“Road Ready Polymer” – All-Plastic, First Act Electro-Acoustic Modification

I found this plastic First Act acoustic for six dollars at Goodwill—why not…everyone has to get their hands dirty at some point.

Here are the before pictures:

Body and Finish:

The body and “finish” were in fairly good shape, but I had to do something the change it’s appearance. I decided to leave the back, sides, and neck alone, so I painted only the top of the body and front of the head.

I wanted to make the deterioration on the finish more interesting so first I painted the top and head Safety Red then I painted Hammered, Burnished Amber. The thinking is that the amber will first wear down to red, then to the original “burst” finish.

Another interesting aspect of this guitar is the inner structure. The guitar seems rather sound, so I’m confident that it should holdup to 11’s.

Tuners:

I changed out the tuners—the replacements were second-hand, crappy yes, but not as bad as the originals. The classical acoustic tuners fit perfectly without modification and the addition of brass screws finished off the abomination perfectly.

Pickup and Bridge:

Of course for the pickup, I taped together two Nd144 Electromagnetic Cigar Box Guitar Pickups. I drilled and installed a 1/4″ jack in the lower-right and wired it straight to the pickup.

For pickup installation, I taped two washers in the bridge position with Command Strips—the magnets on the pickups attached to the washers for easy installation.

The bridge is a 3/16 brass bar that helps enhance the steel strings, serves as a grounding point and adds a focal point.

Final thoughts:

Otherwise, it works—it cost $22, plus scrap parts, and took a few hours to enhance. Plus, the top will look pretty cool once it acquires some genuine wear and tear.

Check out this quick and dirty video, which offers some haphazard slide work:

Thanks,

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“Slice of Deliverance” – Steel-String Resonator Banjolele w/ Removable Pickup

I chanced upon this banjo uke for a steal at the local antique mall and couldn’t pass up a new project. From what I’ve read, this style of banjo ukulele was produced through the 20’s and 30’s and it’s in really great shape compared to some I have seen for sale online.

This instrument came with a traditional drumhead, but no bridge. Against the advice of most ukulele enthusiast sites my plan was to string it up with steel strings, so that I could add a removable pickup, which is apparently I’ll advised because the neck could succumb to the pressure.

The Before Pictures:

Finish:

The finished was scratched, but was otherwise in fine shape; however, I wanted to add my own style, so I sanded off the finish and stained it with a vinegar and steel wool concoction.

I started with the white vinegar mix that adds a rusty, yellow hue while darkening deep spots. Then, I finished with an apple cider mix that adds a bit more color, grain depth and shine. The mix results in a distressed look that enhances the natural grain, while adding subtle nuances as well as dramatic extremes.

Drumhead and Bridge:

I began by cutting a piece of brass rod for the bridge and then strung it with the top four strings from a pack of DR Pure Blues 9’s.

The uke tuned up, but the drumhead was strained, which lowered the action to the point of rubbing on the rim. So I had to find a new material for the head that would be thin enough to offer as good of a voice as the drumhead.

I had a paint can lid laying on the bench and it appeared to be the right size, so I cut off the rim and it was a perfect fit to replace the drumhead.

Tuners and Tailpiece:

The tuners weren’t complete trash, but I didn’t like the look of them and since I was going to use steel strings, it seemed like a good idea to install decent tuners. I found a set of Grovers that worked great and had a lower profile.

The tailpiece was meant for holding strings with smaller balls ends, so I had to drill small holes in the body to accommodate the steel string balls and allow the tailpiece to sit flat against the body.

Pickup:

Since the paint can worked out so well, it created a perfect opportunity for using a removable pickup made from two of my Nd144 Electromagnetic Cigar Box Guitar Pickups. I had originally built a similar pickup for the “Teeth for Days” build, which had a body that was to thin to house a permanently installed pickup.

Therefore, I created a compact pickup and 1/4″ jack combination that could be easily installed and removed. Since the paint can lid is made of magnetically sensitive material, the pickup can be installed at a whim.

