First of all, as we’ve found out breaking strings, this instrument can be quite dangerous and prone to string breakage even if constructed correctly. Safety glasses/mask are recommended both when building and operating one. I take no responsibility for any injury that this instrument is capable of, but if you somehow choose to build one, seriously take it easy on the handle!
As teased in the last Whamola article (including a video of ours in use), here are instructions for building this instrument. It’s really a simple to make, but having a miter saw and milling machine (here’s my mill and miter saw from Amazon) or router will be extremely helpful. I’ll show how to assemble everything in this and the next post. To begin with though, here’s the components and tools that you will need:
- Wood – 1 3/8 inch square x 8 feet long
- Axis of rotation – 1/4 – 20 bolt 6 inches long
- 2 1/4 – 20 nuts to lock bolt down and and some 1/4 inch washers
- Roller for string – replacement roller from screen repair tool
- String – “D” string for bass guitar
- Pickup – P-style bass pickup (single)
- Electronics – Pitch and volume pot, female receptacle for cord
- Tuning peg from bass guitar
- Wood screws (2) to attach handle assembly (roughly 4 1/2 inches long)
- Wood screws (2) to attach bridge (roughly 2 1/2 inches long)
Tools Needed to Make Whamola:
- Saw – I used a chopsaw
- Milling machine or wood router
- Phillips head screwdriver (large and small)
- Pliers or wrench
Once you have the tools and components needed to make your instrument, the only thing left to do is make it of course! It took Jackson and I roughly 5 hours to make an electric version, but we had something we could test without the pickups much earlier.
The first step to doing this would be to cut up your wood. You’ll need (3) 7 inch pieces for the handle, a 72 inch piece for the body, and a small triangular piece for the bridge. A mitre saw set at 45 degrees can be used to make the triangular bridge piece from the main body cutoff.
Before attaching everything together, drill pilot holes as shown where the handle will attach to the support pieces. You’ll then need to use a milling machine or wood router to put a channel for the string to go through on the side that you haven’t drilled pilot holes for. On the same side as the pilot holes, drill a hole for your tuning peg. It should be a tight fit, if you have to pound it in with a mallet, that’s ideal.
Attach the pieces of wood as shown with the 4 1/2 inch wood screws. I’d recommend putting one screw on each side, but this probably isn’t strictly necessary. Push the tuning peg in, and screw in the little screw that holds it on. A pilot hole is probably a good idea for this.
The body of this instrument is pretty simple to make. Forgoing the electronics for now you will need to first put a 1/4 inch hole around 27 inches from the bottom for the string to go through. From here, go up around 4 inches and attach the triangular bridge piece (dimension is to the part that touches the string). Position it where you want it, then drill the pilot holes using a clamp or vise. After this, screw it down from the back side.
Moving up the body, drill a 1/4 inch hole 28 inches from the center of the bridge to accommodate the handle-hinge bolt. This will be perpendicular to the string-hole. Parallel to the string-hole, mill a 1/4 inch slot all the way through your base 4 inches long. This slot will be centered on this hinge-hole. Finally, depending on your pivot axis, you may need to put an extra slot as shown for the string to vibrate freely.
To assemble the handle, poke your bolt through one side of its axis then into one side of the body. Hold (preferably have a partner hold) the screen tool in line with the bolt, and push everything through. If they fit, washers can be used between the handle and base. Lock everything down with two nuts. Attach the string to the washer and slide it through the string hole, over the bridge, and over the pivot. Insert the string into the tuning peg, and torque as desired.
At this point, you have a whamola that can be played, if not with a pickup. Play around with it for a while, but be sure to check out the next article for how to attach the electronics. This may be a fun instrument acoustic-only, but add an amp and distortion pedal, and the fun goes up exponentially!
Please note that the dimensions that I’ve listed are approximate and based on some hastily scribbled notes that I took before it left my garage. It would be best to verify that things will work for your purposes. If you do decide to build one based on these instructions, I’d love to hear about it in the comments!