How To Make A Mouthbow

Written and illustrated by Peter Taney

A mouthbow requires only a springy, thin tree branch, a loop end steel banjo string (single strand — not wound) and an eye bolt.

Drill a hole in one end of the stick large enough for the eye bolt to turn stiffly. This is important, for the string is to be wound on the eyebolt, and the eyebolt should not turn when there is tension on the string. Drill a small hole at the other end, to tie on the string.

Cut a notch in the end of the eye bolt with a hack saw.

To attach the string, thred it through the small hole, then through the string’s own loop end. Lay the other end of the string through the notch in the eyebolt, wrapping the string over itself to lock it in the eyebolt.

The mouthbow should look like this:
 

The bow is played with the small end laid against the cheek, using the cavity as a sound box. The mouth cavity is varied to vary the pitch in much the same manner as in playing a jaw-harp (“jew’s harp).

© 1999 by Peter Taney. Used with kind permission from the author.

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