This solves two problems—first, placing the pickup directly on the paint can lid stifles the resonating effect to some degree, so easy installation and removable allows the user to play acoustically without compromise. Second, installation via the inherent magnets keeps me from having to drill extra holes and add unsightly hardware for both the pickup and the output jack. In short, the pickup is fully functionally electric without radically changing the acoustic nature of the instrument.

The most interesting and functional aspect of this pickup is its ability to be removed and potentially used to electrify/amplify another guitar with a body made from magnetically sensitive material, such as a lunch box or cookie tin. The pickup and output jack is wired up and taped together as one unit to simplify this process.

A second feature is the exposed, copper ground wire that makes contact with the paint can lid upon installation. This signal travels through the all magnetically sensitive materials that come in contact with the chain, so the paint can lid, bridge (if changed to steel), strings, and tailpiece all become a place to ground the signal, thus reducing amplifier noise/hum.

Accessories:

I added a strap button comprised of a security bolt and a brass knurled nut. I simply drilled a larger hole in the body and tailpiece to accommodate the larger bolt.

The strap was made from duct tape printed with an American flag design and the headstock strap tie was made of black duct tape with a brass binding screw to hold everything together.

Final Word…

This was a cool project and I developed and appreciation for the ukulele and the benefits of its small size, along with this instrument’s marriage with the banjo.

Check out this quick video that offers this instrument’s amplified and acoustic tones:

Thanks,

“His Dudeness” – Electro-Acoustic Resonator Guitar Modification

Follow this link for additional photos and build notes:

https://wp.me/P3WRqw-VO

Call it The Dude, His Dudeness, Duder, or even El Duderino, but don’t call it Mr. Lebowski.

I received a request to modify this old classical, parlor acoustic. The gentleman had seen a few of my other acoustic modifications and wanted something similar for his acoustic. He gave me full artistic control, so I added materials based on the guitar’s size, shape and the condition of the neck.

Here are some before pictures:

Check out these quick and dirty demonstration videos—one is amplified with distortion the other is unplugged and ends with a little Nuge, but hey, it’s a free for all:

Thanks,

Yard Dog – “SuperStrut” All-Steel, Ultra-Low, Single-String Electric Djent Bass

At a past St. Louis Cigar Box Guitar Club meeting, Sean Oliveira brought in a bunch of piano strings from a unit he had dismantled. He was offering them for free, so I took a thick, low string along with a medium-sized one. I decided to challenge myself to build a guitar around the low string, which has a diameter of roughly a 1/4″.

Since this thick string would exert a lot of force against the instrument’s frame, I would need something a bit more resilient that my usual wood structure. I wanted to maintain a size similar to my previous builds so I chose slotted 1-5/8″ x 13/16 strut.

I started with a five foot length of strut and measured the distance between the bridge and the nut on my Peavey bass, which came out around 34-1/4″. Everything needed to be beefed up on this build—two-hole angles were too weak to handle the force—so everything had to be reconsidered.

Tuner and String:

The first thing that I needed was something to hold the string. Usually I would clamp it with a bolt and knurled nut, but a 1/4″ diameter string needs something more substantial. Luckily, I was able to find some aluminum wire lugs in the electrical section at Lowes. These were excellent both for clamping the string behind the nut and anchoring the tuner.

The tuner is made from a heavy-duty 1/4″ eyebolt, a 1/4″ x 3/4″ steel spacer and a 1/4″ rod coupling. The piano string came with a loop, so I removed a small amount of material at the junction of the eyebolt to allow the string loop to slip onto the eyebolt.

Nut and Bridge:

The nut and bridge are made of stainless steel pipe clamps. I wanted to attach the nut and bridge since the vibration of the large string made it difficult to keep a bolt or other material in place by the force of the string alone. These clamps work perfect for the string size and allow for a proper action. Additionally, I added a u-bolt at the back of the nut and bridge. There was very little tension holding the string in place—the u-bolts worked to create a more focused sound.

