String-tie Beads for Guitars/Uke’s

IMG_20150510_182803I use a variety of both nylon as well as steel/bronze strings in my ukulele and guitar builds and at times wanted a more exotic, yet still quick, way of tying strings.

Most often I use whats called a floating bridge, not really conventional, and when using a through-neck design on my builds the holes are often drilled through the tail end of the neck.

Well, I have hangers on my wall for one of my guitars and a ukulele and happened to glance up and see the G string broke. Probably a joke in there somewhere but anyway, there was a bit of string left but not enough for me to back it up and restring it.

I headed out and a few blocks down the way to Guitar Center and they had nothing but Soprano and Concert size strings and then down to Old Town Music in downtown Pasadena but the three story garage for free parking was closed. That pissed me off so I went back home. I ended up calling them but they had none in stock either. Like what the hell?!

I decided to just order on Amazon since I had some credit. In cruising around Amazon looking for replacement Tenor strings to order I came across an item called a string-tie bead that lets you quickly tie off the string and they sometimes increased intonation. Being intrigued, I looked into them further and found that these little rectangular, and round, time-savers are made out of a variety of substances such as plastic, stone and wood.

I thought well heck, I can make those. After about a half hour of research I sat down with my Dremel, pull saw and some dark stain and made a few out of some scrap maple wood I had to try out. Needless to say I was not disappointed in their use.

I was able to salvage the existing string and used the other beads on the existing strings. After re-tuning the strings, my ukulele actually sounded a tad bit louder and cleaner, the sound resonating better through the box. I ordered strings on Amazon anyway since they are so much of a hassle to pin down anywhere.

Quick Uke Bridge

I was playing around with some configurations on paper for a bridge mock-up that I could use on some of my ukulele projects and decided to just keep it simple. This is just a test bridge made from some wood ribbing of a cigar box that I had in my parts drawer.

I like the simplicity of this bridge and how quick I could cut it out with just a pull saw and some wood files so I will remake a couple from maple or something to use for permanently mounting rather than using a floating bridge all the time.


Cigar Box Electric Guitar

This is my first cigar box electric guitar that I started last July. Actually I started collecting parts for it back in July but didnt get around to start building it until September. The pickup is the one I made a few projects back, specifically to be used for this guitar project.

I used some small aluminum tubing that I bought at Ace Hardware to fit between the string ferrules and the bridge which will allow the strings to run right on through the body.

The ferrules, bridge and jack plate I bought online from bezdez on eBay. Some real good deals to be had from his store. Other miscellaneous parts like audio pots and jack I either had or got from Radio Shack.

The copper tape that I used for the inside of the cigar box I bought at OSH (Orchard Supply Hardware) for $8 versus other places that wanted upwards to $25. Ridiculous!

I’ll have a logo made to put on the wooden volume and tone plate. Its that size actually in the event I get inclined to add a second pickup so I have a place to put a three way switch.

I took my time with this one and it came out nicely. Plays nice as well.

Cigar Box Amp

My Aunt gave me an old cigar box some time back which has been sitting on my closet shelf so I decided to make a small practice amplifier out of it. I didn’t want to ruin the aesthetics of the box so I wanted to do something with it that was not very intrusive.

The electronics of the amp is made using an LM386 audio amplifier, similar to RunOffGroove’s Little Gem schematic and a 3 watt speaker. The speaker, power button and knobs will be housed under the lid of the cigar box as well as the input jack but I might make that the only thing intrusive on the back of the box.

For a speaker cover, I decided to do something a bit 30’s art deco to sort of match the label on the inside of the lid and drew out a cover. The wood for it is from the bottom of a cigar box from a project I screwed up on but saved the scrap. I drilled a couple of pilot holes in the spaces that were to be removed and did the rest with a carpenters knife, a small Japanese pull saw and some small files. I’ve been working on it infrequently during weekends but got quite a bit of it done over this past Christmas time. So far the project is coming along nicely.

DIY Pickup

I finally got around to trying my hand at spinning my own guitar pickup for a four string. I have always been curious about it so took the step after purchasing a small spool of 6,000 feet of .42 magwire for about $7 from a vendor on Amazon. Well technically this could be construed as my second attempt since the first spool I ordered was damaged so the wire kept breaking. The second spindle was great.

