Converting a Cheap Acoustic Guitar to a Cheap Resonator Guitar





Introduction: Converting a Cheap Acoustic Guitar to a Cheap Resonator Guitar

So I bought a cheap acoustic guitar ($15) from Goodwill and thought it would be interesting project to turn it into a cheap resonator guitar.  After checking online and seeing what others had done, I did pretty much the same with a few adjustments to the process.  The process was a bit sloppy, but in the end it came out alright!

The first picture is the finished resonator, the second is what I started with (I forgot to take a picture of the ACTUAL guitar I used before cutting it up!).  The soundhole covers are drainhole covers, the coverplate is made out of an old metal dish tray, and the bridge covers are two drawer handles.  I wimped out on fashioning my own resonator cone/biscuit bridge and tailpiece, and just bought them cheaply online.  I also bought a cheap piezo pickup so that the resonator could be amplified.

This is by no means an all inclusive guide to the process I took, more of a rough idea.  I kinda just ran with the concept and paid scant attention to precise details...

Step 1: Cutting a Hole in Soundboard, Making the Soundwell

The first step was to cut a hole in the soundboard so that the soundwell could be inserted.  The soundwell is a wooden bowl, about 3/4" thick, that I bought from Target.  I wasn't particularly exacting in this process, but I cut the bowl so that it would fit snugly in the newly made hole.  Rather than removing the back of the guitar in order to fit the soundwell, I cut it in half so I could jimmy it in there.

I cut a few arches in the bottom of the "soundwell" so that some noise could escape into the rest of the guitar body.  After fitting it in, I applied a heavy dose of wood glue to hold it in place

Step 2: Wood Puttying and Sanding Smooth

After the glue for the soundwell had sufficiently dried, I sanded off the tacky blue paint so that the guitar would be smooth and ready for a new stain down the line.  I also applied a heavy dose of wood putty to cover the seams between the two pieces of the soundwell, and the gaps between the soundwell and the guitar body.  For the sanding I used various grits of sandpaper and a trusty wood rasp.

Additionally, at this point I cut a new design in the headstock since I didn't like the original shape.

Step 3: A New Cover for the Old Soundhole, Test Placement of Pieces

I cut a new piece to cover the old soundhole.  The shape of the piece was only a temporary design, and as the project progressed I adjusted it to account for the placement of the cover plate.  The wood I used ended up being too thick, so I had to sand it down later.

In order to make sure this wasn't a complete waste of time, I put the resonator cone in and strung it up for a test play.  It sounded good, but it was necessary to adjust the string height.

Step 4: Cutting New Soundholes and Coverplate

I used a dremel to cut the new soundholes on either side of the base of the neck, having already determined the hole size with the test placement of the drainhole covers.

I used an old metal dish tray (another Goodwill purchase for $2) to cut the new coverplate.  In order to get the correct size, I used a piece of cardboard to cut a circle until it covered the hole in the soundboard appropriately, and then traced the circle onto the dish tray.  To cut the dish tray, I used cutoff wheels on the dremel tool, and then sanded smooth the cut so that there were no burrs.

I also cut a rectangular hole in the coverplate to account for the bridge.  Using a drill, I cut several holes of different sizes in the coverplate.

Step 5: Installing Pickup and Staining

The piezo pickup I bought cost around $15, and it was pretty easy to install.  In hindsight, I should have accounted for the pickup before gluing in the took some maneuvering but I was able to get the pickup input under the soundwell and into the hole I drilled in the side using a piece of dental floss attached the input.

For the stain, I wanted to get a dirty look, so I used a few coats of different color stains.  After finishing the staining and applying a coat of polyurethane, I superglued the pickup to the underside of the resonator cone.  It ended up dampening the tone quite a bit, but it was nice to be able to plug it into an amp.

Step 6: Applying Soundhole Covers and Coverplate

In order to secure the drainhole covers over the new soundholes, I glued two wooden blocks to the back of the guitar so that the drainhole covers cover be attached by a woodscrew to the blocks.  I spray painted the inside black.

I attached the bridge covers (two drawer handles) after drilling holes to screw them onto the coverplate.  I screwed the coverplate to the guitar body after drilling small holes around the circumference, and then I glued on the piece I made earlier to cover what was left of the old soundhole.

Step 7: Finished!

After everything dried, I reattached the tuning pegs and the tailpiece, and strung the guitar up.  All in all in turned out quite nicely, though next time I would probably forgo the attachment of the pickup since it did affect the tone more than I would've liked.  Also, I would pay more attention to details...the intonation for a few strings is off but unfortunately beyond repair at this point!

For a more abbreviated rundown of this process, check out a youtube video I made:



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    Nice. One possible suggestion for improved volume and freq response= drill 2 inch holes around the inserted cone support so the high freq also waves move through entire gtr body.

    Did you put steel strings on it? Because I read on a forum that a nylon guitar neck wouldn't be able to substain the tention of steel strings. ps: very cool project!!

    Usually yes. Steel strings are too much for a majority of nylon stringed guitars. The tension from a steel string is much greater than that of a nylon and can warp the neck and make it completely un-playable. However some nylon guitars have truss rods in them and can be strung using steel. I wouldn't recommend it unless the truss rod is adjustable and you cant afford a proper steel string, although for this project it will actually aid slide guitar style to have high action.

    Sweet! Could you upload an audio demo though?

    Just a tip about piezo pickups for next time. Use hot glue and keep it as close to the bridge as possible for best sound and volume.

    that was aawwwsome ill also try it thanxxxx

    that was awwwwsome ....i had a guitar so that i can also try it ....................................................................thanxxxxx for this instructable.............

    Too cool. Wondering how this sounds though. Did it alter the sound a lot or what? Looks interesting and unique for sure though.

    Thanks! I have to say it sounded much better before I attached the piezo pickup and the coverplate, but it still sounds alright altogether. Soon I will post a video of it so you can get a better idea of how it sounds!

    Thanks for sharing this excellent work, and for the captions on video!

    I would like to hear the sound of the guitar now, I suppose the music is not guitar, it is banjo?