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How to Make a Simple Diddley Bow Pickup

This is probably the easiest electric diddley bow pickup/bridge combo I've ever seen. It is based on a one-string "diddley bow" guitar by W. D. Daily of West Virginia.

Dailey's instrument features a solid oak plank that is strung up with a solitary guitar string. The bridge is an old Altoids mints tin that is placed under the string at an angle. The tin serves as both a bridge and a pickup.

The secret is the bridge has a piezo disk inside. A 1/4" jack pokes out of the side of the tin.

In order to make this pickup, you'll need:

  • An Altoids tin

  • A 1/4" guitar jack

  • A piezo pickup disc with pre-wired leads

1. Solder the piezo disk leads to the guitar jack, making sure to connect the ground wire (black) to the jack lead connected to the sleeve.

2. Drill a hole in the side of the Altoids tin to fit for a 1/4" guitar jack (top photo)

3. Install the piezo disk pickup & jack to the inside of the tin. Using superglue, attach the piezo disk to the inside of the tin. (Note: In the photos above, the piezo is glued to the bottom of the tin. I suggest gluing it to the underside of the lid.

4. Turn the tin over and glue a 1/4" strip of wood on one side, creating a perfect angle for the string to go across.

5. Slip the tin under the string of the diddley bow (above) and you're done. You'll be able to plug a guitar cable right into the bridge/pickup combo and rock out. The bridge/pickup is held in place by string tension.

Other notes about the W. D. Dailey one-string diddley bow: One brass rod serves as a nut and another is placed behind the bridge/pickup, allowing you to remove the Altoids tin to make it a 100% acoustic instrument. The overall length of the instrument is 30" and the scale length is 22".

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Jim Stanley
Jim Stanley

I was working on creating didley bows for all my great nieces and nephews to conduct a Christmas concert for my 91 year old mom. Covid and mailing delays got in the way. These pickups will be the perfect pick ups for the bows. My vision was to have my kids put the bows together in santas workshop to give on Christmas day. With Christmas passed, and covid still raging, I may try for an Easter concert! Thanks for the article above!



I get the most fun out of the simple ones!


Bill Daily was a great friend of mine, a talented musician and artist. He was a great player and a dedicated student of the blues. I was, am still am, saddened at his death a little more than a year ago.

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