for you. Depending on whether they’re professionals or hobbyists, you may have to pay them for their time. Of course, that’s not a bad thing to offer anyway. You may be able to strike a deal, though. In exchange for testing your instruments as you learn the craft, you could give your tester one of the finished instruments as a payment for services rendered.
A lot goes in to making handmade instruments, so unless you find it particularly fulfilling, it probably won’t become your primary form of woodworking. However, making instruments can be a creative diversion when you want a break from typical work. It can also be a good source of extra income if you start to build a name for yourself. Even if you don’t create many instruments every year, you’d be surprised how many musicians would love to have custom pieces.
In the end, you may find there’s too much work involved in this type of woodworking or that making an instrument was a fun project but not something you want to do again. Then again, you might also discover that it’s a skill you want to hone. Either way, learning how to make your own custom musical instruments can teach you a lot about specialty woodworking and may improve your work in other areas. Just imagine what secrets your next table could hold after learning how to better use empty spaces by making a drum or guitar.