Thursday, May 19, 2011

CIGAR BOX GUITAR - Part 10 of 10

The final day of my Cigar Box Guitar Project:

At the last minute I decided I wanted the strings lower so I sanded some off the bottom of the bridge. Then the tail piece was taller than the bridge, so I had to cut some grooves to set the strings down lower. It was still close so I also put 6 screw-eyes in between to pull the strings down behind the bridge.

This is what it looked like before the screw-eyes were put in. I only uploaded this picture because Lucy was in it.

This is the actual final version.

The sound is sort of banjo-ish. It's very loud too, which surprised me. I figured the size of the box was proportionate to the volume, but I guess other things also affect the volume, like the kind of wood, and how thick it is, and where things are located on the top surface.

It's pretty nifty to have a tiny guitar I can easily tuck out of the way. It's small enough I can just leave it on the couch and it doesn't use up a spot. I've been just leaving it on the couch and so far Mei hasn't asked me to move it.

In addition to looking fancy I think the paper labels act a little bit like veneer as far as aiding in the prevention of expansion and contraction of the wood during temperature changes.

Here's what the Big Wolf sounds like unplugged. I don't have an electrified Wolf video because the amp is in a room too messy to film.
The only downside to having a tiny guitar is the tininess. Depending on the day, sometimes it's awkward to hold onto. It's fun though because it's so quick and handy.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

CIGAR BOX GUITAR - Part 9 of 10

Day 9 of my Cigar Box Guitar Project:

I bought a kit online to electrify my guitar for cheap. It would have been even cheaper if I'd have located the items myself, but in the end laziness triumphed! This kit is pretty nifty though, and I'm glad I went that route.
The pickup is just a cheap (so cheap they give you an extra) Piezo speaker, the same kind you'd find in Walkman headphones. By wiring it backwards it acts as a microphone instead of a speaker.

Before soldering I twisted the connections together and checked it in the amp. Everything worked fine on the 1st try. Yeeha!

After feeling confident it was wired correctly I soldered all the joints. I learned something about solder. It's much easier to solder joints when you get the low-heat solder. It's only good for small electronics. In the past I was using some harder stuff and it took a while for it to melt.

After soldering, I taped all the exposed joints with electrical tape, and then twisted the wires so they weren't going all over the place, rat's-nest style.

It was fairly simple to mount. The jack and the volume knob were tightened on with nuts, and the Piezo speaker was attached with duct tape. Thin strings are louder so it was mounted off-center toward the thick string side.
It's nice having the ability to open and close the lid. In addition to the obvious handiness when building it, it's also nice because I can store guitar picks in there, wedged under the screws in the corners so they don't rattle around.

All that's left if stringing it up! Woohoo!

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

CIGAR BOX GUITAR - Part 8 of 10

Day 7 of my Cigar Box Guitar Project:

I drilled a hole for the volume knob and another on the edge for the input jack, and then this dog was ready to for finish.

This is my new favorite finish. Minwax Wipe-On Poly (clear satin). With sprays I have trouble with runs and drips. This stuff goes on with a rag, so it's easier, and it adds a yellowish antique tint to the wood, and the more coats you use the better it looks. I used 600 grit sandpaper between each coat and it took about 6 coats. It dries fairly quickly for polyurethane - about 2 hours. The spray urethane I used in the past took more than 24 hours to dry. Maybe I didn't shake it enough or something like that. Who knows. This stuff is great though.

After the finish cured over night I screwed all the hardware onto the body. Since I cut the tuner strip in half it required one extra hole and an extra screw. I couldn't find the exact screw to match the rest, so I didn't even try. This one is brass.

I snapped in the sound hole grommets. Those were easy. The brass corner protectors took some time, just because there were so many of them. Eight. Eh, I guess that's not so many. Never mind.

Here's the back view. I'm happy with the color of the box. The neck is poplar so it has a temporary greenish tint. As it ages it will become golden brown.

