Introduction: The Hero Guitar

Picture of The Hero Guitar

After my first attempt at luthiery with a Cardboard Ukulele, let's take it up a level.

It's not quite a mandolin, or a banjo. It sounds a bit like an electro-acoustic-12-string. It's related to a cigar box guitar, it looks a bit like a "Rickenbacker Frying Pan", it's almost entirely made from scrap, and I call it ...

The Hero Guitar.

Build one, and now you too can rock out with your chocs out.

If you like this, please vote in the "DIY Audio" contest!

Step 1: Materials

Wood:

  • 6mm Plywood (neck)
  • 3mm Hardboard (fretboard)
  • Pine blocks (heel, tail)
  • 9mm dowel (trim pieces)
  • Birch veneer band/edging strip: Iron or glue on (2m) (edging)
  • Ash or Walnut Veneer sheet (fretboard)

Metal:

  • 6mm Steel Bar (truss rod)
  • Cadbury's Heroes/Roses tin (23cm x 9cm) (body)
  • Steel plate/angle (bridge, string anchors)

Plastic:

  • CD-jewel case (scratch plate)
  • Clear packer CD-R (string anchor scratch plate)
  • Toothbrush handle (nut)
  • Plastic/rubber tubing approx 6mm (bridge padding)

Hardware:

  • No 6 x 1" Brass/Steel Roundhead woodscrews, and 4BA washers to fit (6)
  • No 4 x 3/8" Brass/Steel Roundhead woodscrews, and 6BA washers to fit (5)
  • 5BA Square nuts (8) (About M3?) - must fit 8 side by side in 50mm.
  • 5BA x 1" Round/Cheesehead Bolts (8)
  • Polypropylene Webbing/Leather Strap/Fabric Strapping (25mm wide, about 1 metre)
  • Eyelets, Thin Washers to fit (2 each)
  • Copper wire (1.0mm dia)
  • D-25/RS232/Serial connector hardware (hex posts, compression washer?, thumb-screw bolts) (4) (string trees)

Musical Bits:

  • Machine Tuners (8, with 4 Left, 4 Right)
  • Acoustic/Electric frets (pack 20 precut) or uncut fretwire, (44mm minimum lengths, 2mm crown)

Other:

  • Araldite "Rapid" 2-part epoxy
  • Cyanoacrylate/Superglue/Krazyglue White
  • PVA wood glue
  • Parker/Quink water based black ink

Electricals (Magnetic Pickup Option):

  • 2mm plastic sheet
  • 10mmx5mm Neodymium Supermagnets (4)
  • Ferrous steel screws/bolts, small (4)
  • Enamelled copper wire (magnet wire), thinnest gauge you can find!
  • Screened cable Mono 1/4" Jack

Electricals (Acoustic Pickup Option):

  • Piezo 27mm bare disc Screened cable Mono 1/4" Jack

Finishing:

  • Rustin's Pine and Ebony wood dyes (spirit based)
  • Rustin's Plastic Coat (2 part) and Rustin's Plastic Coat Thinners or Spray lacquer
  • Brasso/Silvo/T-Cut (for plastic polishing)
  • 600 grade "Wet Or Dry" paper (for wood finishing)
  • Steel Wool "0000" grade
  • Polishing Wax, Soft Cloths

The only things above specifically bought for this were the edging veneer (£3), fretboard veneers (£1.20), tuners (£3.19 set of 6, get 2 sets and have enough spare for that ukulele), and frets (£1.03) (all eBay)

Step 2: Tools

Usual light hand tools, but also :-

  • Scrollsaw/bandsaw
  • Powered hand sander/Black&Decker Mouse or similar
  • Drillstand, drill bits/Forstner bits
  • Old scissors/tin snips
  • X-Acto knives
  • Small hand files
  • Centre punch (for ALL metal drilling)
  • Minicraft/Dremel tool with millers, drills, sanders, cutting discs for fiddly bits
  • Clamps (G/C clamps, at least 4!)
  • Sandpaper/foam sanding blocks
  • Eyelet fitting tool

Step 3: Neck and Headstock

Picture of Neck and Headstock

The neck and headstock is made from a laminated stack of 6mm plywood pieces. A template is provided for the headstock shape but the rest is directly marked onto the top piece of wood, including a "rounded" end to match the inside radius of the tin (body).

