WyoWoman- Aha, we get to the real point of the thread, being an article for TMEN. I nearly didn't respond to this thread, because I've only made one instrument from a kit, a balalaika, and it seemed that my limited success didn't really measure up to other folks experiences.
I bought the kit at a yard sale for five dollars, and spent weeks in assembly. It was missing the back, so I made a back from a drawer bottom from an old dresser. (It was really a decent piece of laminate, thin, flat and pretty).
It really was a labor of love. I spent a lot of time scraping glue off of the joints, staining, sanding and restaining. I even built a makeshift finishing chamber out of plastic sheeting, to try and keep dust off the fresh lacquer.
It actually turned out OK, but I eventually tired of it and sold it one of my garage sales for twenty bucks. Not much of a ROI, but the whole thing is still a fond memory.
The main point of my reply to your thread is that I heartily applaud your effort to bring more music, in any way, to The Mother Earth News. I have been a reader of TMEN nearly since it's inception. While I have valued the magazine's mission, I have always thought that music has been notoriously unrepresented in TMEN, and it seems that you are trying to change that. HOORAH!
Here's a little TMEN tip- Do you want a perfect shop apron? Take an old pair of bib overalls, cut them off at the knees and rip the inseams out. Sew the legs together flat in front. Cut the back off, but make sure and leave on the shoulder harness which goes around your neck, and also leave the waist-strap, which secures the waist. Best damn apron I've ever had, and contributed by a TMEN reader about twenty years ago. (Sorry, I don't know which issue). Mine is a great apron, plenty of pockets above and below, and made a good use of overalls I was going to throw away anyway.
Go, WyoWoman. I'd bet you would have a lot of support from the Mudcat Cafe to try introducing more music into the venerable Mother Earth News. Thanks, BlueJay