It’s no secret that we have a soft spot for musical instruments here at Hackaday, especially for the weird and unusual ones. An instrument that definitely fits the unusual category is the four-string tenor guitar, which — as legend has it — originated back in the 1920s by frankensteining a banjo neck and a guitar body together. Despite being around for almost a century, they’re still rarely found outside some niche genres, which makes them an excellent choice when pursuing a unique sound experience. As someone looking for exactly that, [Ham-made] decided to build an electric tenor guitar entirely from scratch, and documented every step of it at great length.
Built from two random chunks of wood, a dissected single coil pickup, and a leftover piece of elk antlers, the result is even more unique than the sound experience itself. While the rather unorthodox, faceted body shape leaves no doubt that this is a handmade instrument, the real eye-catcher has to be the neck and its oddly spaced frets. Counting the frets, the math doesn’t seem to add up either, as the twelfth fret usually creates the octave, and as such should be at half the scale length (i.e. half the string’s length from the bridge at the body’s end to the nut at the neck’s end). Turns out that [Ham-made] went for a diatonic scale instead of the usual chromatic one, essentially leaving out the notes you anyway wouldn’t play in a standard Pop or Rock setup. Using an all-fifths tuning akin to cellos and mandolins, this will work nicely over all four strings.
Aesthetics are certainly a subjective matter, and [Ham-Made] is fully aware that people might feel downright offended by his creation, but as he also wants to “embrace mistakes and promote experimentation”, he encourages everyone with similar aspiration to simply go for it — and he’s certainly no stranger to unconventional instruments and recording equipment. But before the never-tiring tonewood debate sparks up, check out this scrap metal guitar.
Continue reading “Some Strings Attached: Electric Tenor Guitar Built From Scratch”
Cutting the slots in a guitar’s neck for the frets requires special tooling, and [Gord]’s contribution to his friend’s recent dive into lutherie was this lovingly engineered and crafted fret mitering jig. We’d love to have a friend like [Gord].
We’ve covered a number of [Gord]’s builds before, and craftsmanship is the first thing that comes to mind whether the project is a man-cave clock or artisanal soaps. For this build, he stepped up the quality a notch – after all, if you’re going to build something you could buy for less than $200, you might as well make it a thing to behold.
There’s plenty to feast the eyes on here – an oak bed with custom logo, the aluminum jig body with brass accents, and the precision bearings that guide the pricey backsaw. Functionality abounds too – everything is adjustable, from the depth of cut to the width of the saw blade. There’s even a place to store the adjustment tool.
The result? Well, let’s just say that [Gord] and his friend [Fabrizio] are kindred spirits in the craftsmanship department. And [Fab]’s not a bad axeman either, as the video below shows.
Continue reading “Engineering Meets Craftsmanship In This Guitar Fretting Jig”
Sheet metal. Beer cans. Pieces of chain. Not items you’ll typically find on the BOM for a custom guitar. But nobody told [Maarten van Halderen] that, and so he threw them all together into a gitaar van schroot, or scrap guitar for the Dutch impaired (YouTube link).
The video shows the build process, starting with plasma cutting and welding sheet steel for the body. The neck is fabricated from rectangular steel tube, with nails serving as frets. Overall it looks like a Les Paul, except for the sink strainer basket mounted in the sound hole and the crushed beer and soda cans tacked to the body for decoration. The chains are a nice touch too. And this doesn’t appear to be [Maarten]’s first attempt at scrapyard lutherie – toward the end of the video we see that the beer can axe joins a very steam-punk looking older brother. They’re both good-looking builds, and the video after the break proves they can sound pretty good too.
For a more classical take on the building of string instruments, check out this post on mandolins and violas. Or maybe you can just 3D print your next guitar?
Continue reading “Gitaar Van Schroot – The Scrap Metal Guitar”
Unless you’ve been up close and personal with a guitar, it’s easy to miss that the fretboard (where a guitar player presses on the strings) is not flat. There is a slight curve, the amount of which varies with the type and brand of guitar. There are even guitars with fretboards that have a compound radius that changes from one end to the other.
[Mike] is a guitar builder and needed a way to radius his own fretboards. He did what any other DIYer would, he designed and built a tool to do exactly what he needed. The fretboard radius cutting fixture consists of a new large router base that has a curved bottom. This base rests on two metal pipes and can slide both back and forth in addition to along the new base’s curve. The flat fretboard blank is secured to the fixture below the router and is slowly nibbled away at using a standard straight flute router bit. A little sanding later and [Mike] will be able to keep moving forward on his guitar builds.
[Pat] is a luthier and general guy that likes to build stuff. In order to get his guitars to come out the best they can, he needed a thickness sander. For those who don’t know, thickness sander is a machine that will sand off a small amount of material from the surface of a large wood panel. There are certainly commercially available thickness sanders but [Pat] thought that they were simple enough machines so he decided to give a go at making one himself.
Since [Pat] already had access to a pretty nice wood shop, it only made sense to build the thickness sander primarily out of wood. The frame is made from standard 2×4’s. The drum is made from many disks of MDF mounted on a shaft and spun by an AC motor. You might imagine that a bunch of MDF disks mounted on a shaft would not result in a very cylindrical shape and that is exactly what happened here. So before applying the sand paper to the drum, course sandpaper was applied to a sheet of plywood and used to sand the drum round. It’s a super simple technique that resulted in a true-spinning drum. Afterward, velcro is attached to the drum and velcro-backed sandpaper is wrapped around the drum. This allows quick and effortless changing of sand paper.
Continue reading “DIY Thickness Sander Is Good Enough For A Guitar Shop”
[Atdiy and Whisker], collectively known as [The Tymkrs] have been busy honing their luthier skills. They’ve created a 10 part YouTube series about the construction of their new cigar box guitar. Instead of a cigar box though, they’ve substituted a 1920’s tin cigarette box. The Omar Cigarette company gave “Project Omar” it’s name. Like [Tymkrs] previous guitar, Omar is a three string affair. The neck was cut from Black Palm, which really shined when polished with a mixture of orange oil and beeswax. They also threw in a couple of new tricks on this build. Omar is an electric guitar, with a pickup custom wound by [Bob Harrison]. Omar also has frets, which creates a whole new set of complications. Frets are generally installed by cutting slits in the guitar neck with a fret saw. Rather than buy a new tool, [Tymkrs] created a simple jig for their mini table saw. The jig held the guitar neck perpendicular with the saw blade. This made quick work of the many fret slits to be cut. Installed frets must also be dressed and leveled, which is a time-consuming process.
The tin cigarette box also created a new set of problems. The thin tin proved to be a bit on the weak side when the strings were tightened down. A bit too much pressure on the box while playing would cause notes to bend, much like the tremolo or whammy bar on a standard electric guitar. [Tymkrs] were able to counteract this by adding bracing inside, and a couple of black palm braces to the back of the box.
Hum was also a problem. When [Tymkrs] first plugged in, they found they had more 60Hz mains hum than signal from their strings. Omar uses a classic single coil guitar pickup. Single coils will pick up noise from any magnetic field, including the field created by the studio electrical system. A humbucking pickup uses two coils to counteract this effect. Humbuckers also have a slightly different tone than single coils. [Tymkrs] wanted to stick with their single coil tone, so they counteracted the hum by raising the pickup closer to the strings. Higher pickups receive more signal from the strings, so this is basically a free signal to noise ratio improvement. They also grounded the entire tin box, along with Omar’s metal tail stock. The final build sounds great, as evidenced by the jam session toward the end of Video 10.
Continue reading “A Guitar From An Old Tin Box”