JSA Cigar Box Guitar S5 – Homemade Coal Heater for Maker’s Mark Branding Iron

I purchased this custom made branding iron from 4NE1 Craftshop on Etsy:

https://www.etsy.com/listing/600960918/customized-branding-iron-stamps-custom?ref=shop_home_feat_2

Plate sizes ranged from 1cm x 1cm to 10cm x 10cm and pricing ranged respectively from $25 – $100 plus $8 for a curved or straight screw-on handle. I purchased a 5cm x 5cm block for $50 and asked them to scale it to 3cm x 4.4cm to fit my design—seen below.

The item description stated that designs between 2cm – 5cm transferred to the iron best, so I stuck within those limitations.

Once I received my custom iron, I had to find a way to heat it—options included heating with a branding iron heater, barbecue pit, or blow torch.

Branding iron heaters were too expensive, firing up a large barbecue pit to make one mark was a waste of time and fuel, and it seemed like using a torch might promote uneven heating across the length of the brand.

Through research I discovered an outdoor survival site that offered a tutorial on how to make a small portable stove with two empty can goods cans.

Follow these links for the more information and an instructional video:

https://www.treehugger.com/clean-technology/build-ultra-efficient-diy-wood-gasifier-backpacking.html

I modified the design to accommodate my heating needs and therefore used larger cans to hold more charcoal and greater surface area on the outer edge to rest the branding iron handle.

I added a modified eyebolt, attached to the side, to support the iron on the inside and a lid, made from a thick metal cat bowl and a cheap wooden drawer knob, to contain the heat.

Once completed, I added charcoal to the interior can and fired it up. Fifteen to twenty minutes later the thermometer read between 650 and 700 degrees Fahrenheit on the modified eyebolt that would support the iron, which is sufficient to brand maple.

So far, I’ve used this heater twice and I couldn’t be happier with it’s functionality and convenience.

On the second try, I found that allowing the inner can, containing the fuel, to burn on the grill of an open barbecue pit helped heat the coal faster, because it provided better air flow. Once the coals were hot, I placed the inner can back in the outer can and then added the branding iron and lid.

I have found that branding is a game of trial and error—you keep heating the iron and applying it for different amounts of time until you achieve the desired result. Plus, if your mark appears too burnt, you can sometimes remove some of the scorch markings with fine grit sandpaper.

This heater turned out to be a perfect fit for heating my branding iron and at $15 in parts and an hour of work, it was an awesome deal.

Thanks,

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Grandma Ruth’s Cedar Bible Box Fretless Guitar

My grandma, Ruth, turned 92 on August 13th, so I thought I would make her a guitar from this cedar bible box that I found at a local thrift store.

The box had a cool grain, but I wanted to finish it with my usual vinegar and steel wool concoction, so I sanded it down. However, in the process, I lost the script and stamp on the front and back.

I began by cutting a hole in the box, which would fit the 1×2 maple stick and a 1/4×2 oak cover plate perfectly.

Sanding softened the appearance of the grain and added distress to the hardware.

I cut a slot for the tuners and the pickup in the body, then drilled holes for the string fasteners and carved the signature blades into the headstock. An oak fretboard was added, along with an oak electronics cover.

Then, I cut down a 3/8″ carriage bolt and filed a 3/8″ round slot in the fretboard at the nut position.

I Slipped the stick into the box and figured out where the three top holes should be drilled to correspond with the internal tuners.

I checked to see how the 6″ replica Roman crucifixion nail would look relative to the 24-3/4 scale length and everything lined up well.

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New to this build is the official Junk Shop Audio branding iron. I found a branding iron maker that creates custom irons from solid brass. I made this small coal-burning heater based on plans I found on an outdoor survival site—it is comprised of two large can goods cans, a cat bowl, a drawer pull and a handful of nuts and bolts. I needed a rustic maker’s mark for my guitars and this branding iron fit the bill.

I changed the design to accommodate more fuel and higher heat, but the original portable stove can be found here:

https://www.treehugger.com/clean-technology/build-ultra-efficient-diy-wood-gasifier-backpacking.html

I installed a Nd144 Electromagnetic Cigar Box Guitar Pickup and a 1/4″ jack.

I secured the oak cover plate to the back and affixed the replica Roman nail card to the interior of the lid.

I measured and filed the fret markers, strung it with 10’s tuned to G-D-G and then made and added an American flag duct tape strap.

I’m really happy with the way this guitar plays. The additional height from the oak fretboard allows the player to fret notes and play slide for an additional range of sounds and playability.

