There an interesting origin for this instrument; the idea actually came to me while I was playing Bowmasters with my son. Bowmasters is an app where opponents try to strike or impale each other with various items. One of the characters throws a sign as seen below:
For some reason this struck me as an excellent idea for a guitar so…
It began with a six-foot maple 1×2. Holes were drilled with a spade bit and then shaped with a file until a pair of JSA Nd144 Electromagnetic Cigar Box Guitar Pickups fit snug. A rough channel was carved for running wires.
Two quarter grooves were filed into the bottom corners of the guitar on the front and back to guide the guitar strings from the back to the front since the tuners would be located on the back.
I checked the placement of the sign and then marked the bolt hole locations. The holes were drilled and filed and then a 1/4×2 strip of oak, that I had cut for a back accent cover, was lined up and clamped to the back. Matching holes were drilled in the oak strip.
I had wanted to used bolts consistent with those used to fasten signs to posts, but the heads were too high for proper string clearance, so I used low profile furniture bolts. I found the correct length and then cut them down to size with a hacksaw.
A carriage bolt was cut for the nut and a few pieces of thread rod for the string guides and bridge. The bridge was filed flat on the bottom and left-handed rod was used to maintain an angle congruent with proper intonation.
The 1/4″ jack and two switches were installed using corner braces; a long groove exiting at the bottom of the guitar would contain the wire that would ground the strings.
Everything was wired up, soldered and tested. A couple of strips of black masking tape covered the components to keep the wired in place during assembly.
Small notches were filed along the length of the fretboard, on the base end, to mark the fret spacing. I like this way of marking the frets on my fretless guitars—it is subtle and seems more organic.
The Staggered Blades brand was etched and filed into the headstock and the stake point was cut and shaped. The maple neck and oak back cover were stained with a mixture of vinegar and steel wool that gives the wood a distressed look.
The simple tuning machines worked well for this design. I wanted a clean look on the face of the sign and as little deviation from the profile of the post as possible, so locating these small linear tuners around back was a must.
I opened up the holes on the angular base and then shaped and drilled the thumb screws. The base was fastened with brass screws, which were then filed down for proper clearance, and the machines were installed and oiled.
The headstock is arranged similarly to the other Staggered Blade guitars with the carved razor brand, knurled nut string fasteners, and the carriage bolt nut. Of course, this razor brand is not cut out on top to allow for the additional length of the post and stake.
I strung it up with an A-D-G string combination, tuned to G-D-G, and then added a brass knurled nut and vandal proof bolt strap button.
The strap is made from duct tape with a diamond plate design and the headstock strap tie is made from standard gray duct tape coupled with a binding screw.
This resonator guitar sounds great—it’s hands down the most interesting sounding guitar that I have made to date. The neck pickup is super clean, with very little resonator sound; but the neck pickup adds loads of low-end and nasty resonation from the steel plate. Even acoustically, without amplification, this guitar pushes a decent amount of sound from the steel plate. Too bad it’s six-foot long—good luck finding a case for that.
Check out this quick video—notice that the signal gets dirtier as the the pickups progress from the neck to both to the bridge and the resonating quality of the sign becomes more prominent: