Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Fuente Resonator (IW#007)

My fellow hack luthier and I have been wondering about the possibility of making a resonator guitar using a pie tin as the resonator.  This is my first attempt, and I have to say I am underwhelmed.  Maybe because a pie tin is stamped instead of spun, it does not bounce the sound back out very well.  There are a couple of nice parts, though, I really dig the flea-market fork as the tail piece, and the bolt that is the nut is an actual piece of detritus that I found in the gutter, so that is good.  The scale is pretty short, and is strung with tenor banjo strings tuned DGBE.  All in all, I think I am going to find something else to do with the other pie tins I bought, this design is less than satisfying.  Here's how it sounds:

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Tim's Saphire Banjo (IW#006)

I got a very nice message from a friend in Maine asking me if I would make him a banjo.  I was happy to say "yes," but as I got deeper into this project one thing above all  others became painfully apparent:  there is a reason that people study for years to become luthiers.  An old chunk of lumber nailed to a cigar box is one thing, an actual working five string banjo is quite another.

As can be imagined, the hardest thing here was carving the neck and keeping the proportions right.  I learned a lot, was humbled a lot, and in the end came out with a reasonably serviceable banjo.  It is a little muted, I realised, because the oil can is closed.  I am not sure where to put a sound hole, though.  And the action is a little high as well, which has to do with the placement of the neck vis-a-vis the oil can.

The neck is carved out of long-leaf pine that has for the last hundred years held up the roof of a warehouse here in town.  When the building was gutted last year I got my hands on some of the beams and have been using the wood for a lot of projects.  I love the smell of it, and the feel of it too.  It has a lovely warm tone, and the smell is a hot old attic, nostalgic and comforting.
I had to do some serious trickery to use the guitar tuner for the fifth string.

 In the end IW #006 is fun to play, mostly because you can feel the rust scale under your hands as you play so that there is a tactile reminder of the fact that you are playing an oil can.  Which is a good thing for a number of reasons, not least because I feel that we all could stand to be reminded more regularly about how silly we are as humans.  What a fun project.  Thanks Tim!  I hope you enjoy it and play it with a smile on your face.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

A guitar for Zep (IW#005)

We had the privilege of caring for a wee kitten this past weekend, an orphan that was left in a shoe box in front of a local vet.  He is just darling.  Any orphan is going to have the blues, for sure.  And anyone with the blues needs a way to express that.  But Zephyr J. Boynton is too small to play a big guitar, so I made him a small one ot take home with him.

Obviously a rubber band does not make much sound, but I have an old banjo string that I want to try out on an Altoid tin and see if I can make a weensie little canjo.  My toddler son also picked this up and loved playing with it, it is a good size for small hands, and less dangerous than the IW#002 Canjo, which he also likes to play with an awful lot.  That canjo has a pretty long chunk of broom handle on it though and he is not too good at sensing where the end of it is yet.  So an Altoid canjo might be a good fit for people his size.