Two pieces are the full neck size, one piece is only the headstock and fretboard section (which will later be cut in two and flipped over to the back to form the set-back headstock shape)

I first rough cut the pieces, stacked them up, pinned them on the centre line with straightened paperclips, and some scrap packing blocks, and then scroll sawed them as a unit. In the photos there are some "extra" pieces that weren't used in the final build.

A slot for a non adjustable "truss rod" goes into the middle piece of the stack. Because the steel bar is slightly thicker than the plywood, a slight notch needs to go into the top piece of wood. This notch needs to be a TIGHT fit on the bar lengthwise, otherwise it won't really help keep the neck straighter, and may rattle!

Using the pinning holes, PVA glue the neck stack together, and use Araldite to bond the truss rod well at the top and bottom end. Lay it somewhere flat with lots of weight to keep it together while it dries.

A heel block is cut from scrap pine wood, slightly thinner than the neck width. Scroll saw again, and sand it smooth.

The tuners are mounted by pilot-drilling a small hole right through the headstock, then using a forstener bit from the front side. This hole needs to be a good press fit for the tuner ferrules, before drilling a smaller hole from the back for the tuner's post. A forstener bit gives a nice neat round hole with a square bottom. Test on a scrap of plywood to make sure the fit is right!

You can now drop the tuners in and line up the pilot holes for the screws. Press a steel ruler along the body of the tuners to force them to self-align and rotate into a straight line. Make small pilot holes using the tuner as a guide, and then take them back off.

Step 4: Body

Picture of Body

The body is a steel chocolate tin. First consume all the chocolates, then mark up the folding lines for where the neck will come in. I chose the seam of the tin to be the destruction zone. The neck will be about 50mm wide here. I drilled a line of holes across to separate the tin (you could put a starting hole and saw this, or dremel across but do NOT slip!) before putting in four mounting holes used to screw the tin onto the heel block with No 8 screws.

Once these are done, cut (saw, tinsnip, scissors) the seam apart, and fold the wings in at right angles. Clean up all those nasty edges with a rough file.

A further two holes are needed, one at the tail, and one underneath into the heel block, which will mount the neck into the tin later. Again these need to clear a No 8 screw.

Now you can check the position of the heel and tail block against the tin, before they get glued on. All of the screw holes in the tin should line up with some wood to screw into.

Step 5: Neck Continued

Picture of Neck Continued

A couple of offcuts of dowel are used to neaten up the headstock-neck joint, cut them approximately for fit and then glue them in place.

The heel and tail block can now be PVA glued to the rest of the neck, check that the heel block sweep is entirely visible outside the tin, with the "square" part mostly inside. The tail block should be as far down to the end of the neck as possible to make contact with the tin. When the glue is dry, make sure the neck is straight and square to the tin before you pilot hole through the metal into the two wood blocks to take woodscrews. These two screws will keep the angle correct, otherwise the neck will end up leaning!

Now trim the lid to fit closely round the neck once it is screwed in place. Again old scissors or tin snips here, and clean up the edges. The tin lid should go on normally with the neck in place.

I glued some "veneer" panels (scrap plywood, cut through the middle core) onto the sides and base of the nasty pine block to bring it up to thickness and make it look nicer. Sand the corners smooth after.

Step 6: Veneering

Picture of Veneering

Some proper veneer now. The sides of the neck and the headstock are covered with three separate pieces of veneer. I didn't want to try and put the bendy section in the middle of a long piece of veneer. It's flexible, but it will NOT go round these curves without steaming it to encourage it.

I used one of the "spare" headstock pieces as a guide, and steamed the veneer over a kettle until it became more pliable, then pushed into place around the guide. I used some 1/2" copper plumbing pieces to push into the internal corners, and formed the middle of the strip (the top of the headstock) first, before doing the ends (the nut area) last.

After that, the straight sides are a doddle to glue (or iron, if pre-glued) into place. Don't try to line up the edges, leave an overlap on both sides, to trim off after.

