Make a Travel Practice Guitar Ver. 2.0 (with Video)





Introduction: Make a Travel Practice Guitar Ver. 2.0 (with Video)

This Instructable shows how to take an ordinary classical guitar (a cheap one, preferably), and cut it down to the smallest size possible for practice on the road, especially in hotel rooms. The final guitar fits in a large suitcase and is very quiet, basically like an electric guitar not plugged in. It is not loud enough for performing or playing around a campfire, etc, but is OK for practice alone.

It only requires a cheap nylon string guitar, basic tools, and a few parts you can get at any hardware store. It took me about a week working in the evenings to finish, with most of the time being waiting for glue or varnish to dry.

Note: this is a follow-up to this instructable (in case you want to know more about the whole development process):

Step 1: Get a Cheap Classical Guitar

I got a cheap guitar on an online auction site for around USD$30, used. The guitar had some damage, which probably made it cheaper than otherwise, but there are a lot of inexpensive used guitars available. The exact model of this one was Kasuga Guitars G-130.

Step 2: Cut Off the Guitar's Back and Remove Bracing

Just use a saw to cut the back right off the guitar, cutting lengthwise along the sides. The leftover parts of the sides at this stage will keep some of the rigidity and prevent the neck angle from changing, so don't cut them off completely yet.

You're going to be gluing/screwing parts onto the back of the soundboard, so remove the bracing so it doesn't get in the way.

Step 3: Cut Off the Guitar's Head

Just saw it off right above the nut. Leave a little space for where you're going to attach the strings.

Step 4: Put a New "back" on the Guitar

Cut out a piece of the original guitar's back (or another piece of thin plywood) the size that you want the final guitar body to be. It only needs to be long enough to reach from just below the bridge to the neck joint.

Note: the picture actually shows after the next step, with the rest of the soundboard already removed. I forgot to take a picture after attaching the back and before cutting off the rest.

Step 5: Cut Off the Rest of the Soundboard and Old Sides

With the new back attached, the guitar should have enough rigidity that you can cut off the upper and lower bouts and the butt end of the soundboard. This leaves you with the basic shape that the final guitar will be.

Now you can also cut down the overhanging bits of the back to the final shape.

Step 6: Make the New Sides

With the back and soundboard attached, you can measure the areas where your new sides will go, and cut them out of the old guitar's back or other plywood.

Step 7: Attach the New Sides

I used wood glue and some small screws.

Step 8: Shape and Sand Down the Headstock

You'll need to cut an angle on one end of the headstock as shown, because the strings will be coming around the butt of the guitar at a very low angle.

Also sand the finish off of the flat side of the headstock that will be attached to the back of the guitar.

Step 9: Attach the Headstock to the Back of the Guitar

I used glue and a number of screws.

Step 10: Head-end String Attachment

You'll need a way to attach the strings at the head (the far end of the neck). I drilled seven eye-bolts into the end, and threaded a long bolt through them, and capped it off with a nut. This allows me to just tie the strings to the bolt, one between each two eye-bolts. This needs to be pretty strong because it holds all of the string tension for all six strings.

Step 11: Butt-end

The strings need to be able to go around the butt end smoothly so that the tuners can function correctly. If there is too tight of an angle, or if the strings get caught at the end, they will break while you are trying to tune them.

Some rollers would be ideal here, but I couldn't find any good ones, so I bought some metal tubes and screwed two of them so that the strings go around them as shown. This works OK, but I still need to be pretty careful while tuning up. This is an area where a creative person may be able to make improvements.

Step 12: Finish the Guitar

Now the basic construction is done. I put a couple of coats of varnish on, and painted black bindings around all the edges just for looks. Then you can put the tuners back on and string it up.

My final product is 72cm long and fits in my large suitcase as shown.

Step 13: Video

The video shows an overview of the process with pictures and a short performance. You can hear that it's very quiet, really only good for practicing.

I hope you find this useful and get some good ideas from it. Please share if you have something similar or any good ideas about this kind of construction. Enjoy!

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30 Discussions

What about a small alluminium tube with a bolt inside for the string end? That way the string would force the tube to rotate being the bolt it's axis.

2 replies

There may be a way to make it work. The problem I had with that approach is that each string needs to move independently. I tried individual little rings on the first version of this, but they didn't really turn independently very well. If you figure it out, be sure to post. Thanks for looking and thinking about it!

And if you cut the outer tube to make individual 'bearings' an make a way on every one of them so the wires don't roll out of their way? Imagine it like a river bed.

For a version 3, I would take a small metal tube and flush glue it behind the nut

then drill 6 small holes into the neck behind the tube. Then you can use ball end strings with it, giving that end of the guitar a more finished look. Great idea BTW. Thank you for the instrucatable.

1 reply

That could work, probably (someone made a similar comment above, too. great minds?). Speaking of ball ends, I haven't tried this with a steel string, but my impression is the construction would need to be a bit more robust because of the higher string tension. Something to keep in mind if you're a steel string player. Thanks for the comment!

BEAUTY! I've been wondering about something like this myself for ages. I'm ging to try my darndest to make myself one of these. Thanks for the inspiration!

1 reply

Hey, nice instructible.

With step 10, you could drill holes in the bolt, then you wouldn't need to tie the string on, and the strings definitely would not slip.

3 replies

You would still need to tie the strings on. Classical nylon strings don't come with the ball end like most acoustic guitar strings. They aren't even knotted on an end.

Don't know what I was thinking... Lol.

I still think the holes would help, and it's not a major modification.

Yeah, if you drilled the right size holes, you could just tie a little half-hitch in the end of the string and avoid a lot of tying, and have more string to work with (it uses the whole string going around the far end like that, especially on the D and G strings). I don't have good enough metalworking equipment to drill precise holes in a bolt, but it's a good idea if you do. Thanks for checking it out!

Maybe you should get a bigger steel tube and set it in the corner, as I show in the picture. I don't know.. just a idea.

1 reply

Yeah, something like that crossed my mind, too, but working with a big tube like that is a bit beyond my metalworking capabilities. I guess you'd either need to make two longitudinal cuts to fit around the end, or make one cut and bend the tube to a wider radius. If you try it and it works, definitely post here.

It also occurs to me that a pipe that big might be a pretty significant amount of metal, depending how thick the sides are...

Anyway, thanks for checking it out and thinking about it!

I really like this, I get rust rated with not having a guitar when I go away. I may try this with a 3/4 classical...reducing the length even more!

1 reply

That would be cool, too, and would probably fit in a smaller suitcase or backpack. You could even leave some more of the soundboard and get a little more sound out of it if you left it longer on the butt end. Let me know how it goes here if you try it.