Introduction: How to Make a Simple Electric Guitar

Picture of How to Make a Simple Electric Guitar

This is a step by step instruction of how to make an one-string simple electric guitar.
This was originally experimented by Paul in the museum's Curiosity Lab .

Children should work with a responsible adult helping your with your project!

What you need:

    (1) 1x2 White Pine lumber approx. 12" in length
    24 AWG magnet wire
    Winding Jig (Instructable coming soon)
    220 Grit sand paper
    (1) Neodymium magnet 1/4" x 1/4" cylinder
    (1) Jumbo craft stick
    (1) #12 Screw eye
    Security cable 22 AWG strand
    (1) 3.5mm (1/8") Mono plug
    Steel wire
    Wire strippers
    Guitar pick

(Other tools + materials not shown in the image)
    Medium binder clip
    Soldering iron
    Hot glue gun

Step 1: Glueing Magnet Sandwich

Picture of Glueing Magnet Sandwich

1. Roughen up both sides of your neodymium magnet by scraping on your sand paper.

2. Cut your jumbo craft stick to make two 1" x 1" square pieces.

3. Epoxy the magnet to your craft stick piece.
*Please read hazards + instructions for using epoxy.

4. Epoxy both sides of magnet to create magnet craft stick sandwich.

Step 2: Winding Magnet Sandwich

Picture of Winding Magnet Sandwich

1. Slap magnet craft stick sandwich on the disk of winding jig.

2. Send copper wire through eye of needle.

3. Tape copper wire to the spinning disc.

4. Wind the copper wire around the magnet.
*100+ windings is recommended. Try and see what works best for yourself!

5. Cut the wire from the spool with a few inches of wire unwound from magnet.

6. Scrape enamel coating off of magnet wire about 1" from the end of wire.

Your magnet sandwich should now have a copper winding with two ends of wire dangling out and both ends exposed.

Step 3: Preparing the Plug

Picture of Preparing the Plug

1. Solder the security cable to the 3.5mm plug.

Your cable should look like the second picture below.

Step 4: Building Guitar

Picture of Building Guitar

1. Pre-drill a pilot hole in your guitar body (white pine) and screw in your screw.

2. Cut your steel wire approx. 8" longer than your guitar body.

3. Wrap the steel wire around your screw head.

4. Place your medium binder clip under your steel wire.

5. Wrap your wire around the side of the loop to your #12 screw eye.

6. Pre-drill a 1/16" pilot hole and screw your #12 screw eye into your guitar body. Use the screw eye to "tune" your string.
*Don't over tighten your string.

This is your single string guitar! It should closely resemble the last image shown below.

Step 5: Attaching Pickup to Guitar

Picture of Attaching Pickup to Guitar

1. Attach the exposed wires of your magnet sandwich to your security cable with 3.5mm plug.

2. Hot glue your pickup (magnet sandwich) to the guitar.

3. Staple the security cable to the guitar body.

Step 6: Playing the Guitar

Picture of Playing the Guitar

1. Plug your electric guitar into the microphone jack of your computer.

2. Open Audacity or sound recorder and play your guitar!

That's it! Have fun jamming on your electric guitar.


Ortzinator (author)2012-08-16

Where'd you get your giant scissors? I have some too. Mine were used in a tire factory to cut sheets of rubber.

aemj (author)2012-08-15

Has anyone tried to link this up into a circuit with a light bulb? I'm hoping to show that electric guitars generate electricity and thought it would be visual way to do this. I dont know whether enough electricity is generated to do this though? Any thoughts or adivce woudl be great!

whisper199 (author)2011-03-07

cool you mind if I use it for my homework

n0ukf (author)2011-02-17

I have found that at least some sound cards need you to use a three terminal (stereo) plug into the mic input, otherwise the barrel will short out the ring connection to shield and you'll get no sound.

Thanks - n0ukf We have not encountered that problem, yet. We will keep that in mind for diagnosing problems in the future. Thanks for sharing.

