Here is an easy project for you to try – making a tambourine from a cigar box!
Ben “Gitty” Baker walks you through the steps he followed to build one, along with photos of some of the steps. These are “loose” plans (more of a builder’s diary, really) with lots of room for interpretation. There is no “right way” – Ben had never built a cigar box tambourine before, and made it up as he went along, and you should too! So let’s get started…
Parts You’ll Need
- Wide, flat cigar box
- 15 to 30 tambourine jingles (Here is a source: http://www.mid-east.com/Drums/Tambourine-Accessories/Mid-East-Dimpled-Steel-Tambourine-Jingles-100-Count)
- Finishing Nails (just slightly fatter than the 1/16″ drill bit mentioned below)
Tools You’ll Need
- Drill with 1/16” bit
- Hole saw or jig saw
- Long thin screws and matching screwdriver (optional)
Project How-To Steps
Start by finding a suitable box. A wide, squarish, flatter box is what I recommend, though a more rectangular one could work too. The one I chose was a Joya de Nicaragua “Viajante”, and measured 8 ¾” wide x 9 ½” tall x 1 ⅛” deep.
Cut a hole through both the top and bottom of the box. I cut a 6” hole in my box, because it seemed like a good size and I had a 6” hole saw handy. Find something round that is the right size for your box (like a saucer), use a stencil or a compass to mark your circle.
You probably don’t have a hole saw handy in that size, so drill a smaller hole touching the inside edge of the circle you drew and then use a jig saw of some sort to cut out the hole. It doesn’t have to be perfect.
Figure out how many sides of the box you want to mount jingles on. I did it on 3 sides, and left one side (the one with the hinges) without jingles, so it could be easily gripped.
Mark out where you want the jingle slots to be. I put three on each side. When measuring and marking, leave some space on either side of the jingle so they don’t hit the sides. The amount of space to leave depends on how big the holes in your jingles are.
Use a ½” drill bit to drill a hole at each end of the slots you marked out on the box. Then use a jig saw to connect the holes, to turn them into round-ended slots. A file or rasp can be used to smooth out the shapes.
There are probably a number of methods that could be used to pin the jingles into the slots. I was going for quick and easy, so what I did was drill a 1/16” pilot hole all the way down through the center of the slot from the top of the box to the bottom.
I then tapped in a finishing nail with a little larger diameter than the drilled hole, down through to jingles, and clipped it off at the top and bottom with side cutters. I then filed and sanded the sharp points down, and called it good. On the first one actually I tried a long thin screw, but found that the threads were too grabby on the jingles. A nice smooth nail seemed to work a lot better.
I repeated this process for all of the slots, fastening the jingles in place with the finishing nails. If the finishing nails ended up a little loose in the pre-drilled holes, a dab of superglue sorted them out.
Once all of the jingles were mounted, I went one step further and mounted some two sets of jingles on the inside edge of the 6-inch inner hole. I used 4 jingles per. I am not sure whether I like the results or not… seems like it may have made it too clattery. Using larger jingles might help.
To make it easier to hold and play, I did some sanding to round over the edges of the inner holes, and some filing to make it more comfortable.
The last (optional) step was pre-drilling and mounting two long thin screws down through the front edges of the cigar box to hold it closed. This could be accomplished in various ways. You could even glue and clamp it shut, or just rely on the latch that may have come on the cigar box.
You should now be ready to be your own sweet, jingly rhythm section! I hope you take this basic idea as far as it can go – there are a lot of ways to expand and improve it!
As with any seemingly simple project like there, there are many ways that it could be expanded and improved upon. Here are a few ideas for variations:
- Only cut an opening through the back, leave the top panel in place (should be thin plywood) – could this act a little bit like the drum head on a conventional tambourine?
- Experiment with different sizes of jingle – higher/shriller tone vs. a deeper more ringing tone – what suits a cigar box better?
- Reclaimed items as jingles. Washers? Random metal bits?