X-0117D A Guitar prototype

Jan 7th, 2017

In late 2016 I started ordering parts and collecting tools to build a custom guitar of my own design. I came up with the idea through the need of having unique folk style instruments to play in my band Catchlight. I received a Seagull M4 for Christmas of 2015, and enjoyed using in at live shows. It wasn't long before I found limitations with the merlin because the guitar was a stick dulcimer (handheld), which is a diatonic instrument. I am now in the process of building a chromatic prototype “X-0117D” guitar that will be a mix of a handheld dulcimer and a cigar box guitar.

For the prototype I have bought main components to piece together for a test run. I have found a fully fretted fret board, a neck and tuning machines at cigarboxguitar.com. The body is a small wooden box from a craft store.

Neck joined to body

I have attached the neck to the body. So far I have learned that I will need at least a small table saw if I would like to make accurate work. I made a notch cut in the neck to fit the body with a scroll saw, at which it did not make a clean 90˚ cut. This caused problems with not making the neck flush with the top of the body. I corrected this the best I could with a file.

Jan 8th 2017

Tonight I mounted the fret board, tuning machines and the bridge. For the tailpiece I used a small surface hinge for a cabinet. I like this idea because it adds character to the project. I’m not sure if I will continue with this method or use a modified mandolin bridge. At first I was worried that the tailpiece will not be low enough to hold tension to the bridge, but I think it will work out.

Jan 9, 2017

Tonight I have finished the prototype and I am over all pleased with the outcome.

Complete design

Pros:

It stays in tune and plays better than expected. I first tuned it to (E) (A) (E) thinking that I should stick to root notes and bar cords both of low and high register. Later I tuned to (D) (A) (D) and found this more comfortable and familiar because that is how I tune the dulcimer. Lately I’ve been jamming in (E) (A) (D) tune which is like the top three strings on a guitar. This plays great and I am thinking that this will mix the best with playing along with someone on a different instrument.

At first I wasn’t pleased with the tone but then I added a sound hole that made everything boom. I’m not sure about the through neck now, and I think that I will stop the neck at the body for the next prototype.

Cons:

The surface hinge tailpiece has holes that are too large to stop the balls ends of the guitar strings from passing through. I had to basically tie them to the tail piece.

The tone is still a little lacking but I think that a solid bridge and better quality wood wound help.

I ended up not liking the scale and think that I should try a ukulele neck, or try my own fret scale.

The neck and string spacing seems a little wide but with the threaded rods that I used for the nut and bridge, I am able to adjust and experiment with that.

Jan 12, 2017 - Final thoughts

Overall I am very pleased with how the prototype outcome and I think that it was successful enough to continued experimenting with this project. Next I will use the same process to built a new prototype using a ukulele neck for a shorter scale test, and a (G) (B) (E) tuning like the bottom strings of a guitar.

If that is successful I will start prototyping the hand made custom body.

My long term plan is to offer two types of instruments. One, a long scale for rhythm guitar, and the other a shorter scale for lead.

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