Tuesday, June 29, 2010


I am playing around with the idea of having an atypical tail piece for the guitar I'm building. There is a strong possibility I'll regret the time I'm spending on this tail piece. It may look gaudy and corny. When it's finished and sitting on the body next to the rest of the hardware I can judge better.

I bought a Gibson-style tail piece and it's ready to go if this idea fails. My thinking was since the guitar has stripes in it from the different wood species, maybe I could incorporate a stars and stripes flag motif into the design. I don't think I'd paint it red, white and blue. It would just be a subtle implication.

First a piece of aluminum was sliced down to 3/8" thick. This stuff is pretty soft; you can cut it on a plain ol' bandsaw.

Next I drew my star shape onto the piece with a Sharpie. I drew it close to the edge so I wouldn't need to do as much cutting. The red lines are going to be slots for the strings to pass through. I measured the spacing to match the bridge. The 2nd and 5th lines had to be slanted so they didn't run through the bottom points of the star.

The star shape was cut out on the bandsaw. Aluminum heats up really fast. It's good to keep a bucket of water handy and dip the piece every once in a while. That saves your fingers.

The string slots were cut next. The star was stood up on edge with a support block behind it, and the slots were cut on a bandsaw. All the slots are the width of the bandsaw blade except for the last 2. The 2 thickest strings needed more room so those slots were widened just a tad. This will be the bottom face of the tail piece. Each string has a metal ball on the end of it to catch at the beginning of the slot, and the rest of the string will pass through and out the other end to the bridge.

Then the tough part began. I wanted to shape a beveled edge onto the top face so it didn't look so plain. This was done with grinding wheels and files. Even using a file will heat up the aluminum. I dipped it in water often during this stage.

Here I'm still working on getting the corners sharp but it's taking shape. After the final shape is achieved I will use progressively finer grits of sand paper to smooth the surface. Eventually I will polish it and it will shine like a mirror. Also I need to think of a way to attach it to the guitar body. I may need to drill 3 small holes through it for screws.
All of this depends on what it looks like when it's done. If it looks silly I may scrap the idea and use my standard tail piece. I hope I didn't do all this work for nothing.


  1. I vote standard tailpiece. Starting up a Kiss cover band? OK, that was snotty. Sorry.

  2. Thanks Willy!

    Mykal, Ha ha! I may go the standard route. I had a mental image of a something cool but I don't know if it's gonna look right in real life.

    I guess I didn't waste my time if I don't use it. I can put it on something else later.


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