“Slice of Deliverance” – Steel-String Resonator Banjolele w/ Removable Pickup

I chanced upon this banjo uke for a steal at the local antique mall and couldn’t pass up a new project. From what I’ve read, this style of banjo ukulele was produced through the 20’s and 30’s and it’s in really great shape compared to some I have seen for sale online.

This instrument came with a traditional drumhead, but no bridge. Against the advice of most ukulele enthusiast sites my plan was to string it up with steel strings, so that I could add a removable pickup, which is apparently I’ll advised because the neck could succumb to the pressure.

The Before Pictures:

Finish:

The finished was scratched, but was otherwise in fine shape; however, I wanted to add my own style, so I sanded off the finish and stained it with a vinegar and steel wool concoction.

I started with the white vinegar mix that adds a rusty, yellow hue while darkening deep spots. Then, I finished with an apple cider mix that adds a bit more color, grain depth and shine. The mix results in a distressed look that enhances the natural grain, while adding subtle nuances as well as dramatic extremes.

Drumhead and Bridge:

I began by cutting a piece of brass rod for the bridge and then strung it with the top four strings from a pack of DR Pure Blues 9’s.

The uke tuned up, but the drumhead was strained, which lowered the action to the point of rubbing on the rim. So I had to find a new material for the head that would be thin enough to offer as good of a voice as the drumhead.

I had a paint can lid laying on the bench and it appeared to be the right size, so I cut off the rim and it was a perfect fit to replace the drumhead.

Tuners and Tailpiece:

The tuners weren’t complete trash, but I didn’t like the look of them and since I was going to use steel strings, it seemed like a good idea to install decent tuners. I found a set of Grovers that worked great and had a lower profile.

The tailpiece was meant for holding strings with smaller balls ends, so I had to drill small holes in the body to accommodate the steel string balls and allow the tailpiece to sit flat against the body.

Pickup:

Since the paint can worked out so well, it created a perfect opportunity for using a removable pickup made from two of my Nd144 Electromagnetic Cigar Box Guitar Pickups. I had originally built a similar pickup for the “Teeth for Days” build, which had a body that was to thin to house a permanently installed pickup.

Therefore, I created a compact pickup and 1/4″ jack combination that could be easily installed and removed. Since the paint can lid is made of magnetically sensitive material, the pickup can be installed at a whim.

This solves two problems—first, placing the pickup directly on the paint can lid stifles the resonating effect to some degree, so easy installation and removable allows the user to play acoustically without compromise. Second, installation via the inherent magnets keeps me from having to drill extra holes and add unsightly hardware for both the pickup and the output jack. In short, the pickup is fully functionally electric without radically changing the acoustic nature of the instrument.

The most interesting and functional aspect of this pickup is its ability to be removed and potentially used to electrify/amplify another guitar with a body made from magnetically sensitive material, such as a lunch box or cookie tin. The pickup and output jack is wired up and taped together as one unit to simplify this process.

A second feature is the exposed, copper ground wire that makes contact with the paint can lid upon installation. This signal travels through the all magnetically sensitive materials that come in contact with the chain, so the paint can lid, bridge (if changed to steel), strings, and tailpiece all become a place to ground the signal, thus reducing amplifier noise/hum.

Accessories:

I added a strap button comprised of a security bolt and a brass knurled nut. I simply drilled a larger hole in the body and tailpiece to accommodate the larger bolt.

The strap was made from duct tape printed with an American flag design and the headstock strap tie was made of black duct tape with a brass binding screw to hold everything together.

Final Word…

This was a cool project and I developed and appreciation for the ukulele and the benefits of its small size, along with this instrument’s marriage with the banjo.

Check out this quick video that offers this instrument’s amplified and acoustic tones:

Thanks,

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“His Dudeness” – Electro-Acoustic Resonator Guitar Modification

Follow this link for additional photos and build notes:

https://wp.me/P3WRqw-VO

Call it The Dude, His Dudeness, Duder, or even El Duderino, but don’t call it Mr. Lebowski.

I received a request to modify this old classical, parlor acoustic. The gentleman had seen a few of my other acoustic modifications and wanted something similar for his acoustic. He gave me full artistic control, so I added materials based on the guitar’s size, shape and the condition of the neck.

Here are some before pictures:

Check out these quick and dirty demonstration videos—one is amplified with distortion the other is unplugged and ends with a little Nuge, but hey, it’s a free for all:

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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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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