Tuna-Fish, the Ironing-Board Electric Guitar

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Introduction: Tuna-Fish, the Ironing-Board Electric Guitar

About: Comics/Artist/Adventurer who loves to build/write/reverse-engineer. In love with all things artful that is functional. Still learning how to get things done or make things work. Follow me at instagram@chobot...

Build your own electric, stringed-instrument from out of household items.

Supplies:

Ironing board, thin gauge copper wire, bees wax, nuts and bolts, cup washers, wood screws, plywood or wood, clothes hangers, phone jack, plastic sheet, pole magnets, wooden ruler, electric guitar strings, drill with 1/8" bit, hack saw, record player, mono phono jack, instrument cable, soldering iron, multi-meter

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Step 1: Constructing the Pickup

Ideally, you'll want to work with a spool of thin copper wire. 42 gauge is ideal. Through two matched pieces of rigid plastic, drill a number of holes (one for each string of your instrument) and fit them with magnets making sure the polarities are oriented in the same direction. The drilled holes should be tight enough to hold the pole pieces snug in place. I used dabs of glue to prevent the 6 magnets from sliding out of their respective holes. Now start winding the copper wire around the perimeter of your pole pieces, making sure your start wire remains visible because you'll have to solder it along with the end of the winding to the rest of the circuit. I taped my start wire down to the underside of the plastic so that I wouldn't lose sight of it.

Step 2: One Way to Speed Things Up

You could of course wind your "bobbin" by hand but why not improvise. I chose to spin my pickup bobbin on top of a turntable platter allowing it to draw up the copper wire as it easily unraveled from the spool. Should the copper thread tangle and snap at any time during this operation, don't panic. The broken ends can be mended by soldering and then continuing on. At various points during the spin cycle, take a break to measure resistance with a multi-meter between the start wire and the point at which you've wound up at. Shoot for something over 5K ohms. When you're there, melt some bee's wax in a double-boiler and carefully dunk your finished pickup. The wax will hold the copper together and prevent oxidation.

Step 3: Putting Together a Fretboard

Use a plank of available wood or plywood to construct a fingerboard and groove notches for the metal clothes hangers to sit in. For reference I used a short scale Fender Mustang neck to locate my 22 fret positions. Two anchors with matching bolts and a piece of wood attached to the underside of the ironing-board allowed extra tension to be put on the frets so that they would not slide around during aggressive playing.

Step 4: Wiring the Pickup

Place your finished pickup down on the ironing-board... towards the end of the fretboard. I held the pickup in place with two screws and cup-washers. Locate the two wires, the start and end of the winding. Solder them to the terminals of a mono-phono jack.

Step 5: Adding Hardware

Six turnbuckles bolted to the head of the instrument function as tuners. Crimp the metal guitar-strings to each of the hook ends. At the tail end, drill through the ironing-board and substitute cup-washers in place of string ferrules. At the top of the fretboard, I attached piece of ceramic with notches cut for the strings. Bone or hardwood will do just as well. A long bolt with a set of nuts and washers serve as bridge and with proper alignment provide adequate string spacing. I added a wooden ruler as a means of string height adjustment. In the case of a 24 inch scale guitar, you will then place the bridge down 24" from the back of the nut.

Step 6: Play It Loud

Tighten up your strings by twisting the turnbuckles in turn. Best to choose an open tuning, like open G and play using a slide. Plug the instrument into an amplifier and play it loud.

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    7 Discussions

    0
    uncle frogy
    uncle frogy

    6 days ago

    I expect the next iteration to be a steel guitar your so close now maybe with pedal to replace the wammy bar?
    really great work.

    0
    ChoboTheRobot
    ChoboTheRobot

    Reply 5 days ago

    Thanks! Have been holding onto a steel ironing-board and waiting for inspiration. Now thinking of adding to it an on-board optical tremolo or go acoustic with the addition of something like a cake pan resonator.

    0
    uncle frogy
    uncle frogy

    Reply 11 hours ago

    there you go and ironing board dobro!
    uncle frogy

    0
    Meglymoo87
    Meglymoo87

    3 days ago

    This is really awesome, unique, stylish, fun, and innovative! Excellent work!

    0
    deluges
    deluges

    5 days ago

    Sounds very Ry Cooder-ish, I love it! Great job

    0
    Ham-made
    Ham-made

    13 days ago

    Hey ChoboTheRobot!
    There's loads of really creative and even laundry themed solutions in this build (coat hanger frets are brilliant)! Rad sound and great first Instructable; welcome to the community! Sole critique, it seems like a missed opportunity not to have used a vintage iron as a slide. Increasing the iron's accuracy as a lap steel slide, could be as simple as affixing a metallic rod to its belly. I'd love to jam with your ironing board in my musical chair one day!
    Cheers!
    Mr. Ham

    0
    ChoboTheRobot
    ChoboTheRobot

    Reply 9 days ago

    Thanks for the compliments regarding Tuna-Fish. Actually, I did try to use a full-size iron as a slide but with unsatisfactory results. Perhaps another player will succeed where I failed. Will visit the thrift store in search of a travel sized iron which might work well as a slide.