There was a time when people had to build their own instruments if they wanted to be in a band. Once upon a time, music wasn’t as commercialized as it is now and you couldn’t drive over to the local Tom Lee Music and buy a guitar.

Here is a lesson in how to build one of the funnest home made instruments in the world, a washtub bass!


Home made instruments: The washtub bass

Parts that you will need before you start assembly include:

  • A washtub, the #3 tub is the one most often used. It has a 24 inch mouth and will have a number ‘3’ embossed in the center. Hot dipped are stronger than pre-galvanized.
  • An eyebolt with a short shank, preferably just over an inch long.
  • 2 Locking nuts for the eyebolt or 2 lock washers.
  • Two wrenches for the nuts on the eyebolt – get the proper size so you can tighten them good and snug.
  • A toilet plunger
  • The largest diameter fender washers that you can find and that match the diameter of the inside hole.
  • A broom handle or stick that is at least 48” long
  • Parachute cord or cotton clothesline cord 6 feet in length.
  • A rope clamp that is 1/8 so you can tie the string to the tub.
  • A motorized drill with a bolt sized drill bit.

Now it is time to build your washtub bass!

Building your washtub bass

1.Start out by removing the handles from the tub. Then drill a hole through the center of the tub that will fit the eyebolt.

2.Take your eyebolt and screw one of the nuts as high up as you can. Then put on the lock washer and a large diameter fender washer.

3. Put the eyebolt into the hole you have drilled and put the remaining fender washer, locking washer and bolt on the bottom of the eyebolt. Now it is time to use those wrenches and get this good and tight, leaving as much of the bolt on the inside of the tub as possible.

4. Cut a slot in the stick that is less than 1/4 inch deep and just wide enough to put it over the rim of the tub. Then drill a hole in the stick that is as close as possible to the diameter of the string or cord you’re using and place the stick on the rim of the tub.

5. Tie a big knot in the end of the string or cord and thread it through the hole in the stick. Take the other end of the string and clamp it off with the clamp on the eyebolt. Get the length you need and cut it to length. The length should be about 48” and it should be taut while the stick is leaning towards the tub.  Then melt the frayed end with a match to prevent further fraying.

6. The plunger is the last thing you’ll need. Cut a slot in it as wide as the rim of the tub on the side where the handle is. It will serve to keep the washtub in place as play!