Students Constructing 2×4 Steel Guitars

A couple months ago, I built lap steel guitars with six students at a local elementary school. One of my professors had invited me out to guest speak for her gifted and enrichment class; so I discussed how pickups work, showed them my baseball bat guitar, and then we built some rockin’ guitars.

I had drilled and finished seven boards, and then outfitted them with a 1/4 inch jack and my very own 9 volt adapter pickup. The rustic finish was the result of a mixture of vinegar and steel wool that had been corroding in a jar for the past couple of years. It brushed on fast and then turned out like this over night.


The students chose their lumber and then we got started. First, they screwed in four eyebolts and inserted two bolts that would serve as the bridge and the nut.

Then, the they screwed down the slotted angular piece that would later hold the eyebolt tuners.

Next, they screwed in the six screws that would hold three strings tight over the nut.

Each student added the three eyebolts and nuts that would tune the guitar.

Each guitar was personalized with artwork and some even earned a name.

The students added the strings and I tuned them up.

I had two amps set up and they all took turns playing their steel guitars with their
Cu63 copper slides.

That’s it—a few hours spent building guitars with a bunch of fun and creative students.




I Couldn’t Leave Well Enough Alone…


The new and improved Jay G Parlor Guitar…electro-magnatized…

This has been my go to guitar for the past couple of months—it’s small, stays in tune, and has a low, fast action. I’ve drawn more inspiration in the way of technique noodling around on this guitar, then from all of the other acoustics in my rotation, and have even been able to squeeze a bit of slide work out if it, in spite of its low action.

In short, I’m happy with this guitar, but I can’t be truly happy until I risk ruining it, by featuring it in a new project. The plan was to install an endpin strap button jack and to mount the pickup in the least destructive way possible—it worked out, sort of…


There are many reasonable ways that I could have handled this situatuiion, one of which, was to fill the hole, let it dry, and then drill with my very sharp and accurate drill bit, that I normally use to install endpins, the following day.

However, I was not going to let lack of proper tools and planning hold up this project for another day, so I taped the area as usual and then taped a ¼” thick block of wood over the hole. The thought was that once I drilled through the block, the block would then guide the bit through the remainder of the guitar. That didn’t happen; instead the bit went through the block, the block loosened, and the bit shifted leaving me with this…


No big deal, because it led me to this…

IMG_0787 IMG_0786

This 1-1/2 copper test cap was the perfect coverup. I drilled a center hole and filed a small notch to account for the tailpiece. It sits flush against the guitar and will look pretty cool after it develops a patina.


For the pickup, I used the usual double coil, 9v power adapter pickup. I wired them in series, since I wasn’t looking to enter the stereo field for this project. I added some leads and followed the solder with a generous blob of hot glue for added stability—I stole that trick from Dan Block; he used to test his circuits with hot glue before soldering. I slid the fasteners over the leads and then placed the assembly inside the guitar.


Mounting the pickup was easy, I shoved my hand inside the sound hole and found a flat, open area. One by one, I placed a magnet above the pickup and they each snapped into place—probably the easiest part of the whole project. Then I moved the pickup into place, centered below the strings. The magnets alone are strong enough to hold the pickup in place.


I fed the wires through the hole, trimmed them to length, and added my fabricated copper cap. I placed a ground wire beneath the tailpiece, soldered the points, and added more hot glue. Screwing on the fasteners blind can be frustrating, but it worked out.

That’s it…watch my video, check my other projects, and then risk destroying your favorite guitar.



My New Knock Around Guitar


I picked this up for thirty bucks at the local antique mall. It’s a Jay G parlor guitar made in the U. S. by Jackson Guldan in the late fifties-early sixties. Some interesting features inherent to this guitar are the bolt-on neck and the simple mechanism used to set the action.

I bought this guitar with the action set like this, but check out the adjusting mechanism—it’s a piece of angle iron with one end bolted to the bottom of the neck and the other end fitted with an adjustment bolt. Simply turn the adjustment bolt one way or the other to set the action.


The neck is held on with one bolt through the back and it came standard with Kluson Deluxe closed-back tuners.


Dig this low action.


This guitar is solid; it weighs in at around four pounds and seems to be built to last. It is the perfect knock around guitar—one of those playing on the porch during a storm, strapped on your back while your grilling, tossed to the concrete, because your kid is falling out of the tree guitars…but we’ll see how it fairs.



9 Volt Power Adapter Acoustic Guitar Pickup



My newest creation—a removable acoustic guitar pickup/sound hole cover. I have wanted to make this pickup for years, ever since I first saw these instructions for making an acoustic guitar sound hole cover from a CD/DVD:

The pickup sounds excellent, with very little noise/feedback, and is wired for stereo output.

Here is the design that the pickup is based upon:

Check out the video demonstration below—nothing too spectacular, just enough to let you hear how it works. 

Only this and the video for now, but I will post more images and some production notes soon.




Resonator Guitar Project


I released a short post outlining this project in November of last year. At that time, I thought it was complete; however, I had been unhappy with certain aspects of the build. Since then, I have created a bridge assembly that has fixed a variety of problems from rattling to strings slipping.

Check out the new bridge by clicking on the following link:



4×4 Electric Steel Slide Guitar


Last week I completed a new six-string steel guitar design. It was my intention to keep all of the components within the body of the 4×4 post, with just the strings flowing out of the body over the two brass bolts. The instrument has a really low top profile and the sides are fully intact to preserve the linear flow of the body.


The pickup is constructed from two 9 volt power adapter coils and has a different look than previous designs, because they were extracted from a different brand of adapter. Follow this link to instructions for building pickups from 9 volt adapters:

A 1/4″ audio jack was mounted in a 1-1/4 drain to lessen the profile of the jack and shorten the protrusion of the guitar cord from the end of the guitar.


The tuners are based upon my design that I unveiled on the Baseball Bat Guitar that I featured last November.


I used two sets of three tuners, similar to those used on the Baseball Bat Guitar, and installed them vertically within the body. The end of the guitar  was cut open so that a 3/8″ hex driver can be used to tune the strings. Brass studs and knurled nuts were used to keep the tuners straight and the body was carved to naturally guide the strings out over the nut to ensure proper spacing. If left in this state, the tuners would turn instead of tightening; therefore, I fabricated two small steel parts to hold the tuners in place, thus forcing the machines to tighten. They fit tightly, but slip off easily when the tuners are in an vertical position.


Additionally, the frets are filed grooves, the strings are mounted on an electrical barrier strip, and the body was stained with a mixture of steel wool and vinegar that has been fermenting for about a year—it results in an awesome rustic/worn finish and can be lightly sanded to imitate wear.

This was a cool project. I learned a lot from the experience and will make only a few minor changes upon creating its successor.