Better Bolt Bridges – Left-handed Thread Rod

Better Bolt Bridges – Left-handed Thread Rod

I had been struggling with keeping my floating bolt bridges in place for proper intonation. I would set the bridge perfectly, as pictured below:

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However, over time, the vibration of the strings would eventually turn the bolt, thus throwing my guitar out of tune, as pictured below:

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If you look at the first picture, you can see that the orientation of the string is strained as it fights to stay in one of the thread slots. The force that the string places on the bolt naturally moves the bolt into a position where the string sits comfortably within a thread slot.

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Even bolt bridges that are mounted into a slot suffer difficulties. However, since the bolt can not turn to orientate the threads with the strings, they are more prone to slipping into another thread slot, which leads to intonation and string spacing problems. Plus, a string sitting on top of threads allows less usable surface area than a string seated within a thread slot.

The solution showed up on my doorstep yesterday morning. I had been trying the figure this out when I recalled that, in my warehouse days, contractors would request left-handed thread rod for certain jobs. I looked around and found 3/8 left-handed steel rod at Fastenal for $26.87, plus shipping, which seems pricey, but I can cut about 36 2″ floating/fixed bridges for $1.08 each.

This is the direct link to the rod that I purchased:   https://www.fastenal.com/products/details/47304

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Here is the result. As you can see in the image below, the floating bolt bridge is once again in tune; however, this time the strings will not cause the bolt to turn because the strings are now seated comfortably within the thread slots.

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Tragedy averted—now I just have to find some left-handed brass rod.

Thanks,

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https://www.junkshopaudio.com

 

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PVC Bamboom Stick

PVC Bamboom Stick

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The handle on Bennet’s Bamboom Stick failed during its first use. Bamboo is strong for its thickness, but, in addition to the handle, the frame cracked in four places, while I was cutting and shaping the instrument. The cracks were easy to fix with glue and clamps, but I’m not sure how it will hold up over time. Surely the handle will hold up with the addition of a dowel, but there was still reason for concern.

This led me to look for a more resilient material. PVC is strong and flexible and easy to manipulate. 1-1/4″ PVC pipe is an excellent size for the body and 1″ is perfect for the handle, as 1″ PVC fits close inside of 1-1/4″ pipe.

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For the handle slot, I made horizontal cuts on the body with a hacksaw and then used a 1-1/8 spade bit to remove most of the material on the front and back of the frame. The rest of the handle slot was shaped with files. I cut the handle from a 1″ piece of PVC; it fit snug within the opening. I also slipped a piece of 1″ wooden dowel into to 1″ PVC to reinforce the handle.

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I cut the pickup hole in the same fashion that I shaped the handle slot. Much like the bamboo version, it allows limited range, but a bit more room to install the piece of angle that would hold the simple tuner and the 1/4″ jack. The wall of the 1-1/4″ PVC was too thick for the nut on the 1/4″ jack to fit, so I filed down the outer side of the frame, around the hole, until installation was possible. Although it appears ugly, I have started using hot glue to strengthen my solder joints; it keeps me from having unexpected delays.

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To create more clearance at the front of the handle, I cut down a 1″ cap and glued it to the front portion of the handle. I filed a small triangular notch into the top of the handle and used a screw to tighten the string down. A binding screw worked well to allow the handle to pivot. I added an eye bolt, bent to an angle, to act as a nut and to set a consistent action. For this PVC version, I decided to use heavier eye bolts than I used on the bamboo version to further strengthen the instrument.

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Because of the limited space, I had to set the piece of angle, then install and solder the jack to the pickup, then install the bent eye bolt, and finally, set the pickup in place. In this PVC version, the JSA Nd144 pickup sat loose in the hole, so I cut and shaped a small piece of 1″ PVC to fill the space. I filed the inner sides of the 1″ piece of PVC until the pickup fit snug. After that, I added the usual simple machine to set the open note/octave.

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I added two 1-1/4 jacks to the top and bottom of the frame and a 1″ cap to the back of the handle. For the bottom, I installed a screw-on rubber bumper so that it doesn’t slide on the floor. Additionally, I left the remaining string intact, since there is no easy way to keep the instrument grounded. The jack is grounded to the bridge eye bolt, so one must simply hold the remaining string against the handle, while playing, to keep a constant ground.

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Just like the bamboo version, there is only one E string, but the instrument has a lot of range. I added a simple tuner so that the player can set the open note/octave. The player controls the pitch by tightening and slacking the string with the handle and there is definitely a learning curve, as the player has to listen for the note correct pitch—I place the difficulty level somewhere between playing slide guitar and trombone.