Fretboard:

The fretboard is a length of 1/8″ x 1″ steel. It is adhered to the strut with neodymium magnets, which raises the height of the steel just slightly, making the application of zip tie frets possible. I’ve always wanted to try zip tie frets, but I was unhappy with the zip tie being around the back of the neck—this allowed me to place the zip ties around just the steel bar, leaving the back of the strut smooth.

Pickup and Output Jack:

The base coil of this pickup is the same as the Nd144 Electromagnetic Cigar Box Guitar pickup, but I had to modify it to allow for a proper fit. The plastic on the bobbin had to be trimmed to the coil and I used slightly larger neodymium magnets that fit within the slot in the strut.

Nothing special about the 1/4″ output jack. I installed it close to the bottom, with some odds and ends, so that it was out-of-the-way and close to the pickup.

Here’s a quick and dirty video featuring my Peavey bass stack from way back:

(VIDEO PLAYBACK REQUIRES HEADPHONES—SMART PHONE SPEAKERS CAN NOT ACCOMMODATE LOW FREQUENCIES)

Thanks,

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Teeth for Days – Wall Hanger to Electric Guitar with Homemade Modular Pickup

Some people turn guitars into wall hangers—in this case, I turned a wall hanger into an electric guitar. My dad was cruising through a thrift store when he ran across this guy for $2.92. Later, he handed it to me and challenged me to make a working guitar out of it…so that’s what the bunny is going to bring him—Happy Easter Greg!!!

Two things were important for me to accomplish in this mod—first, the face had to remain as clean as possible and second, the wiring had to be minimal.

Bridge and Nut:

Given that I wanted very little interference on the face, I installed string ferrules through the back of the body and positioned them at the gum line on the face to reduce the visual impact. I added a 3/8″ diameter length of brass rod for the bridge and cut down a smaller brass bolt for the nut, which created a string height acceptable for slide playing.

Tuners:

I installed a set of “aged bronze” looking tuners. Only five would fit comfortably across the top and keep the strings within the parameter of the head; therefore, I placed one of the tuners on the bottom, which looks pretty natural. I also installed some small, tarnished screws to guide and add tension to the strings.

Pickup and Output Jack:

For the pickup I carved about a 1/4″ – 3/8″ deep rectangle into the back of the body where I would later install the pickup and then superglued an old razor blade to the bottom of the carved hole. Recall that I wanted minimal wiring, so I decided to to create a modular pickup and output jack pairing that could be easily removed and installed. I started with two JSC Nd144 Electromagnetic Cigar Box Guitar Pickups taped together.

Then, I assembled a homemade output jack from a steel spacer, a brass picture hanger and a bit of electrical tape. I wired the jack to the pickup and taped everything together into one unit. The strong, neodymium magnets on top of the pickup would attach the modular unit to the back of the guitar via the steel razor blade.

I’m impressed with how well this frame has handled the force of the strings—though I took it easy with 9s, I still wasn’t sure what would happen when I tuned up. Additionally, for as thin as the body is, the guitar actually projects more sound than I anticipated, but it can always be plugged in via the modular pickup system. Nevertheless, this was an interesting build and I think my dad will be happy with the results.

Check out this quick and dirty video demonstration:

Thanks,

“Dirty Secret” – Electro-Acoustic, Variable Resonator, Steel-String Parlor Guitar

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I received this 70’s era, Trump classical guitar from my mother-in-law a few years back. A few of the tuners were broken, the neck was bowed and the bridge was either broken or I just decided to cut it off—it’s hard to say at this point—but knew when I saw it, that I wanted to do something drastic.

I looked around and found an adjustable floor register and then cut a large rectangle out of the body; but then it sat, because I wanted to strip off all of the finish. I found that it was very difficult to remove the finish, but finally a couple of days ago I locked a wire brush attachment into my drill, determined that the finish would come off once and for all—it did, sort of, but I also distressed the livin’ out of the wood. No problem, because sometimes ugly is part of the game.

