top of page

Wooden Dough Bowl Banjo, Greensboro NC

Updated: Feb 2, 2023

This curious antique banjo instrument was made from a wooden dough bowl for a body, a carved hunk of wood for the neck and old wooden clothespins serving as tuning pegs. It was discovered in Greensboro, NC and sold to me on eBay. Based on the parts used and patina, I would estimate it to be from the first half of the Twentieth Century.

The 8.5" diameter wooden dough bowl still bears the marks in the back where strings were fed from inside and sent around to the top. It appears that this banjo never had a head of any kind on the top of the bowl.

Three flat head bolts secure the neck to the bowl. It's a tight fit, even for such a crude instrument.

The neck is a monster, measuring 2.5" wide! It was crudely carved and the back shows knife and file marks along with big hunks of wood chiseled away. The original piece of wood was 2.5" wide, 1.5" deep and 24.5" long.

The big block headstock has four holes drilled to fit four clothespins. These do not hold much tension, telling me that this instrument might have been built for a child as a toy (although it's quite big for a toy) or it was made by an inexperienced builder. Note the half-round trim serving as a nut. It is secured in place by two brad nails.

A closeup view of the "tuning pegs" show the line of patina from the areas sticking out of the wood. Note the pencil lines on the fretboard and headstock. They trace where strings would be located. It looks like a child may have traced the original strings.

The most puzzling part of the entire banjo is the location of the bridge at the base of the neck. Notice it in the first photo in this article. It's right where the neck and bowl meet. This part would make the instrument unplayable because this piece of half-round would stop the strings in the middle of the playing area. The player could only strum the strings on the neck or the strings in the area of the body. It is this piece that makes me suspect that this is a toy, even more so than the clothespin tuners.

DISCUSSION: It may not play, but there is plenty of inspiration to be taken from this piece. You can find wooden dough bowls at thrift stores or yard sales. The neck is actually quite secure to the bowl. A properly made dough bowl banjo could actually work, especially if using low-tension nylon strings.

And what about the clothespins? Could these actually be used as tuners? If so, how? Post your thoughts in the comments!

Please help fund research and the Museum Collection: Your donations to this website allow me to continue publishing free historical blogs, advance the research, restore these antique instruments and acquire other instruments that fill in the gaps of history.

Here are the specs of the Wooden Dough Bowl Banjo:

Scale length: Unknown due to improper setup

Materials used:

  • Wooden dough bowl

  • Clothespins

  • Wood plank

  • 3.4" half-round trim

  • Flat head bolts and square nuts.

Dimensions: 31.75 x 8.5 x 1.75" (80 x 20 x 4.5cm)

Cigar Box Guitar Museum Catalog # ABN.2021.001

Currently in curation and slated to be shown at the Cigar Box Guitar Museum in New Alexandria PA at a future date.

473 views20 comments

Recent Posts

See All

20 則留言

True balance
True balance

The information given in this article is great. I would just love to visit your website again in search of unique and great content with many different topics


loan app


Rick Post
Rick Post

It looks like an interesting one to recreate, The floating bridge in its storage space or the current bridge as a part of a kid's conversion. The bowl itself would be rather dead acoustically but any soundboard would probably need to be braced? The neck sure looks beefy enough for some real strings,


Matt Borczon
Matt Borczon

I love this idea, I wonder if they could get something like tune out of those clothes pins


Charles Zuhlke
Charles Zuhlke

Somebody out there really wanted to play the banjo!



WOW...that is a really cool piece.

bottom of page