You will need some kind of jig to hold the veneer on, I used elastic bands top and bottom, pens, copper plumbing to pull it all inward together. If you are using iron-on edging, glue this part anyway, it's too hard to get an iron in there!

When it's all safely glued, trim the excess off carefully with an x-acto blade, and sand it smooth. Blend in the joins at the neck end as best as you can. Superglue anything that looks a little loose so it doesn't come away!

I also swept some left-over veneer strip up the heel block. Again, steam the strips to get a curve into it so it won't resist. Trim and sand the edges.

Step 7: Bridge and String Anchor

Picture of Bridge and String Anchor

As this guitar has 4 pairs of strings, 4 adjustable saddles may work. But some 12-string guitars that use 6 saddles end up sounding out of tune (intonation problems) because of the dissimilar string gauges in the pairs. So, they use 12 adjustable saddles. I went for 8 individual saddles, which proved to be needed.

The bridge is made from a piece of scrap steel plate, which was already folded to about the right dimensions. You could use L-Angle stock too. The drilling/cutting template goes onto the metal to provide a guide, and eight holes to clear the bolts, plus eight holes for the strings are drilled through -- a drill press is essential here as the holes are very close together! Also, a couple of mounting holes, for later. Cut off the corners, and we're done.

I also cut a couple of reinforcement plates used for the string anchor points, from the same sheet.

The string holes are then slitted through to the top of the bridge (dremel cutting disc) to let the strings in and out, as threading them through is fiddly.

All this metalwork was "cleaned up" with a dremel sanding disc, which gives a weird pearlescent effect. I'm leaving that on!

Now you see where the square nuts come in. This allows about 11mm of adjustment, on top of any slanting/moving of the bridge as a whole. So we should end up with an in tune guitar. The eight holes for the bolts should be positioned to allow the nut to JUST touch the metal as it slides back and forth. Note, the eight bolts are evenly spaced, but the string guide holes are not.

The strings are attached to the body using eight split-cotter pins, and the two re-enforcing plates to stop the wood getting torn up. Align the plates to the centre line of the neck, drill through the top, and then pop the pins through. They should be a tight fit, and you should be able to get the bottom plate on too!

The strings will not stay on top of the square nuts without some help. Putting a "notch" wasn't enough, so here's plan B:

I soldered short lengths of copper wire, bent into right-angle hooks, to each nut. Make sure the nut's top face is nicely cleaned, with a file, and make sure the copper is shiny, and just solder it on. Any overhanging wire or solder can be trimmed away after, and ground smooth, so getting it lined up right is more important than being super neat.

Later: I added a retainer paperclip to keep all the bolts in line too. Take a large paperclip, and form it into a loop that fits tightly over all 8 bolt stumps. I also "turned down" the heads of the bolts, by clamping them in a hand drill and running them against a file, so that they didn't interfere with the string holes.

Step 8: Nut and String Trees

Picture of Nut and String Trees

At this point I put some temporary notches into the dowel "nut" to mark the string positions. Just transfer the marks from the template onto the nut and put a shallow V groove with a file.

"String trees" are needed to keep the strings held down firmly onto the nut, and to break the angle (side to side) of the string leaving the nut.

These are made from D-25 serial connector hardware, the hex posts, winged "compression washer" and thumbscrew style bolts were easily adapted. Screw them together with a drop of superglue in the thread. These can then be put into undersized holes in the headstock -- again check the fit in scrap wood to tap threaded holes in. Once you've used them to create the threaded holes, take them out again, cut off the thumbscrew part and sand/grind smooth.

I created a nut from a hard plastic toothbrush handle, cut to length, sanded to get an even width, and then slotted to match the dowel temporary markers. This can be dotted in place with superglue later, don't glue it too fiercely.

Now the temporary dowel nut gets carved up to receive the real nut. X-acto or saw a couple of neat lines across, and then mill away a cavity to hold the nut.

You can now test to see how things line up, and discover that the string trees are not quite in the right spot. The template provided here reflects the correct position!

Step 9: Fretboard

Picture of Fretboard

Fretboards are supposed to made out of a piece of hard wood. So let's ignore that and plough on.