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It seems important to note that when I tested this instrument the string broke rather than the frame or handle.

Check out this quick and thoroughly awful video:

Thanks,
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Bennet’s Bamboom Stick

Bennet’s Bamboom Stick

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“Bamboom” was how Bennet used to pronounce “bamboo” when he was younger. In Army of Darkness, Ash called his shotgun a “boom stick”—no real correlation, just a fun fact.

This instrument was commissioned by Bennet. I can’t remember what it is really called, but Bennet fell in love after playing one at the St. Louis Cigar Box Guitar Club. Both the frame and handle are constructed entirely of bamboo. The one that he saw included a cigar box and piezo pickup, but I wanted to streamline the design, so I cut a hole and installed a JSC Nd144 electromagnetic pickup. 

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Bamboo is incredibly strong for its thickness and weight, but it is easy to manipulate once a hole is created. I made horizontal cuts with a hacksaw and then drilled a couple of holes, where I wanted to cut vertically, and sawed a half inch strip out of the center. After that, a sharp chisel cut the rest relatively easy, with a surprising amount of control over how much material was removed.

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I cut a handle from a smaller diameter piece of bamboo; it fit snug within the opening. Build note: if you are thinking about constructing a similar instrument and use a bamboo handle, consider reinforcing the handle with a piece of dowel rod. The handle on this instrument cracked during its first use. I’ll just remove the twine and then glue and clamp the handle on Bennet’s, but it’s better to reinforce the handle from the start.

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From the pickup hole, I had limited range to place the piece of angle that would hold the tuner and the 1/4″ jack, but that was the only access that I had without creating more holes. It was tight, but it all fit without interfering with the connections. IMG_1642IMG_1643IMG_1645

I filed a large rectangular notch into the top of the handle and use a 1/4″ bolt and rod coupling to tighten the string down. A couple of brass pieces and binding screw worked well to allow the handle to pivot. I also rounded out the back of the frame to allow the handle more range and added an eye bolt, bent to an angle, to act as a bridge and set a consistent action.

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Because of the limited space, I had to set the piece of angle, then install and solder the jack to the pickup, then install the bent eye bolt, and finally seat the pickup. I was extremely happy that it all worked the first time. After that, I added the usual simple machine to set the open note/octave.

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For the bottom, I added a screw-on rubber bumper so that it doesn’t slide on the floor. I fit perfectly, with a little persuasion.

There is only one E string, but the instrument has a lot of range. I added the simple tuner so that the player can set the open note/octave. The player controls the pitch by tightening and slacking the string with the handle and there is definitely a learning curve, as the player has to listen for the note correct pitch—I place the difficulty level somewhere between playing slide guitar and trombone. Good times.

Thanks,

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Shakespeare Hardback Book, Three-Stringed Electric Guitar

Shakespeare Hardback Book, Three-Stringed Electric Guitar

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I had a crazy idea to make a book into a guitar and this is the product. It took a while to find the right book, but eventually, I landed on this copy of the Complete Works of William Shakespeare. It was a mix of the correct size and thickness; plus, it’s Shakespeare.

I did some quick Internet research and didn’t see any other “book guitars”, so I assumed I was in fairly uncharted waters. I took some time and thought about how I should best proceed. In the end, a straight edge and razor blade seemed the best course.

I would be lying if I told you that the first cut was easy. I’m not in the business of destroying books, but…

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I found the center of the book and measured the width of the neck wood. Then, I taped it off and drew the lines. I cut out the side first, to the depth of the neck, and then cut the center to the same depth. After the center was removed, I set the temporary neck in the center and replaced the side pages—everything fit great.

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Next, I fastened the outer pages to the back cover with some flat, low profile bolts. I drilled through the pages and back cover, installed the bolts, and then chiseled a small area on the inside of the front cover to allow for the other end of the bolt. Now, the pages wouldn’t fall out and it would be a secure area for the electronics.

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I cut down the neck, glued it, and carved the Double Razorblade head design that will be my official Junk Shop Audio head going forward. I cut a channel for my Junk Shop Audio Nd144 pickup and stained the neck with a steel wool and balsamic vinegar blend that looks awesome.

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I fastened the neck through the back of the book with flat furniture bolts. These bolts come in a variety of colors and are strong—the neck was firmly attached and the bolts looked cool.

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To hold the pickup in place, I used some metal scraps from the 9v adaptor deconstruction. I lined them up on the neck, grabbed them with a length of duct tape, and placed the tape in the correct area on the back of the book cover. the magnets on the pickup will attract to the steel scraps.

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I cut a hole for the 1/4″ jack and a small channel between the jack hole and pickup for the wire.