Thanks,

Ripped Baseball Bat “Cigar Box Style” Electric Slide Guitar

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I completed this prototype back in November 2015. It was a really cool project, but I just got around to writing up the build notes. The first thing I had to figure out was how to rip the bat in half. I didn’t have a table saw or bandsaw—just a circular saw and chop saw—so I decided to make a box that would almost perfectly fit the baseball bat. Then, I used a square to center all of the parts of the bat parallel to the sides of the box. To achieve this, I used different thicknesses of scrap wood to shim the bat into a centered position.

Once the bat was centered, I used a square to mark the cutline, which was slightly off center to allow for the best bat depth to fretboard width ratio—I wanted to retain as much material as possible to add strength, but I still needed enough fretboard width for three strings. I found my measurement and then set the circular saw guide relative to one side of the box.

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I placed the box on the ground and up against the sidewalk. The box is much longer than the bat to allow extra room for the circular saw to drop in and begin a straight run toward the end of the bat. The saw must run through at a slow even pace, straight through the end block to complete the cut. The bat moved a bit, as the saw cut through its length. This resulted in a less than flat surface that required a bit of planing. I placed the surface with a hand planer until a level sat flat against the surface. I sanded the cut surface with sandpaper, but left the outer part of the bat untouched.

I filed a 3/8″ groove 24-3/4″ from the nut location and then cut two brass bolts, placing one in the bridge position and filing the other down to half thickness for the nut.

Pickup and 1/4″ Jack:

I purchased a second 1-1/4″ spade bit and sawed off the center point tip, so that the bottom would be flat and less likely to penetrate the back side of the bat. The pickup hole was started with the old bit with the tip and completed with the new bit without the tip. I installed a JSA Nd144 Electromagnetic Cigar Box Guitar Pickup and planned to wire it straight to the jack. My biggest concern was that I would drill through the back of the bat, so I was careful to measure and drill small bits at a time.

The endpin jack was too big to fit at the end of the bat as a circle, so I ground it down to more of a triangle, leaving the holes. The hole for the jack and wire was drill straight through to the pickup hole with a long 1/2″ bit. The jack fit well, but had to be bent a bit on the bottom to conform to the curve of the bat—a few brass screws held it in place nicely.

Tuners:

This was the first application of my Simple Tuners, as I created them for this particular project. Given that I wanted to keep a clean baseball bat profile at the back of the guitar, standard tuners would not work, so I came up with these tuners that attached to the front surface.

Headstock:

I found this old bottle opener and it fit perfectly on the headstock, so I fastened it down and then installed two more screws to set the height. I filed three notches to hold the strings and then added a string tensioner, made of a brass bolt and two small eye-screws and it was ready to go.

Check out this quick and dirty video:

Thanks,

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Teeth for Days – Wall Hanger to Electric Guitar with Homemade Modular Pickup

Some people turn guitars into wall hangers—in this case, I turned a wall hanger into an electric guitar. My dad was cruising through a thrift store when he ran across this guy for $2.92. Later, he handed it to me and challenged me to make a working guitar out of it…so that’s what the bunny is going to bring him—Happy Easter Greg!!!

Two things were important for me to accomplish in this mod—first, the face had to remain as clean as possible and second, the wiring had to be minimal.

Bridge and Nut:

Given that I wanted very little interference on the face, I installed string ferrules through the back of the body and positioned them at the gum line on the face to reduce the visual impact. I added a 3/8″ diameter length of brass rod for the bridge and cut down a smaller brass bolt for the nut, which created a string height acceptable for slide playing.

Tuners:

I installed a set of “aged bronze” looking tuners. Only five would fit comfortably across the top and keep the strings within the parameter of the head; therefore, I placed one of the tuners on the bottom, which looks pretty natural. I also installed some small, tarnished screws to guide and add tension to the strings.

Pickup and Output Jack:

For the pickup I carved about a 1/4″ – 3/8″ deep rectangle into the back of the body where I would later install the pickup and then superglued an old razor blade to the bottom of the carved hole. Recall that I wanted minimal wiring, so I decided to to create a modular pickup and output jack pairing that could be easily removed and installed. I started with two JSC Nd144 Electromagnetic Cigar Box Guitar Pickups taped together.

Then, I assembled a homemade output jack from a steel spacer, a brass picture hanger and a bit of electrical tape. I wired the jack to the pickup and taped everything together into one unit. The strong, neodymium magnets on top of the pickup would attach the modular unit to the back of the guitar via the steel razor blade.

I’m impressed with how well this frame has handled the force of the strings—though I took it easy with 9s, I still wasn’t sure what would happen when I tuned up. Additionally, for as thin as the body is, the guitar actually projects more sound than I anticipated, but it can always be plugged in via the modular pickup system. Nevertheless, this was an interesting build and I think my dad will be happy with the results.

Check out this quick and dirty video demonstration:

Thanks,

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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