You’ve enjoyed the cheese, but what do you do with a Cougar Gold can?

John Elwood ’01 builds fine stringed instruments—dulcimers, mandolins, banjos, harpsichords— so using the iconic tin Cougar Gold can to craft a banjo seemed a logical choice. The Palouse-area resident created a canjo, a fretless, tunable instrument for all ages.

John Elwood with a “canjo”
John Elwood ’01 crafts banjos from WSU cheese cans. (Photo Zach Mazur)

“These are three-string, robust instruments, have the scale dimensions of a violin, and are inexplicably pleasant to the ear,” says Elwood. “I blame it on the excellence of the cheese.”

His affection for WSU’s signature cheddar developed early as he helped his father, Lewis Elwood ’65, clean Troy Hall, the former home of Ferdinand’s.

Elwood was not alone in thinking to put strings on the musical can. Last year, the WSU Creamery received a canjo built by Dennis Skelton, an instrument maker in Georgia and father of Pullman resident Duane Skelton.

Web extras

Watch a video of John playing the Cougar Fight Song and children’s classic “Shortnin’ Bread” on the canjo, and his own composition on the dulcimer.

Gallery: John Elwood with canjos and other instruments in his studio
(Photos by Zach Mazur)

On the web

WSU Creamery