Intro: Guitar Support
Caution: if your guitar has a nitrocellulose finish instead of polyurethane,
suction cups may leave marks. Likely they could be buffed out, but be aware.
A guitar support makes holding and balancing the guitar while seated easy. Supports take all of the weight off of the fretting hand and don't cause shoulder and neck problems one can experience when wearing a strap while seated. This support easily attaches to acoustic or classical guitar, bouzouki, mandolin, mandola, or in this case, banjola. The guitar does not have to have strap buttons. The support does not scratch finishes and will accommodate horizontal neck positions to high neck positions (classical guitar, banjola for example).
The cost of a store-bought guitar support ranges from $35-50 plus shipping. Some are made of wood and suction cups, or plastic and metal with suction cups, others are made of leather with straps and suction cups. I created with homemade support with dollar store / thrift store items.
Step 1: Materials & Tools for DIY Guitar Support
I purchased all materials for this DIY guitar support (except leather belt at a dollar store). Got the belt at a thrift shop.
A utility knife
One 2 - 2 1/2 " wide leather belt. 20-24 inches long
The leather should be a little stiff. The one shown here is braided. I did not use this one as you will see. Regular plain old, belt leather is best.
One piece of 1/8 " plastic sheet.
Enough to cut at least one 2" x 6" piece. I used a cheap "Betty Crocker" cutting board purchased for a dollar at a dollar store. Any plastic that is rigid yet can be cut with a box cutter will work.
Stick on velcro strips.
Strips come in packages of male/female pairs usually about 3/4" X 14" - 20"
2" diameter suctions cups.
These are often sold as holders with hooks. Just remove the hooks.
One 2" x 9" padded shoulder strap.
One side should be pebbled rubber or rubber. Strap must have some kind of "feed though" pocket for the belt.
$5 if you find an old pack or case in a thrift store. I borrowed one from my laptop case.
Total DIY Guitar Support Cost $10-$20.
It's quite possible to make your own guitar support for about $10 if you have a belt you can use or can get one from a friend, and if you forego the anti-slip pad or use one that you have on an old pack.
The cost of a similar store-bought supports ranges from $35 - 45 plus shipping. What's nice is that you choose the design and can customize to suit your needs using recycled material for 1/3 or less the cost.
Step 2: Cut Plastic for Guitar Support Leg
Cut a 6" x 2" piece of plastic. The plastic will be the guitar support leg. I used a 1/8" thick, cheap dollar store breadboard. Make sure that whatever plastic you use it is somewhat rigid though still thin enough to cut. Score the plastic with about 5 or 6 deep strokes per side then snap off with a pair of pliers. The scored plastic snaps quite easily.
Step 3: Cut Leather Belt to Size
Cut a 20-24" length of leather belt. Keep the belt holes intact on one end if possible. If you have a narrow body guitar, banjola, mandolin, you will use a narrower belt (1 3/4 to 2"). If you have an acoustic guitar, you'll need a wider belt (3 or 4") . Measure the depth of the instrument to determine the width of belt. It does not have to be the exact width. A 3 inch belt on a 4" guitar would work.
My banjola is 2" deep so my belt is 2" wide. The wider the belt, the bigger the suction cups.
Ignore the shoulder pad in this photo for now. Widen the existing belt holes so that when you push the narrow bulb end of the suction cup through it goes through but with effort. On one end, you'll want 4 or 5 slots spaced about an inch apart. On the other end, you need one slot.
Step 4: Attach Velcro to Plastic and Inside of Belt
Attach the stick-on velcro. I used male velcro on the plastic (6") and a longer piece of female velcro for the belt (to allow for adjustment). Attach the velcro about 1/2 " below the single hole on the belt. This end of the support will be on the upper bout of a guitar or toward the top of the bout in a single bout instrument like a banjola or mandola.
Step 5: Attach 1st Suction Cup and Plactic Support
Attach the plastic support to the belt. Push the suction cup "bulb end" through the belt hole. You can pad the top of the plastic support with tape if you have concerns about it scratching your instrument. The top edge of the plastic on mine does not touch the banjola sides, but I also placed the plastic beneath the suction cup so it cannot. You could also position the plastic further down the velcro strip, but I found that the closer the plastic is to the cup, the better the support.
Note: in the photo the plastic is above the cup. Move it underneath the cup.
Step 6: Add 2 Suction Cups to Other End of Belt
Push two suction cups through the slots in the other end of the belt. You could use only one but I found two gives greater support and stability. I have one suction cup at the uppermost slot and then skip two slots and push a suction cup through the fourth.
You could cut off the excess belt, but I kept it just in case. It doesn't really make any difference.
Step 7: Finished Leather Guitar Support Without Rubberized Padding
The leather guitar support is now ready for use. I found that it slid a bit on my lap so I added a padded, rubberized shoulder strap to the leather to prevent slipping. See next step.
By the way, it may look a little home-spun but when in position on instrument it looks good. I guess you could use black plastic if you want to that uniform tone-on-tone look.
Step 8: Optional Anti-Slip Pad
Depending on the type of grain and finish your leather has it could slide a bit. Mine did so I hunted through my storage and found an old laptop case's padded, rubberized shoulder strap. I'm sure you can find something similar in a thrift shop if you can't cannibalize an already owned backpack or case. I've owned and seen many such straps that are either completely made of rubber, or are textile with rubberized pebbling on one side.
The strap I used was about 9" inches long with a 2" slot that the belt goes through. The slot, of course, must be wide enough to feed the belt through. For obvious reasons, you add the last two suction cups after sliding on the pad. Make sure the rubber is opposite the suction cup side (though you'd figure that out).
The rubberizing really makes a big difference, keeping the instrument very stable.
Step 9: Attaching the Guitar Support
If you are using a fairly rigid belt, which works best, you may have to give the leather a good bend at the top of the plastic support to create a crease.
Positioning the Guitar Support on the Instrument
Positioning will depend on the instrument. For placement on guitar, see:
http://www.neckup.com/Merchant2/merchant.mvc and http://www.deoromusic.com/deoromusic/guitar_support_placement.html
The single suction cup goes toward the top of the body; the end with two suction cups goes toward the bottom.
For banjola, mandola, mandolin, and bousouki, you'll have to play with positioning a little. The geometry is a little different than with guitar because the instrument has one bout. With my banjola, the positioning you see here creates a high angled neck. If you want a lower neck position on a one bout instrument, move the top end of the support up.
I leave the bottom end attached when I put the instrument in its case so I don't have to reposition the support to find the sweet spot. On my banjola, I just remember that the edge of the suction cup is in line with the outer rosette ring. You could also take photos for reference once you've found a couple of good playing positions. The guitar support can sit on your left leg, across your lap, or on your right leg depending on how you like the guitar angled.