For spinning I had a piece of wood that I put a bolt through which would go into my drill as any drill bit would and used Velcro to hold it in place. I had a small box laying around and drilled a hole through it to retain the wire for feeding to the pickup and then used a box paper clip to guide the wire along with my finger for the back and forth horizontal movement while spinning. I have an idea using a reel from a fishing pole but that’s only on paper right now.

I visually spun the pickup with no counter to tell me how many winds but I did look up the reference for how many spins per minute my drill was capable of at high speed which was 1450 RPM. I would not be using full RPM but more half so I worked out how many minutes I would need based on that. I did previously modify a 99 Cent Store calculator for the endeavor but didn’t use it, opting for the quite simplistic setup I used instead. If I decide to spin more I will make a more proper spinner.

For the soldering of the leads I used a dremel with the smallest drill bit, drilled two holes and used brass brad nails which were perfect. I soldered the leads and used my test meter to make sure I had the correct ohms.

When finished I added four neodymium magnets at the bottom which are just a little larger than the heads of each nail used and tested the pickup on a test rig which is simply a 14 inch board that has a make-shift bridge, nut, steel strings and a couple of zither pins. There is really no design requirement for such a thing so your design can be any one as you see fit since it is just to test the pickup before going through all the trouble of mounting it in the project and then finding out it is a worthless POS.

The pickup actually sounds quite good for my first ever spun and I will update this post at some point with a sound file of it. I did not dip this (wax it) but I did wrap it in some twine for that old DIY slapped together look so I am curious how it will behave at higher harmonics. More will probably follow once I get it into a project I am working on. Please enjoy the pics from this project.

Guitar Hangers

DSCN0095I made a couple of guitar hangers (inspired by Brodafin’s YouTube channel) for my creations within the things I was doing this Memorial Day weekend.

Not having a band saw, I drew out the first one, held the three pieces of wood together in a vice and then used a hand scroll saw to rough cut just outside the boundary of the guitar drawing. After that I held them together with a clamp and used a hand rasp and heavy grit sandpaper to finish the shaping.

It was rather meticulous and took me several hours. A glutton for punishment I guess but I could at least brag about the sweat that went into making them. Anyone can use a band saw but not everyone works in the 90 percent range with just hand tools let alone have the patience for that.

So once I was done working on each guitar backing I rounded the edges a bit, sanded them with some light grit 220 and gave them a bit of stain. A bit darker on the guitar backings and lighter on the holder pegs. I may change the holder pegs though as I am bending towards not liking how much of an angle I used. It was as the Brodafin’s plans though. Anyways, I cant wait to finish them up a bit and install them.


Contest Hopeful

So I was asked to enter a couple of my ukulele creations in a contest so will see what becomes of it. Doesnt really matter what the prize is, I think a $50 something card or whatever, but it would just lay some recognition for my hobby and give me a light bragging right. I have entered two of my uke’s, my Cheapster (Tenor) and my Ugly Paddle Boy (Concert). Ain’t a uke until its got a nickname.


Ukulele Strap

For the cigar box ukulele I made I decided to make a strap out of paracord as well as a couple of strap buttons out of wood. I’ll add a photo of the finished strap at some point.



Christmas Cookie-tin Uke

Took a couple days that I had off around the holidays and made a uke using a small round cookie tin I bought from Von’s. Its Soprano size, not traditionally fretted with a 13 inch scale and sounds nice. I will use it for yearly Christmas decorations thats also playable. Its my first cookie tin ukulele and first soprano uke so Im good with how it came out.

New ukulele project

Working on a project for my Aunt who asked me to make my cousin a ukulele. She asked me a month or so ago and I finally found a nice Oliva cigar box to use for this project.

I really don’t have any extravagant power tools to work with past a couple cordless and do quite a bit using a handsaw, rasps and some wood carving tools.

One day I’ll get a nice table scroll saw from Harbor Freight or something but right now I kind of like the manual labor that goes into making something as it is a sort of therapy really. If it’s too easy then where’s the fun in that?

Below is my gallery of making this project from beginning to finish as well as making of a nice simple stand for it out of another cigar box I had laying around. The stand is a bit nice as the it will allow for storing picks, strings and even a tuner inside of it.