Quick and Dirty Acoustic Pickup


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.


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.


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


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


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


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:





Yard Dog Tremolo (controlled by cellphone app)


So…this is the newest addition to my Yard Dog collection—super low rent manifestations of repurpose and modification. This project is based upon the mechanism present in the Strobe Light Tremolo; however, instead of utilizing an internal light source, the light comes from a free and ordinary cell phone app. This allows for many variations, as flashlight apps with strobe light features can vary in speed and brightness, thus allowing for a bit of customization from user to user.


I started with an ordinary sardine can—cleaned it out and drilled the holes for two ¼” jacks and a single pole, double throw switch.


It’s wired simply—audio in to switch with one side as a bypass and the other side controlled by the photocell. The photocell was extracted from an ordinary nightlight that comes on automatically when a room becomes dark.


I originally had just the piece of painter’s tape over the top, but found that the phone created noticeable interference. Therefore, I lined the inside with aluminum foil and then carefully insolated the bottom with part of a sticky note and the top with more painter’s tape, just in case the foil shakes loose. Since the phone creates so much interference and it sits on top of the unit, I cut about an 1/8” of aluminum foil to keep my signal quiet; it is barely audible when the light turns on and off. I cut a small, strategic hole exactly where the phone’s LED light exits the phone.


Duct tape was the lowest rent covering that I could thinking of, so I placed two pieces over the top and ran my thumb around the edge a few times. Then, I used a razor blade to cut the excess tape close to the outer edge. I found the hole and cut the duct tape and then wrote the name in red Sharpe.

That’s it—a simple, effective analog effect driven by digital technology.

Watch my video:

Classical Acoustic Resonator Guitar


I picked up this broken Fender Classical Guitar at a local antique mall for pretty cheap. The bridge was completely ripped off and tied to the headstock in a sandwich bag. I wasn’t sure what I was going to do with it, but thought, why not.


First, I tried to clean the broken wood off of the bridge and guitar top; I applied glue and clamped it—that proved unsuccessful, so I cut a big ol’ hole in the top about the size of a stove drip pan, because that’s what I do.


I found that a paint can lid from a five gallon paint can fits perfectly over a stove drip pan—who knew. Four small screws were installed to keep the lid from shifting when the strings exert pressure. A tailpiece from an old acoustic was sanded and then added for greater stability.


I cut the ends off of the bridge to make in more compact and then cut and stacked two pieces of brass rod to serve as a saddle.


I found that this modification required a lot of reinforcement—I glued the bridge to the lid, cut small holes on either side, and then zip-tied a similar-sized block of wood to the bottom of the paint can lid from over the bridge. Additionally, I installed a brass bolt through the top of the lid that secured it to the drip pan via an old mounting bracket from a junction box.


I strung it with nylon strings just to see what it would sound like—it doesn’t resonate similar to steel rather, the resonating sound comes from the unplayed/untouched open strings and the untouched top. The player must keep his or her arm off of the top of the guitar or it will sound like any other classical guitar, which is cool, because it offers flexibility with regard to sound.

That’s it; check out the video:

Stay tuned for the removable pickup rig that I have designed for use with this guitar, since nylon strings negate use of my 9 volt power adapter pickup.




Yard Dog – Aluminum Level Full-Scale Steel Guitar

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.