Yard Dog – “SuperStrut” All-Steel, Ultra-Low, Single-String Electric Djent Bass

At a past St. Louis Cigar Box Guitar Club meeting, Sean Oliveira brought in a bunch of piano strings from a unit he had dismantled. He was offering them for free, so I took a thick, low string along with a medium-sized one. I decided to challenge myself to build a guitar around the low string, which has a diameter of roughly a 1/4″.

Since this thick string would exert a lot of force against the instrument’s frame, I would need something a bit more resilient that my usual wood structure. I wanted to maintain a size similar to my previous builds so I chose slotted 1-5/8″ x 13/16 strut.

I started with a five foot length of strut and measured the distance between the bridge and the nut on my Peavey bass, which came out around 34-1/4″. Everything needed to be beefed up on this build—two-hole angles were too weak to handle the force—so everything had to be reconsidered.

Tuner and String:

The first thing that I needed was something to hold the string. Usually I would clamp it with a bolt and knurled nut, but a 1/4″ diameter string needs something more substantial. Luckily, I was able to find some aluminum wire lugs in the electrical section at Lowes. These were excellent both for clamping the string behind the nut and anchoring the tuner.

The tuner is made from a heavy-duty 1/4″ eyebolt, a 1/4″ x 3/4″ steel spacer and a 1/4″ rod coupling. The piano string came with a loop, so I removed a small amount of material at the junction of the eyebolt to allow the string loop to slip onto the eyebolt.

Nut and Bridge:

The nut and bridge are made of stainless steel pipe clamps. I wanted to attach the nut and bridge since the vibration of the large string made it difficult to keep a bolt or other material in place by the force of the string alone. These clamps work perfect for the string size and allow for a proper action. Additionally, I added a u-bolt at the back of the nut and bridge. There was very little tension holding the string in place—the u-bolts worked to create a more focused sound.

Fretboard:

The fretboard is a length of 1/8″ x 1″ steel. It is adhered to the strut with neodymium magnets, which raises the height of the steel just slightly, making the application of zip tie frets possible. I’ve always wanted to try zip tie frets, but I was unhappy with the zip tie being around the back of the neck—this allowed me to place the zip ties around just the steel bar, leaving the back of the strut smooth.

Pickup and Output Jack:

The base coil of this pickup is the same as the Nd144 Electromagnetic Cigar Box Guitar pickup, but I had to modify it to allow for a proper fit. The plastic on the bobbin had to be trimmed to the coil and I used slightly larger neodymium magnets that fit within the slot in the strut.

Nothing special about the 1/4″ output jack. I installed it close to the bottom, with some odds and ends, so that it was out-of-the-way and close to the pickup.

Here’s a quick and dirty video featuring my Peavey bass stack from way back:

(VIDEO PLAYBACK REQUIRES HEADPHONES—SMART PHONE SPEAKERS CAN NOT ACCOMMODATE LOW FREQUENCIES)

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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“No Parking”—6 Foot Signpost Resonator Guitar

There an interesting origin for this instrument; the idea actually came to me while I was playing Bowmasters with my son. Bowmasters is an app where opponents try to strike or impale each other with various items. One of the characters throws a sign as seen below:

For some reason this struck me as an excellent idea for a guitar so…I made a six-foot guitar. This resonator guitar has two selectable pickups, one that has a clean sound and another that transfers the grit from the sign.

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

https://wp.me/P3WRqw-Mz

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,

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 Guitar

Shakespeare Hardback Book, Three-Stringed Electric 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 better and louder that I thought it would; amplified, it sounds like any other guitar.

Thanks,

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