While band and orchestra instruments are extremely expensive, children who just want to make music for fun can create their own versions at a fraction of the cost. These makeshift instruments now can be a fun project idea for students to create at school or at home. With a small amount of creativity and a big imagination, children can build their own violin from a cake-mix box. This is an affordable alternative to an expensive wood violin, and is a lot of fun to play.
Building the Body
Locate a box with dimensions approximately 8 inches long, 6 inches wide, and 3 inches deep. A cake-mix box or crouton box usually is about this size.
Cut a small slit in the box top with a knife, near the front of the box. Identify the grooved end of the paint stir stick that serves as a hand grip and insert the opposite end of the stick into the slit.
Slide the stir stick through the slit until the bottom four inches are inside the box. Secure with hot glue.
Crumple newspaper sheets and stuff into the box until the box can resist being crushed.
Tape around the entire box with packing tape.
Wrap the box with construction paper and secure with heavy amounts of tape so no loose corner can be ripped.
Attach an eraser with hot glue to the back of the box near the base, where it will rest on your shoulder. This will prevent the paper from sliding or skidding on your clothes.
Place a dot sticker on the point of the neck where the bow will meet the violin's body. Near the top of the neck, place dot stickers to mark the B, C# and D positions. There should be one dot directly above the groove in the paint stick and two dots directly below the groove.
Stringing and Playing
Attach a binder clip to the paint stir stick at each note location, marked by the dot stickers.
Mount the pencil sharpener to the center of the front side of the box with hot glue. The grooved sides should be parallel to the surface of the box.
Cut three lengths of nylon string that will reach from 3 inches above the binder clip to 3 inches below the pencil sharpener. Tie one end of each string to the metal arm of each clip, leaving some slack in each line.
Run each string down to the body of the violin. Thread over the grooves of the pencil sharpener and tie around the center of the sharpener. You may need to push the string through the underside of the pencil sharpener using the tip of a knife. Your strings should all have slack in them.
Cut a length of string equal to the length of the hanger base. Tie to the left corner of the hanger base and thread across to the opposite side. Pull the string tight until the hanger wire separates from the string by bending up toward the hanger's neck. Tie off the string and cut any excess.
Tighten the strings on the violin by removing each binder clip and twisting away from the body.
Slide the hanger bow across the strings of the violin. Tune as necessary by tightening or loosening the string, and experiment with the change in sound by pressing down on the strings with your fingers at different points on the violin neck.
Students with long necks may want to substitute a sponge secured with a rubber band in place of the eraser on the violin back to alleviate neck pain.
Consider tying the strings around the pencil sharpener before gluing to the violin, but be sure the strings will reach well past the binder clip position.
Adelaide Tresor has been a technical writer and book editor since 2006. Her work has been published by Thomson Reuters and Greenhaven Press, including several "At Issue" titles. Tresor holds a bachelor's degree in journalism and is also a certified teacher with experience in English, mathematics, chemistry, and environmental science. She currently teaches AP Physics.