How to Build a Steel Resonator Guitar

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How to Build a Steel Resonator Guitar
A normal acoustic guitar can be transformed into a resonator steel instrument. (Gitarre image by Ford Prefect from

Resonator steel guitars are acoustic guitars that produce their sound through the use of metal cones rather than a hollow sound board. Resonators are used often in bluegrass music for their distinctive nasal, twangy sound quality. While vintage resonators are increasingly rare and hard to find, it is possible to fashion a homemade resonator out of spare guitar parts, some sheet steel and metal cones. As with most guitar modification projects, attention to detail is required.

Skill level:

Things you need

  • Resonator sound well
  • Resonator cones
  • Resonator bridge
  • Acoustic guitar body and neck
  • Tailpiece
  • Sheet metal

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  1. 1

    Cut a circular hole in the face of the guitar roughly 9 inches in diameter. This will form the basis of your sound well, which is the ringed circle that holds the resonator cones in place. Sound wells can be purchased from guitar shops or made out of wood. Make sure you have a sound well in your possession before you cut your guitar, because you need to make sure the hole is exactly the same size as the sound well.

  2. 2

    Glue the sound well into the hole in the face of the guitar. Use industrial strength glue (or super glue) for this task, as binding steel to wood requires a strong adhesive.

  3. 3

    Cut two sound holes approximately 2 1/2 inches in diameter around the bottom of the guitar neck. Each whole should be spaced evenly from the left and right of the neck. This is not absolutely necessary, but does allow the sound to project further and more loudly than it would otherwise.

  4. 4

    Attach a resonator bridge to the resonator cone, and drop the two into the sound well. The bridge must be attached to the bottom of the cone, and can be screwed on with an ordinary screwdriver. Make sure that your bridge and cone are designed to go together before you purchase them, as you cannot modify these parts without substantially altering the sound of the final instrument.

  5. 5

    Install a metal tailpiece to anchor the strings. Some resonator guitars come with a tailpiece attached, but since you are building your guitar out of parts you will likely have to remove your original tailpiece and replace it with a new one. If you cannot find a tailpiece that can be attached to a resonator bridge cover, you can attach a new tailpiece at the bottom of the body of the guitar.

  6. 6

    Cover the hole containing the soundwell, bridge and cone with a thin sheet of metal. There need to be holes in the cover for the sound to escape from the instrument, and most resonator guitar manufacturers carve intricate patterns into the steel cover.

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