This fretboard has a zero fret. Insert your own joke about hero to zero. So the nut is JUST for spacing, and the nut slots will end up being cut deeper than a normal guitar, as it does not set the height of the strings. A zero fret makes setting the string height almost automatic.

The fret postions are calculated in a spreadsheet based on a 480mm scale length, then converted into a template in GIMP and printed out.

A piece of 3mm hardboard is probably the wrong thing to use, and real luthiers will scream ... but ... I marked across all the fret lines onto the hardboard with an x-acto blade and steel rule, then followed up with a hacksaw. Do not saw through! It helps to have the fretwire/frets available to check the fit here. You need to be able to push fit the frets in with a little force. If the slot is too narrow, you will end up with a bowed-back fretboard when the frets push the wood apart.

The (ugly) hardboard is veneered over with a piece of ash veneer. Well, two pieces, as you can see, joined exactly on a fret to hide the join. Try and match up the grain patterns.

Fret dots. There are many ways to do this, here's mine. On the REVERSE SIDE of the veneer I cut diamonds out with a sharp X-acto blade. Again, see the templates. The diamonds should be down the middle of the slightly oversized veneer piece, and in my case lined up so that fret 10 is the join in the veneers. Save the cut out dots and keep them the right way round, as they will be going back in later.

Now the veneer can be glued on and shaped to match the fretboard, and when the glue is dry, re-cut (X-acto) and re-kerf (hacksaw) all the fret slots.

At this point you can finish the fret board a number of ways :-

  1. Stain it black, stain the diamonds pine/leave them plain, re-lay them in
  2. Stain it black, sand it back to leave stain in the grain only, re-lay the diamonds as plain
  3. Don't relay the diamonds, fill voids with black filler (see neck dots, later) and sand smooth

I went with number 2. So on with the Rustin's ebony stain. Wear gloves! The stain simply wipes on with a cloth, then leave it to dry.

Because you ignored all common sense that says to use a grain filler on open grained wood like ash, the stain will be sucked into the grain and look uneven. This is normal. That's where I want the stain.

Now sand the stain off again! Go gently, the veneer is only thin. After a very short while you should see this rustic effect, where the grain leaps out. Stop sanding!

The diamonds can now go back in, with a dot of PVA underneath each, and a brief sand over will level it up.

Then spray it over with lacquer to protect it. Leave it a good few days before handling, even if it does say "touch dry in 15 mins" on the can.

Now the frets can be tapped into place, gently. A pair of nippers/pincers should cut most of the excess off, and you can also carefully grind/sand/file the edges smooth with a slight bevel. If you run your finger along the edge, nothing should catch. I also dotted superglue onto both ends of each fret to make sure it was locked in.

Step 10: Logo and Neck Dots

Picture of Logo and Neck Dots

I was going to put a logo on the headstock, but now I have two excess string tree holes to cover. This addresses both problems.

Use a spare piece of the ash veneer to make a themed "Cadbury" logo. The shape was cut out and rounded over by hand to fit between the string trees. Tape it down with double stick tape, and then use a small engraving bit mounted in a minicraft/dremel drill, in a jig to fix its height and position. Remember, this veneer is 0.6mm thick, and you don't need to cut through!

The jig was made from scrap plywood, plumbing bits and some adjustment bolts to set the height. Test the height with a scrap piece!

Stick the guide logo onto the wood, and trace through, very slowly.

Now mix a blend of PVA wood glue and water based blue-black ink (Parker/Quink) and over-fill the etched name plate. It will shrink back as it dries, so overfill it. When it's dry, sand. Sand, and more sanding until the word becomes clear. An x-acto knife will pick out and little spots or bits that remain.

The same method provides for the neck dots. Copy the positions from the fretboard onto the side of the neck, and shallow drill the veneer. Then, overfill with the mix and let it dry. Sand it back to get the spots smooth.

Step 11: String Attachment, Scratchplates

Picture of String Attachment, Scratchplates

With the neck screwed into place, build up the level of the string attachment point to meet the lid. I needed about 9mm here. Then mark and drill holes in the lid for the cotter pins to pass through. I marked them off the pins and drilled from the back, to avoid damaging the paint job on the lid. I oversized the holes to allow some wiggle room, the metal plate shows through so it looks okay.