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I installed the small piece of angle with three brass screws. and then added the simple machines—made of ground thumb screws and rod nuts—and a bridge made of a cut bolt, filed flat on the bottom.

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For the head, I used stainless bolts, brass washers, and brass knurl nuts to hold the strings in place and a cut bolt for the nut. The frets are drawn on in pencil, because I may add a fretboard and frets in the future.

Acoustically, the guitar sounds better and louder that I thought it would; amplified, it sounds like any other guitar.

Thanks,

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Cecil Whittaker’s Pizza Box Guitar

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I had this clean Cecil Whittaker’s Pizza box, so I strung it up to see what it would sound like. I cut down the neck, glued it, and carved the Double Razorblade head design that is now the official Junk Shop Audio head. Then, I cut a channel in the neck for my Junk Shop Audio Nd144 pickup and stained the neck with a steel wool and balsamic vinegar blend that looks awesome. The old looking strap came with my Jay G. parlor guitar; it seemed to match this build well. I made a strap adapter out of duct tape, which works well with the disheveled theme.

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I cut a hole for the 1/4″ jack, along with removing part of the inner box. The jack works great, but care must be taken when inserting and pulling out the cord, as the wall is a bit weak.

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I installed a small piece of angle with three brass screws. and then added the simple machines—made of ground thumb screws and rod nuts—and a bridge made of cut brass rod, filed flat on the bottom. To hold the box closed, I used the strap button, which is made of a brass knurling nut and a vandal-proof bolt—when this is removed the box opens.

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For the head, I used stainless bolts, brass washers, and brass knurl nuts to hold the strings in place and a cut bolt for the nut. For the frets I went in a new direction—after marking the fret distances, I cut small grooves into the top corner of the neck to mark the fret positions. These small grooves can be seen from both the front and side, so it is visible from all angles. I like the subtle look of these markers.

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Acoustically, the guitar is not super loud, but it’s great for jamming out in the driveway after hours; amplified, it sounds great.

Thanks,

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Fireplace Pan Electric Guitar

Fireplace Pan Electric Guitar

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I found this old brass fireplace pan at my local antique mall and immediately saw potential. The wrought iron handle seemed like it would accommodate two strings and it was long enough to provide a reasonable scale.

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I based the scale and fret spacing off of my son’s 19″ Zakk Wylde Peewee Les Paul, which was about as far as I could push the space provided. I used the rim of the pan as a bridge and, even then, I only had about an 1-1/2 of usable surface behind the nut.

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As usual, space was tight; therefore, traditional tuners were not a viable option. Using the rim as a bridge, I installed the tuners down the side of the pan and my simple, linear machines were perfect for the space available. These tuners are cheap, efficient, and adaptable—many of my past projects would have been impossible without the flexibility offered by these machines. I placed the 1/4′ jack in the upper right instead of the lower right, because the protruding cord would be the least obstructive and it could double as a makeshift strap button.

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The head isn’t spectacular, but I do like the functional aspect of the built-in wrought iron hanger. The nut is fabricated of a brass bolt cut to length and filed down to half its diameter. I left the head on, because the bass string pulls with greater force than its counterpart. The knurled nuts are my personal favorite; if I could, I would find a place for them in every project—they just look so cool and sometimes offer excellent function.

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The pickup is my own Junk Shop Audio Nd144 style, great for 1-string to 3-string applications. It has a compact design and can be installed in a number of creative ways—in some cases it can even be hidden completely for a smooth, uncut top appearance, to better preserve original cigar box artwork.

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The strap nut is created from a bolt, a beveled washer, a 1/4″ aluminum sleeve, and a couple of nuts. However, its more important function is to attach the metal strip that holds the pickup in place. The strap is made completely from red and black duct tape; I feel it complements the instrument well.

Thanks,

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Quick and Dirty Acoustic Pickup

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I needed a pickup that I could easily install and remove from guitar to guitar—this is what I created with few spare parts I had laying around.

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I grabbed a Lego crate and lid got the housing and a RCA jack for the connection. The active agent is a piezo disk that I broke out of a buzzer housing.

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Drilled a hole in the bottom of the crate and installed the RCA jack.

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Then, I drilled a hole in the  lid and inserted the piezo wires.

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Next, I soldered the wires to the hot and ground terminals on the RCA jack and closed the crate.

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To allow for easy installation and removal, I added a 3/8″ removable Glue Dot to  the back of the piezo disk and one side of the Lego Crate. Done.

It needs some more sound shaping, but it has potential and is decent in a pinch.

Check out my video:

Thanks,

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