“Crude Theremin” – Tube Oscillator and Homemade Electromagnetic Guitar Pickup

I was making an extra three-string removable pickup from my JSA Nd144 Electromagnetic Cigar Box Guitar Pickup and started thinking about some of its other features.

I recently found an old tube oscillator at the antique mall and thought I might be able to do something interesting with it. So I hooked up the removable pickup to my amp and powered on the oscillator. With one hand on the frequency knob and the other manipulating the volume via pickup proximity, you can get some pretty cool brassy synth tones.

The removable pickup is made of a 9v adapter coil and a homemade 1/4″ jack.

Follow this link to view step-by-step build instructions for the 9v adapter pickup:

https://wp.me/P3WRqw-86

Follow this link to view the homemade 1/4″ jack build instructions:

https://wp.me/P3WRqw-PP

The wiring is simple—two terminals on the pickup: one attached to the hot on the jack and the other to the ground on the jack. Then, I just taped them together.

I need a bit more practice, but here is a quick and dirty video for now:

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,

“Dirty Secret” – Electro-Acoustic, Variable Resonator, Steel-String Parlor Guitar

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I received this 70’s era, Trump classical guitar from my mother-in-law a few years back. A few of the tuners were broken, the neck was bowed and the bridge was either broken or I just decided to cut it off—it’s hard to say at this point—but knew when I saw it, that I wanted to do something drastic.

I looked around and found an adjustable floor register and then cut a large rectangle out of the body; but then it sat, because I wanted to strip off all of the finish. I found that it was very difficult to remove the finish, but finally a couple of days ago I locked a wire brush attachment into my drill, determined that the finish would come off once and for all—it did, sort of, but I also distressed the livin’ out of the wood. No problem, because sometimes ugly is part of the game.

I call this one, Dirty Secret; it’s like that horrific kid in the horror movies, that’s hidden in the basement— someone unwittingly finds themself in said basement; it’s dark and cluttered, unseen feet are heard scampering across the floor, and then a ball comes rolling out from the shadows, creeping everyone out…well it’s not like that, but stay with me…you have a Les Paul and a Strat up stairs in the stable, but instead, you prefer to play this piece of trash, for some indescribable reason…why?

Body and Finish:

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As stated earlier, I cut a 4″x8″ rectangle into the center of the guitar to accommodate an adjustable metal floor register. The purpose of the register is two-fold—primarily, to create a resonator sound and secondarily, to control the amount of resonator sound. The outcome was not as drastic as I would have liked, but there is a distinct difference between the louvers in the closed position and open position: in the closed position, the sound is tighter/cleaner, as the louvers move to the open position, the sound becomes more resonate and rattly.

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Since I cut through all of the bracing, the top needed need reinforcement, so I cut a few pieces of 1″ square rod to offer stability and a solid base through which to install the floor register. Additionally, I cut a a small groove into the top/center of the register to accommodate the fretboard—it just looded more finished and covered up the fact that I cut the hole incorrectly.

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The old finish was removed with sandpaper on the head, neck, and fretboard; however, the finish on the body was removed with drill-powered wire brush. Much of the heavy finish was removed, but a red stain remained; additionally, the brush removed too much material in some places, which left the body distressed and damaged. After sanding all of the surfaces, I applied a finish made of vinegar and steel wool that helped accentuate the distressed areas on the body.

Tuners:

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The tuners had to be replaced—some were broken, others were seized. I subbed in a set of butterfly-style Grover tuners, which had shafts that were larger than the original tuners. I enlarged the holes to 3/8″ and installed the replacements.

Tailpiece and Bridge:

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I used a discarded tailpiece from a previous build. I sanded off the tarnish and centered it on the body. Two small zip ties hold the tailpiece tight to the register to reduce friction noise. For the bridge I used a brass hinge pin; I flattened the bottom with a file and found the correct scale based on doubling the measurement of the twelfth fret.

Pickup and Output Jack:

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I taped two JSA Nd144 Electromagnetic Cigar Box Guitar Pickups together and connected them to an acoustic guitar endpin jack. I couldn’t place the pickup in a normal location, because of the louvers on the register, but there was a small location just back from the  end of the fretboard. I superglued an old razor blade below the fretboard and installed the pickup by attaching the magnets on the pickup to the razor blade. A 1/2″ hole was drilled, in the bottom of tyhe guitar, where the strap button was previously located.

Check out these quick demonstration videos—one is amplified with distortion the other is not—enjoy:

Thanks,

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“TSA Certified” SlipStick Carry-on Electric Steel Guitar

Well…this steel guitar is not actually TSA Certified, but at a length of 20-3/4 inches it does fit diagonally in a carry-on suitcase. I had built the first incarnation of this steel guitar a few years back when I had to go on a business trip and wanted an instrument to take along. I was only taking a carry-on so it had to be small enough to fit inside—it turned out to be a perfect fit.

Follow this link to the official project page for additional photos and build notes:

https://wp.me/P3WRqw-NH

Thanks,

Duct Tape Hardshell Coffin Guitar Case

A couple of years ago I built an acoustic guitar case, constructed entirely of cardboard and duct tape. Since completing that project, I have wanted to make a new case for transporting my parlor-sized guitars.

