Poppy’s Keepsake Box Three-String, Acoustic-Electric, Lap Steel Uke w/ Children’s Stubby Slide

A friend of mine has a daughter named Poppy who is nearly three years old. I had not yet made a cigar box uke, but since the holidays were approaching and I had found this very cool keepsake box with her name on it, I thought it would be a great opportunity to give it a go.

Box

It started out as an attractive box. The name and image were actually printed on a 4.25″x4.25″ piece of tile, which was then inserted into the beautifully stained hardwood exterior. The interior was velvet-lined and it had spring-loaded hinges that kept it open and snapped it shut.

I kept the tile and hinges as is, but sanded off the finish and tore out the interior lining. I cut a slot for the neck, which didn’t turn out to be as difficult as it seemed it would be.

Neck, Head and Finish

The structure is really a stick-through design, so the piece of 1×2 maple runs the length of the instrument. I laid out the scale, which I based on my banjolele project—thirteen inches from bridge to nut.

Once I found the location of the nut, I knew where the tuners and headstock design would be carved. I cut down the neck to size, carved the tuner slot based on my template and then carved the Double Blade design into the headstock.

Pickup, Output Jack and Strap Button

I planned to install a JSA Electromagnetic Cigar Box Guitar Pickup, so I found the closest point to the neck pickup position and drilled a 1″ oval close to the pickup’s size. I trimmed the pickup a bit to make it fit easier.

I installed a strap button made from a brass knurling nut and a stainless steel security screw, which also serves to secure the neck to the box.

The output was installed in the upper corner instead of the lower corner to make it easier to play. Both units were wired together and a ground wire was added to reduce hum, when attached to one of the strings.

Fretboard, Nut and Bridge

The fretboard is an oak 1/4″x2″. It was cut to length, finished, glued, set in place and clamped. Later, I filed small notches in the top of the fretboard to mark the frets.

The nut was cut from a piece of 3/8″ rebar and then ground flat on the bottom and side to set flush against the neck and fretboard. The bridge is made from a length of 1/8″ brass bar. Each of their heights and positions created a level string action.

Strings, Tuners, Strap and Brand

The tuners are standard China machines that look cooler than they perform, but they do the job and keep their tune regardless of the slack in the gears. I orientated them similar to a lap steel, because it’s not something that I have seen on such a small instrument.

The string holes were drilled just behind the brass bridge, at an angle, into the neck. After running the strings through the holes to tuners, I cut a small piece of leather to cover the the holes, which was glued across the bottom and has two small, brass screws at the top.

The strap is made entirely from duct tape—rainbow pattern for the length of the strap and gold for the ends. The headstock strap tie is made from a scrap piece of leather.

Branded Initials and Custom Slide

This is the first use of my newer branding iron with my initials. I already had one with my Junk Shop Audio logo, but I thought it would be cool to add my sign as well.

Since this instrument would potentially be played by small hands, I made a 40mm stubby slide that has a US ring size 4.

Final Notes

All in all it was a fun build and turned out petty cool. Used acoustically, the box is only held together by the spring-loaded hinges, so there is a slight rumble from the top and bottom of the box vibrating against each other, which offers an excellent resonating sound.

Video:

https://youtu.be/c_SfcPiVYWI

Thanks,

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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,

“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,

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,