I also found when plugging a regular electric guitar into the computer's mic-in that the volume and/or tone controls would be noisy. I traced this problem to the DC put out the mic jack for powering the condenser mics. This could also potentially cause trouble (burn out the voice coil, or just alter the frequency response) for dynamic mics plugged in unless you add a DC-blocking capacitor in-line.

frikkie (author)2011-02-24

Sounds about a video so we can hear what it sounds like?

Mudbud (author)frikkie2011-02-24

Yeah, me too....

gbryanmiller (author)2011-02-22

This instrument is also known as a Diddley Bow.

pquin3 (author)2011-02-20

How many winds on the winding jig?

Hi pquin3. That's a good question. I have only seen the pick-up not work with less than 100 windings, though I recommend that you try different numbers and see what works best.

Khord (author)2011-02-20

Good work, reminds me of Jack White's introduction in the documentary "It Might Get Loud"

landru (author)2011-02-20

you've written "scrapping" and "scrap" where i think u want "scraping" and "scrape" ... in case u care

All fixed... Thanks landru!

fretted (author)2011-02-18

Love the Winder Could ahve saved 350 bucks if i would have just built my own great ible great for someone who wants to understand the basics of how a guitar works ....

Great Job

spark master (author)fretted2011-02-20

lindseys publications used to have a booklet on how to build a coil winder (think tube/ham radio needs). But the scale is whatever you like. I would want as fine a wire as I could get to make the coil more sensitive. (you can get more turns on the core)

mental man (author)2011-02-19

HOWDY hey ya gotta look up Diddley BOW on you tube and it will show you how to make what may be the oldest type of instrument in the world which is a one string guitar.

Yastobaal (author)mental man2011-02-20

Here's a great example:

landru (author)2011-02-20

have you experimented with different amounts of winding on the pickup? the i'ble doesn't give me a clear indication of whether the wire is wound around the pickup for two complete loops or 20 (or whatever)... but it is a great instructable!

also, is there a magnet field strong enough to be concerned about proximity between the instrument & a laptop's hard disk, e.g.?

duct tape (author)2011-02-19

Could you share a recording of it? I just want to hear what it sounds like before deciding to build it.

Dr Qui (author)2011-02-18

This must sound vile, I like it :-)

More of a Twanger than a guitar.

ilpug (author)2011-02-16

this is very cool. any ideas for making a multiple string one? i reccomend you use a hard substance like tough plastic for construction however, because the soft porous wood will absorb a lot of the sound. also note that in a real guitar, there is a metal piece on the outside of the pickup very close to the strings that improves sound pickup. Yours is covered in wood, so that might affect the sensitivity. very good simple build.

Good suggestion - ilplug. The simple electric guitar was designed to be the bare minimum you would need to make an electric guitar, based on price and materials. We encourage everyone to improve upon and experiment with this design. I will try using a hard wood today and let you know the results.

Murphy85 (author)2011-02-17

If you want cool tones out of this thing, instead of using a screw driver to adjust pitch, use a glass shotglass, or a piece of really high polished copper tubing. Congratulations, you now have a one-string lap steel guitar.

Good suggestion - Murphy85. We encourage everyone to experiment producing all kinds of sounds with their simple electric guitar. We have tried PVC pipe, screwdrivers, dowel rods, etc and look for more objects to experiment with to produce sounds. For a good song that features a lap steel guitar search "Sleep Walk".

ilpug (author)2011-02-17

thanks. good luck on the new build.

UrbanSurvival (author)2011-02-17

If you are going to build this, you need the right soundtrack.  Seasick Steve's 
Diddly Bo
 is all about making a homemade guitar, plus it is performed on a homemade guitar.  
Very cool instructable.

zazenergy (author)2011-02-16

Awesome! Thanks so much for sharing this.

Your welcome - zazenergy We love to share!

Kiteman (author)2011-02-16

Cool - any chance of a recording of one being played?

Kiteman (author)Kiteman2011-02-16

Oh, and how many turns do you recommend on the coil?

Good question. I recommend you try and see for yourself what works best. However, I have only seen the pick-up not work with less than 100 windings.

Good suggestion - Kiteman. We will try to get that up to our blog as soon as possible. Maybe we can share songs played on our homemade instruments.

young skipper (author)2011-02-17

Excellent, I will win all the ladies now. Thank you.


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