Last week, I pulled the pickup and controls out of a junk Memphis brand guitar (likely a Teisco, as it was made in Japan and has some of the tell-tale Teisco details), and installed them into the lid of this Questa-Rey cigar box. The box held 25 cigars, rather than 50, so it has a fairly thin profile. That is one reason I decided to use it for this project.
I wanted a purpose-built electric guitar, rather than an acoustic-electric hybrid. So, even though I knew that the depth of the box would likely decrease the volume of the guitar, unplugged, that was irrelevant.
I rough-cut the neck from a 1-1/2"x1-1/2" piece of hard maple, which I got over at Rockler. Luckily, I got two pieces out of the original stick, as I totally screwed the first cut up. I always use a circular saw for the initial rough shaping, and that is not the ideal tool for the job (to say the least).
After the initial shaping, I used an industrial knife and a wood rasp to refine the shape of the neck
Then, a lot of sanding took place. I use strips of sandpaper backed with duct tape for this work.
I decided to get a bit fancy, and cut a piece of the pickguard from the Memphis to veneer the headstock.
I used Black Walnut for the fingerboard. As with every other step of my guitar building, I use a pretty primitive method of fretting the fingerboard. I cut slots in the wood with a standard mitre saw from Ace Hardware, then I cut lengths of 1/8" brazing rod and Super Glue them into the slots as frets.
Here is the fingerboard before I glued on the frets.
Once the frets were glued on, I used my Dremel tool to trim and smooth the ends. It's faster than filing, but the chances of gouging the fingerboard are high.
Here is the finished product. Well, 99% finished, anyway. I still need to actually mount the bridge, now that I have the intonation set, then attach the ground wire to the bridge screws. I will also add some strap buttons, because I prefer to play standing up.
I had two of the skull-button tuners, and two old Kluson Deluxe tuners, so I made do. The upper string tree is made from the side plate of a bicycle chainlink.
Since I had the pickup stuck through the lid/soundboard, I had to mount the neck to the back of the box. I ran a support all the way through to the butt end of the box, and used a spacer to get the neck height right. The three pieces are glued together, then bolted, as well. (You can see that I stained the maple a bit darker, to better match the wood of the box.)
I had to put a base under the bridge in order to get the string height correct. Rather than brace the top, I installed a "tone post". In other words, I built up the support beam until the lid rested on solid wood beneath the bridge. Gibson does this in the ES-335, so I guess it's good enough for me!
Again, not the best thing for acoustic tone and volume, but it doesn't matter on this guitar. It theoretically cuts down on feedback, and increases sustain, though, on an electric.
I bent the trapeze tailpiece to wrap around the body of the guitar, so that it would reach the correct distance toward the bridge. It is bolted through the back of the box and into the support beam.
Here's a little video how it sounds. I am playing through my Jay Turser rechargeable amp, with the gain on 3, and everything else on 10. The Volume knob on the guitar is dimed, but the Tone is on 5. (I should have taken my bandanna off, when I got off of the motorcycle, I suppose...)
It's tuned G-D-G-B (open G), from low to high. I wanted to tune it in open E, but it just doesn't sound very good in that tuning. I am finding G to be the most pleasant tuning for these small guitars (to my ear, anyway).
It's not perfect, but with the tools I have available I don't strive for perfection. I have a plan for an upcoming build which might include borrowing a buddy's woodshop (and the buddy's talent). We'll see if that works out (Tom).
While on a business trip, this week, I visited a music store in Grand Junction, which I have frequented for nearly 20 years, now. I bought my red 1966 Harmony H-72 from from Hart Music, in 1997, and I always stop in to talk to Jan on the way through.
This time, in response to my usual, "Got anything cool and old, since I saw you last?" Jan told me that he didn't have anything remarkable. Then, I spied this guitar hanging way up high, on the wall.
"What about that?"
"Oh, that? It's not worth much..." He then quoted me what I thought was a really low price, so I bought it.
It is a Sekova, one of the less well-known Japanese guitars from the old days. Apparently built in the factory which also produced Aria guitars, among others, it is outfitted with the standard 1960s Japanese Teisco-style pickups and a very Teisco-like control panel. These parts were probably actually sourced from Teisco. The tuners, and the quality of construction (including multi-layered body binding) put it somewhat higher up the scale than most of the Teiscos I have owned, however.
I feel a bit guilty for buying yet another guitar, so I have put this one up on eBay. If it sells, then I turn a quick profit. If it doesn't, then I will take that as a sign that I am meant to keep it (for a little while, at least).
Luckily, it's not blocked for the blues, however...
I bought this phone at the thrift store, a couple of days ago, for the $6.99 marked price. Why, you might ask, would I want an old rotary phone? Well, I really didn't.
But, I did want the handset. The speaker in the earpiece of the phone produces sound by converting electrical impulses into vibration, which produces the sound you hear on the phone. It will also work in the opposite manner: It will convert vibration into electrical impulses.
Wired to a 1/4" jack, then glued to the inside of the top of my cigar box guitar, it will pick up the vibrations of the top and transmit them, through a cord, to an amplifier. (I didn't like the tone in the original position, which you can see at the bottom of the picture, so I moved it to the upper half of the face.)
The output jack, located on the lower left corner of the body, is relatively subtle. I don't think it detracts from the looks of the guitar, too much.
And, it sounds pretty good through the Pignose amp, in my opinion.
A few weeks ago, I decided that I'd try my hand at building a cigar box guitar. Having listened to a lot of Seasick Steve, lately, I figured I'd go with three strings. I have the St. George set up as a 3-string, and I'm having a good time playing slide on it. But, I think that the cbg works even better with 3 strings.
I went to the Rockler Woodworking store, over on Colorado Blvd, and picked up a 1x2x48 stick of Jatoba wood (Brazilian Cherry). Jatoba is hard and dense, so I hoped that it would hold up well to string tension, since I wasn't planning on using any metal reinforcing.
I wanted to build the guitar in a fairly traditional manner, using no power tools other than a circular saw and a drill. Eventually I deviated from the traditional tools by using a Dremel and SuperGlue, in the interest of saving time.
I started off by roughing the shape of the neck in with a knife.
Then, I went to the wood rasp to refine it a bit.
Eventually, I used sandpaper backed with duct tape to do the final shaping. I used the circular saw to remove the wood where the neck runs under the body, and where the tuners go. It was tedious, and nerve-wracking to make repeated cuts, side by side, removing a saw-blade's width of material with each pass, to remove the wood.
I glued on a 1/4"x2" maple fingerboard (left over from another project, also bought at Rockler) and marked the fret positions. I then used my miter box and saw to slot the fingerboard. A little round-file work made room for the frets to be set down into the wood. The frets are cut-off sections of 14 gauge stainless steel bicycle spokes, and they are held in place with SuperGlue.
Once the frets were set, I started work on a bridge.
The bridge is made from a bone nut glued onto a short section of the same maple which makes up the fingerboard. I "ebonized" the maple with a Sharpie.
The tailpiece is a belt buckle which I found at the thrift store, with three holes drilled in it for the strings to pass through.
Sound holes in the side allow for more air movement which, in turn, allows the top to vibrate more freely.
So, there it is. Later, I plan on installing a piezo pickup, so that I can plug it in. Until then, it is acoustic. To hear it, check out the video.