Here's the top face. Oh yeah, I also put in some new fret markers. They are made from dowels. I put some of the Wipe-On Poly finish onto the fret markers too so they wouldn't eventually turn dirty and gray from finger sweat. That's another nice thing about this finish. I can control where I want to apply it. I only wanted the markers to have finish, not the fretboard, and it was pretty easy to do by dabbing the specific spots.
All that's left now is the electronics. Then the Big Wolf shall live. The first song it'll play is probably going to be Wild Thing.

More to come...

Monday, May 16, 2011

CIGAR BOX GUITAR - Part 7 of 10

Day 7 of my Cigar Box Guitar Project:
Before putting a finish on it, there are only a couple more things left to do.

First, a sharp ridge was carved across the center of the bridge, and 6 grooves were filed into it for the strings.

I attached the saddle with glue and dowels. The dowels are inside the groove so they won't show when the bridge is in place. I coved the edges of both the bridge and the tail piece because they looked really plain.

Tada! A bridge!

Instead of a big sound hole in the center of Big Wolf's wolf face I put 2 smaller-sized sound holes in the corners, clear of the label. The sizes of the holes were determined by the grommets I was able to find. Finding non-plastic grommets was a chore. I think I went to 10 different stores and came up empty handed. Eventually I found some louvered air vents and removed the slats from the middles, leaving just the outer rings. I won't pop them in until after it's been finished, because once they go in they won't come back out.
Basic construction of the Big Wolf is complete now. Next will be finishing and then making it electric. Stay tuned for more.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

CIGAR BOX GUITAR - Part 6 of 10

Day 6 of my Cigar Box Guitar Project:

Due to the shortness of the fretboard there's a 1" space on the neck where there is no fretboard, so I made a decoration to cover that spot.

This is a dry fit to show what it'll look like in place.

Also I started the tail piece. It L-shaped so it'll fold over the back edge of the box. There are 6 slots in it for the strings.

In the upper right corner of this picture there are some corner brackets. I wanted the lid to be held firmly in place when shut so these will be glued to the 4 inside corners and act as a lip. I believe that'll prevent the lid from shifting around side to side. Otherwise I think the hinges would eventually get wiggly and snap off.

Here's a dry fit for the tail piece and the bridge.

Sometimes when I'm concentrating on a project and I've been in the zone for a while it'll suddenly occur to me something's been gently trying to get my attention. When I look down I see Lucy shaking hands with my foot hoping it would get her a treat. Eventually I'll give her one and she'll be satisfied and flop down to fall asleep again.

Toothpicks were used to attach the tail piece to the body. After the glue dried I cut them off flush.

I glued the neck decoration in place and called it a day. Lucy tried to shake hands with the guitar. I suspect she thought it would give her a treat.
Stay tuned.

Friday, May 13, 2011

CIGAR BOX GUITAR - Part 5 of 10

Day 5 of my Cigar Box Guitar Project:

To make a gradient shade around the edge of the headstock I used some watered down Burnt Sienna acrylic paint. It was diluted extra just in case, so when I applied it I could keep adding more until I got the shade I wanted. It's about half way there in this picture.

After the paint dried I put a block on the inside of the box, and used that to screw through, into the neck. If I didn't use the block and just screwed the neck to the flimsy wall of the box it probably wouldn't have been able to support all the stress of the strings.

It had 3 screws, but just to be safe I drilled a deep hole and glued a dowel in for extra strength.

Here it is after the dowel was trimmed flush with the block.

After that, the labels were glued to the front and back faces of the box. Before gluing them down I burned the edges in a few spots. Playing with fire is pretty fun so I had to restrain my desire to go crazy with it. I limited myself to 2 or 3 burn spots per label.
And that's a good stopping place for today. Stay tuned.

Thursday, May 12, 2011

CIGAR BOX GUITAR - Part 4 of 10

Day 4 of my Cigar Box Guitar Project. Today I tackled the Nut and the Bridge. Below is a base or saddle for the bridge. Whichever you like to call it. It will hold the bridge upright.