I made a mini scratchplate from the edge of a clear packer CD. This allows the artwork to be seen, but more importantly, protects it from getting scratched when passing strings through the pins. A little dremel milling is needed to cut the slots through from the template, for the pin heads. You can mask off the centre with black paint, or leave it plain. If you do paint it, you will need to mask the centre section and scrub it with wire wool to get a key for the paint.

The main scratchplate is from a CD jewel case, again to protect the paintwork. The shape is freehand marked and cut (that dremel jig again) and then tidied up. It bolts onto the lid in 3 places (one of the mounting holes pictured was removed later, for the pickup). Having rough cut it out, sand it smooth and use an x-acto blade to scrape/bevel the edges top and bottom. Brasso, Silvo or T-Cut can be used to polish remaining scratches out to leave a clean piece of clear plastic.

Step 12: Finish the Neck

Picture of Finish the Neck

Before assembling the rest of the metalwork into the headstock, the finish needs applying.

I used Rustin's Wood Stain (pine) to put a bit of colour into the birch veneer strips and plywood. Wipe on with a cloth and let it dry. I also stained the dowel/nut, but NOT the fretboard area.

After drying, coat all the stained wood with 7 coats of Rustin's plastic coat. I mixed 4 parts coating, 1 part hardener, and 2 parts thinners. Ventilation is needed (don't do this indoors!). Each coat brushes on, and after 1 hour you can repeat it. It does take quite a few coats to get a decent thickness, so don't skimp. Any little dust bumps or "nibs" can be knocked out with a gentle rub over with 600 grit "Wet or dry" paper. Once the last coat is on, leave it two days at least to cure off.

After two days: It looks glossy! But it's not a mirror finish or anything, that needs many more coats... and this is going to be a satin finish! One last light go over with "wet or dry" -- this time WETTED, to make it look uniformly dull. It feels wrong to take a gloss surface and make it DULL, but it gets better. Wipe off the slurry with a cloth, then go over it with the 0000 steel wool and some wax polish. Still dull. Then wipe it down and buff and buff. Now the sheen comes back!

Step 13: Bridge, Intonation, Fretboard Setup

Picture of Bridge, Intonation, Fretboard Setup

Time to finally assemble the headstock properly. Screw everything into place. If the pilot holes for the tuner screws are tight, redrill them a little larger. It's looking shiny.

At this point, I built up the area where the bridge is going. Again about 9mm, to meet the lid of the tin.

The bridge gets put in place with a thin shim of cardboard under to protect the lid. The strings are put on and brought up to tension, and it's time to work out where the bridge and fretboard go. The fretboard should slide in under the strings. You are looking for the strings to be in tune, when "open" and for there to be an EXACT octave when you press at the 12th fret. For all 8 strings individually. If the strings are generally all sharp, the bridge needs moving away, and vice versa. You can do this by ear, or by tuner. Start at about 480mm and adjust accordingly.

In my case, the action (string height) was too high at the 12th fret and beyond, leading to the notes being quite sharp, and hard to hold down. Lowering the bridge was not an option: It was already flat on the lid. So I created a tapered shim (plywood again) to adjust the whole fretboard to a better angle. It was only a few millimetres, but it mattered!

Having established the correct spot for the bridge, and that there's enough wiggle room in the adjustable saddles to get all the notes in tune, I marked (and pilot drilled) the bridge through the lid, into the wood below.

Now the fretboard's right, I stained (black) and plastic coated the edges of the hardboard/plywood laminate and polished it up. It's ready to stick into place!

Because the neck does change shape slightly when tensioned, nothing major, but it does change the fretboard shape, I took the decision to glue the fretboard on while the strings were fitted and tensioned. This was fiddly, but with the aid of four clamps and a straight caul to protect the frets, it worked out fine. Apply the glue in the gap between the strings (lengthwise) and spread it side to side with a spatula under the strings. Slide in the fretboard and get clamping. Expect some glue squeeze out, a damp cloth is essential here. Adjust the clamps to take any last bias out of the fretboard. In my case, I checked up and down the neck for any buzzing frets, which indicated the fretboard needed a little extra squeeze here and there. Yes, if you use a narrow enough caul you can play the strings with all those clamps on!