I didn’t want to complete that exact same project, so I drew inspiration from my favorite case from the 90’s, The Coffin Case, which had a red interior and black exterior much like my previous duct tape acoustic guitar case.

My version of the coffin case is constructed similar to the previous case but has interior dimensions made to house a parlor guitar. This case is a bit smaller than the previous case, so it only required six rolls of duct tape, one large 2-ply box, and a length of chain.

Follow the link below for more images and descriptions:

https://junkshopaudio.com/duct-tape-coffin-case-for-parlor-guitars/

Thanks,

Better Bolt Bridges – Left-handed Thread Rod

Better Bolt Bridges – Left-handed Thread Rod

I had been struggling with keeping my floating bolt bridges in place for proper intonation. I would set the bridge perfectly, as pictured below:

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However, over time, the vibration of the strings would eventually turn the bolt, thus throwing my guitar out of tune, as pictured below:

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If you look at the first picture, you can see that the orientation of the string is strained as it fights to stay in one of the thread slots. The force that the string places on the bolt naturally moves the bolt into a position where the string sits comfortably within a thread slot.

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Even bolt bridges that are mounted into a slot suffer difficulties. However, since the bolt can not turn to orientate the threads with the strings, they are more prone to slipping into another thread slot, which leads to intonation and string spacing problems. Plus, a string sitting on top of threads allows less usable surface area than a string seated within a thread slot.

The solution showed up on my doorstep yesterday morning. I had been trying the figure this out when I recalled that, in my warehouse days, contractors would request left-handed thread rod for certain jobs. I looked around and found 3/8 left-handed steel rod at Fastenal for $26.87, plus shipping, which seems pricey, but I can cut about 36 2″ floating/fixed bridges for $1.08 each.

This is the direct link to the rod that I purchased:   https://www.fastenal.com/products/details/47304

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Here is the result. As you can see in the image below, the floating bolt bridge is once again in tune; however, this time the strings will not cause the bolt to turn because the strings are now seated comfortably within the thread slots.

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Tragedy averted—now I just have to find some left-handed brass rod.

Thanks,

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https://www.junkshopaudio.com

 

PVC Bamboom Stick

PVC Bamboom Stick

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The handle on Bennet’s Bamboom Stick failed during its first use. Bamboo is strong for its thickness, but, in addition to the handle, the frame cracked in four places, while I was cutting and shaping the instrument. The cracks were easy to fix with glue and clamps, but I’m not sure how it will hold up over time. Surely the handle will hold up with the addition of a dowel, but there was still reason for concern.

This led me to look for a more resilient material. PVC is strong and flexible and easy to manipulate. 1-1/4″ PVC pipe is an excellent size for the body and 1″ is perfect for the handle, as 1″ PVC fits close inside of 1-1/4″ pipe.

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For the handle slot, I made horizontal cuts on the body with a hacksaw and then used a 1-1/8 spade bit to remove most of the material on the front and back of the frame. The rest of the handle slot was shaped with files. I cut the handle from a 1″ piece of PVC; it fit snug within the opening. I also slipped a piece of 1″ wooden dowel into to 1″ PVC to reinforce the handle.

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I cut the pickup hole in the same fashion that I shaped the handle slot. Much like the bamboo version, it allows limited range, but a bit more room to install the piece of angle that would hold the simple tuner and the 1/4″ jack. The wall of the 1-1/4″ PVC was too thick for the nut on the 1/4″ jack to fit, so I filed down the outer side of the frame, around the hole, until installation was possible. Although it appears ugly, I have started using hot glue to strengthen my solder joints; it keeps me from having unexpected delays.

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To create more clearance at the front of the handle, I cut down a 1″ cap and glued it to the front portion of the handle. I filed a small triangular notch into the top of the handle and used a screw to tighten the string down. A binding screw worked well to allow the handle to pivot. I added an eye bolt, bent to an angle, to act as a nut and to set a consistent action. For this PVC version, I decided to use heavier eye bolts than I used on the bamboo version to further strengthen the instrument.

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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, set the pickup in place. In this PVC version, the JSA Nd144 pickup sat loose in the hole, so I cut and shaped a small piece of 1″ PVC to fill the space. I filed the inner sides of the 1″ piece of PVC until the pickup fit snug. After that, I added the usual simple machine to set the open note/octave.

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I added two 1-1/4 jacks to the top and bottom of the frame and a 1″ cap to the back of the handle. For the bottom, I installed a screw-on rubber bumper so that it doesn’t slide on the floor. Additionally, I left the remaining string intact, since there is no easy way to keep the instrument grounded. The jack is grounded to the bridge eye bolt, so one must simply hold the remaining string against the handle, while playing, to keep a constant ground.

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Just like the bamboo version, there is only one E string, but the instrument has a lot of range. I added a 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.

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It seems important to note that when I tested this instrument the string broke rather than the frame or handle.

Check out this quick and thoroughly awful video:

Thanks,
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