Bridges are easier to adjust height-wise if they aren't permanently glued down, so a slotted base is what I like to use. The tightened strings hold the bridge down onto the saddle. If the strings are too high I can sand the bottom of the bridge down and then click it back into the saddle. If the strings are too low I can put a strip of veneer or some credit card plastic under the bridge. So far I've never had to do that, but the option is there if I need it, and I have been trying to come up with a good excuse to cut up some of Mei's credit cards.

Here's the Nut. It's wide at the bottom for sturdy support, and then thin at the top so the strings are resting on a sharper edge.

On the other side you can see 2 pencil lines. the lower line represents the fretboard surface. The upper line shows me how deep the string grooves need to be. The distance between those 2 lines is just barely more than the height of a fret.
That's what I did this day. It doesn't look like much but it did take a while since the parts were so little and finicky.

More to come.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

CIGAR BOX GUITAR - Part 3 of 10

Day 3 of my Cigar Box Project. I drilled the holes for the tuning keys and that completes the neck.

The holes aren't symmetrical, but that's the only way they'll fit on the headstock because...

...I'm not using proper 3-key left and right set of strips. Both are rights because I split a full 6-key strip in half. It's a tight squeeze but if I jostle things around just right there's room for it all.

Next the fretboard was glued on. The neck was made just a tad wider than the fretboard so I could sand it down flush with the fretboard.

Here it is after being flushed up.

My friend Bob helped me print the image I found online with a laser printer on slick paper. There are 3 different images on the page but I decided not to use 1 of them.

I glued one of the labels to the headstock. That fancies it up purty nice. Soon this little Big Wolf will howl.
Stay tuned for further developments.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

CIGAR BOX GUITAR - Part 2 of 10

Day 2 of my Cigar Box Guitar Project. It's not easy to find a chunk of wood 3 inches thick without paying big bucks, so I glued two thinner pieces together. This is better anyway when it comes to necks on musical instruments.

I can reverse the grain directions in the two pieces so if warping tries to occur, both halves will work and pull against each other and not let that happen. To reverse the grain direction, you just need to look at the end of the board, and whichever way the grain arches are cupped, orient the other piece in a mirrored direction. I suspect that makes no sense. If so ignore it.

I sketched out the edge profile and cut that on a band saw.
Then sanded the fretboard surface flat.
Then I sketched out the top face. It all has to be custom to fit the tiny fretboard.

These strips of wood were selected because the grain arches were centered pretty well in the strips. If you look at the sawn section of the headstock you can see the grain arches. If the arches aren't centered then later on it may want to warp and twist in a weird direction. Now if it wants to warp it will pull the same on both edges, and then the opposite piece of wood will pull in the other direction. It has 2 choices: either stay where it's at forever, or explode.

Here's the side view of the neck. Lucy was distrustful at first.

Later she relaxed and allowed it to coexist in her world.

Next the top profile was cut out on the band saw. I left the headstock big since I hadn't yet decided on a pattern for that.

Rounding the back was done on an edge sander. It seems like a tricky job but really it's pretty quick and painless. The entire operation took 10 minutes or less. If I tried to do it with chisels I'd have spent a few hours trying to get it even. On the edge sander I can drag the length of it across the drum on the end of the sander. Then rotate it a bit and drag the length of it across again, and just keep repeating that until I've went around the entire back face. To do this you need some pretty coarse sand paper.

Lastly I drew out a headstock shape to fit my tuning keys and cut that out on the band saw. The pencil marks show me where to bore for the keys. Since I cut a 6-Tuning Key Strip in half (in the last episode) the keys can not be symmetrical. It doesn't bother me though, since it's a clunky cigar box guitar after all. It adds to the whimsicalness of it.

Next time on "Cigar Box Guitar: The Series," I'll cut those holes and stick that fretboard on that neck!
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