Leave the glue to dry. When the clamps and caul came off, the neck was set pretty much right.

Step 14: Finish Up the Body

Picture of Finish Up the Body

Disassemble and take off the strings one last time!

The tension of the strings changes the lid and body shape slightly. I added some screws to keep the lid in its correct place, with wood blocks on the inside of the tin for them to screw into. The holes were drilled through the metal, and then wood blocks glued (araldite) behind them. Later, a pilot hole for the screw goes in, and a number 4 screw with washer holds it down.

The bridge, which is still free floating, needs screwing or bolting down. You can just screw it in place, I used a couple of threaded spacers and bolts to give me a little adjustment room to raise/lower it.

Splay out the cotter pins fully so they won't pull back through

Step 15: Magnetic Pickup

Picture of Magnetic Pickup

There's plenty of instructables on winding your own pickups, this is what I did.

Cut two pieces of plastic to form the top and bottom plate. Glue 4 supermagnets at 14mm spacing (the inter-string distance), with all the same poles pointing upward. To find the poles: Stick all four together and mark one end with a pen. Slide off the magnet, mark the end of the remaining magnets. Repeat.

This next step is easier to do if you stick the whole thing to a steel plate, but still be careful not to pinch your fingers, or glue yourself to it!

In the top plate, screw four steel screws, they need to be attracted to a magnet. No brass or stainless steel, please. Pack the underside up with steel washers to the required depth, and cut off any excess point from the screws. Superglue all the washers together. There should be about 9mm gap, magnets and washers, when you're done.

Wrap the magnets with scotch tape as a barrier, and put araldite between them in the 3 spaces to keep them apart/pot them in, so they don't move in future.

Glue the top and bottom plates together, that's steel washers glued onto magnets. The magnets will try and align it, hopefully correctly, if not, persuade it straight!

I used an old Post Office relay coil as a source for wire -- it is heavier gauge than normal pickup wire, so easier to handle, but that means fewer turns will fit on. I wound a first layer of scotch tape to cover the washers, and then started winding, and winding .... with the relay coil mounted in a dremel chuck (not powered!) paying out, and the pickup coil mounted on a geared hand-winder, start cranking and guiding the wire. If it breaks, you can join it by soldering the ends together, but check that it REALLY has soldered on. You don't need to insulate these breaks, just wind the remaining layer straight over to bury them.

To check the coil -- remove the coating from the start of the winding, and use a multimeter to check the resistance from the start to your join, if you get a reading, keep going until the next break, or you run out of space! At the end, take the coating off and check one last time.

When you're finished, put a last layer of scotch tape over, and join a short length of screened cable to the coil ends. Thread that through a "strain relief" hole in the side plastic cheek. Superglue the screened cable in place, then push the cheek in and glue that too. Complete it with the final plastic cheek, and two faces (I used some white card), again superglued in.

The final coil resistance was 550 ohms, which is much lower than a usual guitar pickup, but it gives a very bright sound, even with these old strings. With super magnets, the signal is strong enough to use into an amplifier or guitar FX pedal.

I overwrapped the whole pickup with a "Heroes: Mini Cadbury Fudge" wrapper, because if you can have "bar of soap pickups", and "lipstick pickups", you can have a chocolate bar pickup on this.

Step 16: Piezo Pickup

If you can't face winding all that wire, or just want a more acoustic (banjo-ish) sound, then you can also mount a piezo disc on the lid. Attach a screened wire (screen to the brass disc, centre/signal to the white centre) and glue it to the underside of the lid, somewhere the lid is free to move.

You get some handling noise though, more than with the magnetic pickup.

Step 17: Wiring

Picture of Wiring

Add a jack socket hole to the body, and mount the socket with a short screened cable length. Signal (centre) goes to the TIP of the jack, and ground/screen goes to the BODY of the jack. I also put a single turn of stranded wire around the plastic socket's neck to get a good body ground. A metal bodied socket would eliminate this step.

I also added two more ground wires, one to the lid (attached to the scratchplate bolt) and also to the hole where the bridge comes through (to ground the bridge and strings). The end of this wire is bared for about 1 inch, and wound round the bridge bolts when the lid is fitted.

