Broken Guitar String Art

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Introduction: Broken Guitar String Art

About: Engineer at Thompson Surgical Instruments and a big fan of reusing old junk to make new junk

Old broken guitar strings + a few moments of boredom = creative designs!

This project was also 100% free to make using dumpster-bound materials.

This Instructable is entered in the Trash to Treasure contest, if you like it please give it a vote!

Materials:

Old guitar strings of varied sizes

A handful of nails

Scrap piece(s) of wood

Solder spool

Tools:

Soldering iron

Pliers

Helping hands/3rd hand/something to hold parts while you solder

Skills:

Soldering

Some drawing (optional-ish)

Bending

Creativity (Make your favorite shape too)

Safety Equipment:

Common sense

Step 1: Do a Jig

Don't worry, you don't have to dance. You're making a jig to shape your guitar strings on.

Draw or print out the design you want to use and place it on top of your wood. You want the board to be larger than your design.

Drive nails through each corner into the wood as shown. Be sure to keep in mind which way the wire will be bending around each nail.

Step 2: Outline the Plan

Time to use the guitar strings. If you don't break your own often enough or know someone who does, many local music shops will give you a bag full if you ask nicely. They throw them out without people like you that want them.

Pick a few strings that will fit the look you want, both size and color. Also make sure the strings for your borders don't have bends and misshapen areas. I chose to make the borders from thicker Low-E and G copper wrapped strings for a slightly sturdier orangey-red color, and the interior crisscross from slightly thinner silver colored nickel-plated strings for a nice contrast.

Take your border strings and bend them around your jig nails, bending and creasing where necessary. Use pliers to make sure the wires have nice sharp corners.

You'll end up with an outline of your shape, though it might need a bit of adjustment to make it fully flat or hold its shape better. The less it flexes away from the shape you want it in the better.

Make two of these outline borders.

Step 3: Rise Up

Once you have your two shapes readied to your liking, snip off about 12+ equal lengths of wire of a similar look to the ones you previously used. These can be snipped from scraps of leftover guitar string and will be your side risers that separate the two outlines you already made. You can use as few as 12 or up to however many you want; the more you use the more sturdy and solid the outside edges of the final outcome will be. I found it turned out well with 16.

I originally planned to use 1 5/16" risers but once I held it together that seemed too far and I shortened them to 1" which looked much better.

Step 4: Make a Connection

Start by soldering the dangling ends of the two cross shapes together, then start adding the risers perpendicular to the first outline. I added them at each corner bend as well as a few in the longer straight section on the bottom, for 16 in total.

Helping hands/ third hands or a younger sibling with some extra hands to hold the wires very steady while you solder them in place is a must. I found that it helped to rest the side of the project I wasn't dealing with on the wooden jig to help balance it. If it doesn't come out perfectly perpendicular that's ok, you can bend them just a little bit to where they should be without breaking the solder joint. Or heat the solder back up some and readjust the wire.

Next solder the second outline on top of the risers to match the bottom one. It can get tricky to hold the top frame in place and level while soldering, so again it's very helpful to have a helping hand.

Step 5: Decorate!

Decorate the top and/or bottom and sides however you see fit. I made a heart jig (a little tougher with all the rounded sides) and added a heart in the center, then a semi-random lattice of smaller nickel strings across the front. You can add other designs as well, guitar strings hold the shapes they're bent to quite well.

Step 6: Other Designs and Ideas

The first picture is a 3D star ornament made in a similar way to the cross. I made a jig for a full star shape but ended up making 12 star halves instead and soldering them together at top and bottom with a "support beam" through the center. I soldered a loop on top to use as an ornament.

I also made another cross fully from silver nickel-plated strings because I was interested in the color difference. Turns out I like the coloring of copper and solder better.

The triangular shapes I plan to make another star by soldering together at the corners. After I finish adding the rest of the words.

Future Ideas:

I would like to make some sort of wall art out of guitar strings, similar to this.

Any other ideas, questions, comments, concerns, or haiku poems are welcome in the comments!

I've entered this project into the Trash to Treasure contest, please give it a vote. Thanks!

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    2 Discussions

    I believe it was 60/40 Tin/Lead. It worked well without any flux.

    I didn't use silver solder because it would heat up the copper wires and discolor it more than I'd like.