Lots of luthiers get their start cobbling together a biscuit tin guitar. You won't need many tools; the few that you do need are easily wielded and, more than likely, are already in your catch-all kitchen drawer. Once a staple in Appalachia and the Delta, the biscuit tin used as a resonating chamber shows just how intuitive instrumentation can be, and as the current culture continues to shift toward reusing and recycling, biscuit tin guitars are returning in popularity.
- Skill level:
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Things you need
- Biscuit tin
- Guitar neck
- Box cutter
- 2 2-inch screws
- Power drill with 5/8-inch auger bit
- 1-by-1-inch maple plank, 24 inches long
- Tape measure
In the middle of the guitar neck's heel -- that part of the neck that butts against the instrument's body -- drill a hole 5/8 o an inch in diameter and 1 inch deep. This is most easily and cleanly done with a power drill and a 5/8-inch auger bit.
Round and taper one of the square ends of the piece of maple with a power sander. Try to insert this tapered end into the hole in the heel often, making small adjustments to the tapered end with the sander until it fits tightly into the heel's hole. Once it does fit into the hole, cover the tapered end with wood glue and leave it fitted in the hole for 24 hours.
Measure the distance from the face of the guitar's fret board to the top of the dowel stick. Then measure the same distance from the face of the biscuit tin down onto its side and make a 1-inch, horizontal mark with a marker.
Outline a 1-inch-by-1-inch square using the first mark as the top of the square. This square is where the dowel rod will enter the side of the biscuit tin, and it is located so that the face of the fret board will be flush with the face of the cookie tin.
Place the box cutter's blade along the outline of the 1-inch square and tap the other end of the box cutter with a hammer until it punctures the tin. Cut along the entire square outline in this manner.
Measure the diameter of the biscuit tin. Measure the same distance from the heel of the guitar down the glued-in dowel stick. Make a mark and cut through the dowel stick at this mark with a handsaw.
Slide the dowel stick through the cut-out square in the side of the biscuit tin. Slide it until the dowel stick touches the other side of the biscuit tin, 180 degrees from the cut-out square.
Turn a 1-inch screw through the tailpiece, that metal hardware at the end of a guitar that holds the strings, and through the side of the biscuit tin into the dowel rod. The tailpiece should be at a right angle and the end with six holes should protrude two inches or so out over the face of the biscuit tin.
Measure the distance from the nut, that piece between the headstock and the fret board, to the 12th fret. Then measure the same distance from the 12th fret onto the face of the biscuit tin. Make a mark here.
Lay a 2-inch screw here. This is your bridge. It doesn't need to be glued onto the face of the biscuit tin because the tension of the strings will ultimately hold it in place.
Tips and warnings
- If you don't have access to a power drill, you can make a hole in the guitar neck's heel with a more primitive method. Draw a circle with a 1-inch diameter. Within the outline, turn a 1-inch screw until the screw's head is against the board. Remove the screw. Then, into a different point within the outline, insert the screw again. Repeat this process until the area within the circular outline has been well-eaten by screw holes. Any excess wood can be chiselled out easily with a flathead screwdriver and hammer.
- You can make your own tailpiece by cutting a 1-inch-by-3-inch rectangle from a soup can with a hacksaw. Along one of the 1-inch sides, puncture 6 holes by hammering a screw or nail through. These holes should be evenly spaced and 1/4-inch from the edge. Along the other 1-inch edge, puncture one hole. This hole should be centred. Bend the tailpiece, hammering it into a 90-degree angle.
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