Thursday, February 28, 2008

cigar box guitar building rules

I'm always looking for new angles on cigar box guitar building. I like to experiment, try new methods or materials in the hope of further improving the looks or playability and also for the fun of it. Sometimes they work - sometimes not. The last experiment was using classical guitar style machine heads requiring a slot to be cut out of the headstock. It resulted in me slicing a chunk out of my finger. Entirely my own stupid fault and I'm not sure it was worth it. I was hoping it would avoid the need for string trees giving me a steeper angle onto the tuner spindle from the nut. I found the angle was OK improving the pressure on the nut but due to the narrowness of the neck and straightness of headstock, there is a tendency for the outer strings to jump out of the threads of the bolts I use for nuts and therefor requiring some sort of string trees to guide the strings. My next experiment will be making nuts from aluminium bar with deeper slots to hold the strings more secure.

Another area for experiment is the bridge/saddle. So far I have tried using eye screws like many CBG builders but wasn't happy with the result. Most of my CBGs have saddles I make from hardwood like oak or mahogany, a sort of inverted T shape with shallow grooves for the strings. I was reading a posting on a forum about using banjo type saddles. They are narrow with feet at the ends which sit on the banjo skin and in fast look like the name suggests - a bridge. I got to the point on my latest build where I needed to make the saddle/bridge and rummaging through my scraps box, I found an odd thing which gave me inspiration. It was a broken slice of bamboo. Some time ago I bought some large diameter bamboo poles with the idea of making some percussion instruments. I had cut a slice off a piece but it had snapped in half forming a shape like half an onion ring. It struck me that the banjo type bridge could be made from a similar piece.
Using my bandsaw I cut a new slice about 6 mm wide then cut a piece about 1/3 of the diameter off it. I sliced a few mm off the outer curved edge to form a flat top. Then cut a narrow groove across that to hold a narrow aluminium saddle I made from some scrap. I think it looks and sounds good, I have fitted it to my latest CBG which you can see in another post.

My advice is, don't limit yourself to set ideas. By all means keep it in when when you find something that works well but try something new now and then, that's the fun of building these things, as someone said about CBG building "the rule is - there are no rules"


Anonymous said...

That need for 'string guides' before the nut is something I've been pondering too. I resent paying £2 plus for a string guide!
The plan at the moment is to use a bit of a brass hinge which I've angle ground. Just a plate screwed on the headstock area.
If I had a workshop of any sort I'd try making an angled headstock. The classical headstock idea sounded worth a try, but your experiences put me off!


David said...

The brass plate idea works great, I bought some sheet brass and just cut that up. The angled headstock is something I'll eventually try but it will add a lot more to the time spent making the guitar and I'm not sure the benefits would be worth the time spent. I like to keep trying new methods though.