I call this one, Dirty Secret; it’s like that horrific kid in the horror movies, that’s hidden in the basement— someone unwittingly finds themself in said basement; it’s dark and cluttered, unseen feet are heard scampering across the floor, and then a ball comes rolling out from the shadows, creeping everyone out…well it’s not like that, but stay with me…you have a Les Paul and a Strat up stairs in the stable, but instead, you prefer to play this piece of trash, for some indescribable reason…why?

Body and Finish:

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As stated earlier, I cut a 4″x8″ rectangle into the center of the guitar to accommodate an adjustable metal floor register. The purpose of the register is two-fold—primarily, to create a resonator sound and secondarily, to control the amount of resonator sound. The outcome was not as drastic as I would have liked, but there is a distinct difference between the louvers in the closed position and open position: in the closed position, the sound is tighter/cleaner, as the louvers move to the open position, the sound becomes more resonate and rattly.

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Since I cut through all of the bracing, the top needed need reinforcement, so I cut a few pieces of 1″ square rod to offer stability and a solid base through which to install the floor register. Additionally, I cut a a small groove into the top/center of the register to accommodate the fretboard—it just looded more finished and covered up the fact that I cut the hole incorrectly.

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The old finish was removed with sandpaper on the head, neck, and fretboard; however, the finish on the body was removed with drill-powered wire brush. Much of the heavy finish was removed, but a red stain remained; additionally, the brush removed too much material in some places, which left the body distressed and damaged. After sanding all of the surfaces, I applied a finish made of vinegar and steel wool that helped accentuate the distressed areas on the body.

Tuners:

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The tuners had to be replaced—some were broken, others were seized. I subbed in a set of butterfly-style Grover tuners, which had shafts that were larger than the original tuners. I enlarged the holes to 3/8″ and installed the replacements.

Tailpiece and Bridge:

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I used a discarded tailpiece from a previous build. I sanded off the tarnish and centered it on the body. Two small zip ties hold the tailpiece tight to the register to reduce friction noise. For the bridge I used a brass hinge pin; I flattened the bottom with a file and found the correct scale based on doubling the measurement of the twelfth fret.

Pickup and Output Jack:

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I taped two JSA Nd144 Electromagnetic Cigar Box Guitar Pickups together and connected them to an acoustic guitar endpin jack. I couldn’t place the pickup in a normal location, because of the louvers on the register, but there was a small location just back from the  end of the fretboard. I superglued an old razor blade below the fretboard and installed the pickup by attaching the magnets on the pickup to the razor blade. A 1/2″ hole was drilled, in the bottom of tyhe guitar, where the strap button was previously located.

Check out these quick demonstration videos—one is amplified with distortion the other is not—enjoy:

Thanks,

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JSA Cigar Box Guitar S3 – Homemade, Space-saving 1/4″ Output Jack for Guitar

Recently, I ran into a problem with one of my builds. I was working on a three-stringed guitar that I call “The Stick.” It was a 1×2 maple neck/body that wasn’t going to be attached to anything—just the stick with a 1/4″x2″ oak cover plate over the back of the electronics.

On this build, placement of the 1/4″ output jack required a bit more consideration than usual. The endpin jack that I usually use didn’t work with the thickness of the maple neck/body and if located at the end of guitar, it would reduce the stability of the tuning machines by a factor of one center screw.

A store bought 1/4″ jack requires about 5/8″ to 3/4″ of interior space then necessitates that one find something small enough to fit within the confines of the neck/body and cover plate, but large enough to cover the hole.

With these parameters in mind, I decided to make my own 1/4″ output jack. After making and testing a prototype made from spare parts on my bench, I found that a workable 1/4″ jack can be made from a 5/16″ tee nut, a picture hanger and some electrical tape (preferably 1/2″).

For step-by-step instructions regarding how to build the more compact, homemade 1/4″ jack, follow this link:

https://wp.me/P3WRqw-PP

For photos and build notes related to the subject guitar build, follow this link:

https://wp.me/P3WRqw-PK

Here is a quick and dirty video that demonstrates the homemade 1/4″ guitar jack in action:

Thanks,