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 “Cigar Box” 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 louder and more bassy than I thought it would; amplified, it sounds really dirty when you kick in the overdrive.

Check out this quick and dirty video:

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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Yard Dog Tremolo (controlled by cellphone app)

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

Thanks,

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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.

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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.

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Thanks,

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I Couldn’t Leave Well Enough Alone…

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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…

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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…

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No big deal, because it led me to this…

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

Thanks,

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