Introduction: Travel Guitar
In this instructable I will show you how to make a travel / silent / hybrid guitar.
It can be made with various timbers or even other items on hand like acrylics. I happened to have had some spare parts laying around from previous builds so I thought to put them to use. Various woodworking tools are required though, from a handheld router (trimmer), jig saw, chisels, power drill and various drill bit sizes. As for the degree of difficulty 80% is fairly straightforward, but the other 20% is where the detail is and that is where the majority of work is required.
The body design is loosely based on the Soloette Dragonfly, an out of production instruments now, with a headless construction. The wings of the instrument is based on my own design.
Being a travel guitar it is of modular design so I can disassemble and assemble it with an allen key. Not only that I can take various parts off it and replace or update, does take longer to make. Having said that, it also increased complexity somewhat with the various parts/modules. This guitar is also a hybrid guitar having both electric and acoustic pickups in its design, there are various ways of adding an acoustic signal to it, I just used a piezo transducer.
The parts were sourced from wherever I was able to secure supplies; - Ebay for the pickups and piezo transducer, the timber from a local supplier and the guitar neck direct from the manufacturer. Listing gives a fully supply.
Paduak timber body. 30mm(D) x 130mm(W) – local supplier
Maple neck (with a Floyd Rose lock nut cutout) – direct from manufacturer
EMG pickups & electronics – (humbucker and single coil) - Ebay
M2-M3-M4 – M5 – M6 machines screws of various lengths- button/socket head/counter sunk. – local supplier
Threaded inserts - Ebay
6 series aluminium plate – local supplier
GOTOH bridge and tuners – luthier retailer
Alder timber offcuts
Carbon fibre matting & epoxy resin – local supplier
Acrylic plastic sheet – Ebay
Items for building:
Various woodworking tools – chisels, router, hand saw, hand drill, files.
Optional: The guitar pedals have been mounted onto the instrument but that is entirely optional and they can be taken off if need be. I will briefly mention them in the design build as they are part of the modular items that can be removed.
Step 1: Design
For the design and construction I used a book on Guitar Making (many books available online) and also used online forums and tutorials, available on the internet. Depending on what guitar neck is used effects the overall length from nut to bridge, but that’s all covered in books and tutorials.
The design is based on the Soloette Dragonfly & Aria Sinsonido (body and headless tuners), the wings are based on my own construction broadly following an acoustic guitar layout.
First was to draw the outline on paper with relevant measurements and angles and make templates on 6mm MDF board. This serves as the basis for routing and cutting the timber.
Step 2: Cutting & Routing the Body
The template is transferred onto the timber body and holes are drilled outlining the body, then a jigsaw (or coping saw) is used to cut the desired shape. Once done, the template is used for the router to rout the outside edges to the final design.
The wings are done the same way, I used clamps to clamp the template onto the timber and using a straight router bit routed the edging. Where the clamp was in the way, I would remove one clamp and move it along, other ways is to use double sided tape. All cavities for the pickups, neck, electronics were done with a drill removing most of the material and a router bit to clear the rest. One could just use a chisel as well, just will take longer to do.
A round over bit (corner rounding bit) was used to rout the edges, 9.5mm and 4mm diameters accordingly.
Step 3: Headless Nut
As this guitar was ordered direct from the manufacturer it only had a cut out to install a Floyd Rose lock nut. I had to fabricate a headless nut to accommodate the guitar strings out of 10mm aluminium plate, with two wood screws for mounting. A far simpler method is to buy a guitar neck and cut the head off and mount a metal plate with six holes for the strings on the edge of the neck with two wood screws for attachment.
The headless nut was made in two pieces, one piece being attached to the guitar neck with two wood screws, and another piece at right angles with a mounting plate with 6 machine screws tapped and threaded to contain the six string retainers. Was far more complicated than it needed to be, was making alterations as I was going along.
Step 4: Fibreglass Moulding & Bracket Fabrication
To make the outline / wings of the instrument I used carbon fibre although glass fibre would be equally good. To make the mould I used the body outline of an existing instrument and used cling wrap as a realising agent. Lots of information on online forums with how to fibreglass and make moulds, etc. I just kept it as simple as possible for my build.
I used carbon fibre tape, 25mm in width and laid down 14 layers to build up rigidity, then sanded and used body filler to smooth the edges. I used acrylic sheeting 2mm thick for the outside edging, mounting it with machines screws (round over head).
To attach the moulded fibreglass to the wooden wing, I fabricated an aluminium bracket by hand. Drilling holes for the outline then with a hacksaw cutting it close to the desired shape and hand files to smooth it out to it’s desired shape. Threaded inserts were used for mounting the bracket to the wooden wings & carbon fibre body support.
Step 5: Neck Installation
The neck was installed with threaded inserts M6 with stainless steel machine screws button head style. A single threaded insert was installed for the grub screw to go in to contain the piezo in the neck. Aligned it up with cotton thread to make sure everything was straight before inserting threaded inserts into the neck. The good thing with threaded inserts is it allows room for wiggle to align everything up perfectly.
Step 6: Piezo & Pre Amp
As stated this instrument has a piezo transducer installed for an acoustic sound. The piezo was mounted between the neck and body, a cavity was drilled with a threaded insert for a grub screw to be used to apply pressure onto the piezo.
The pre amp for the piezo is mounted onto the body with threaded inserts. The actual pre amp was installed into a plastic electronics enclosure then is bolted onto the body of the guitar with allen screws. All wiring comes with the item so just followed the instructions as provided
Step 7: Wiring
As I used EMG pickups the wiring comes pre-assembled and it was a case of following the manufacturer’s instructions. Many online forums are available as well with how to wire the electronics. The electronic pickups signal is sent to a ¼ inch output mono jack and the piezos signal (acoustic sound) is sent to a 1/8 inch output mono jack.
Step 8: Electronics Enclosures (Optional)
As stated, electronic enclosures or guitar pedal enclosures have been mounted onto the instrument. They add weight and are cumbersome and can just as easily not be used and be mounted onto a pedal board or rack. The signal from the guitar is sent to a mixer pedal, one line for the electric sound & the other for the piezo sound. The signal is then routed to the next in line pedal or effects unit.
Step 9: Finishing
A coating of Scandinavian oil was used to finish off the instrument, two coats gave a nice finish. A set up was done with string height and intonation and tuning.
In the end it is of sturdy construction and works as originally conceived and am happy with the outcome.
Now to learn to play the thing!
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