Join the two ground wires with the pickup screen, and then to the jack screen by soldering, then join the pickup (signal) to jack (signal) and insulate it. Wiring done. No controls, pots or switches to worry about

Step 18: Finishing Up

Picture of Finishing Up

Final assembly time: Put the lid on, fit the bridge, string it up (maybe even with some new strings) and check and adjust the intonation one last time. Check each string individually, and expect the fatter strings in each pair to need to be a longer length than the thin strings. You may have to back off the string tension to move the saddles back and forth each time.

Later: I added a split plastic/rubber tube piece over the sharp bridge edge to rest my hand on -- this can be easily removed for restringing, and doesn't seem to need to be glued on.

I also made a strap, from some webbing. Fold the end over and stitch it to stop it fraying, then put an eyelet through a washer (on the back-side), and crimp it down. The existing tail screw should pass through one end, and a cut-off screw into the back of the headstock provides a second anchor point.

Step 19: Tuning and Strings

If it was sensible to put it into CADB-ury tuning, I would. However, I set this one up in open G tuning (GDGB), which means the strings are about the same tension as in their role on a normal guitar.

You can tune anyway you want, but bear in mind that you will need to work out your own string gauges. Too tight, and they may snap, or bend the neck. Too slack, and the intonation will be off.

The old recycled strings I set this up with are as below :-

(Electric: Extra light set 9P/12P/16P/22W/32W/42W)

(Acoustic: Lights 12P/16P/24W/32/42/52)

  • 8 Wound E String (0.042) tuned to G
  • 7 Wound D String (0.022) tuned to G octave
  • 6 Wound A String (0.032) tuned to D
  • 5 Plain G String (0.016) tuned to D octave
  • 4 Wound D String (acoustic) (0.032) tuned to G
  • 3 Plain E String (acoustic) (0.012) tuned to G octave
  • 2 Plain B String (0.012) tuned to B
  • 1 Plain B String (acoustic) (0.016) tuned to B

But the tuning crib sheet in the last step shows a better matched set of strings, using only electric extra-lights. This crib sheet can be printed and stuck over the barcode on the back of the tin!

Step 20: Files

The fret calculator for the 480mm scale length is attached (Open Document Format), and some scale plans (300 DPI = full size) of the layout, in PDF and PNG format.

The mp3 files show how it sounds, on the pickup (clean), into an amp, and when recorded acoustically with a microphone.

And thanks for reading all the way down here :)

Comments

technovative (author)2015-03-13

I appreciate the ingenuity of this well executed and documented very original build. I dig the unique sound of this instrument.

cryophile (author)2015-03-31

This is awesome! Have you tried building an oil can guitar? I'm puzzling over how one would make one and leave the oil can looking intact.

MikB (author)cryophile2015-04-01

I've not tried that -- had to Google to see what you meant, as I first pictured an oil-DRUM (55 gallon, that would make a HUGE roundback acoustic instrument -- chop an oil drum into two D-shaped halves!). I guess you can keep the can mostly intact, but cut a square-ish hole in the centre of the original top-of-can to insert a though-body neck that reaches all the way to the bottom of the can (tail). I think you'd need to do it that way, as the can doesn't have the strength to take tensioned strings. Everything else can be fitted on from outside, or fed in through that hole and pulled up through body holes (strings and weights as fishing lines, like when guitars get the pre-wired guts fed in through the f-hole and pulled back out in all directions!)

Leave the original screw-cap on, or maybe adapt that to be a novel volume control!

Sounds fun!

Mihsin (author)2015-03-16

You must have 9 lives. This thingy you made looks great. If I'm into music I'd rather buy one from you. I enjoyed reading through the whole instructable.

BadPuns (author)2015-03-14

Mandolanjitar...

Not to be confused with a minitaur, which isn't nearly as cool.

seamster (author)2015-03-13

Wow, this is really an impressive build! And so thoroughly documented too. Very nice work all around!

MikB (author)seamster2015-03-13

Thanks! I hope it prompts someone else to look at a pile of leftover bits and think ... what could that become?

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Bio: Software geek, electronics enthusiast, musician, artist ... I enjoy making stuff, and discovering new things!
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