Hows that for a wacky name? I got bored this Sunday afternoon and was browsing craigslist for cheap violins when I remembered this guy, who makes awesome violins. That got me to thinking about making an arch top guitar using his methods, which I think involve shaping a piece of foam, and then clamping to it a piece of balsa wood and gluing a support structure to the outside of the structure. The result is a very artistic, unique looking violin. If you ever saw a violin in a “neo-tokyo” manga, this is probably what they’d look like.
Anyways, so that got me to jonesing to build something. Fortunately the hardware store is just a five minute drive from here. I think the idea was to create a trapezoidal shaped, arch top guitar. I decided I wanted something I could play this week, and ended up buying a bunch of 1/4″ x 4″ x 4′ pieces of popular and a 1″x3″x6′ piece of red oak for the neck. And a bunch of (but not enough) 1 minute epoxy. 1 minute epoxy is only good for simple things, like making boxes. Coincidentally, that’s what I was making… More below the cut.
The idea here was to just make a guitar without any specific measurements. Everything by eye, no ruler, the only straight edge being my lumber. Here I’ve marked up a piece of popular which will ultimately become my top bottom and sides. I don’t have any clamps. Campbell’s Soup cans were used to hold the top and bottom in place, and I would simply “clamp” the sides on with my hands for 2-3 minutes to make sure everything was in place.
So here i’ve added some pieces to the corners to more or less double the strength of the joints by doubling the surface area of the glued area. Tabs like this are great since they add almost zero additional weight while doubling the structural strength of your guitar. Basically kerfing, but cheaper and easier to handle for the weekend builder. Either way, this is the reason your guitar doesn’t come apart at the seams when you drop it on the floor. There will be additional pieces to hold the top and bottom on of course.
After carefully carving our a pocket for the neck, it fits! Extremely snug, as it should be. The neck will go trough the top of the guitar, all the way to the butt of the guitar. The top will have a small channel where a rod of steel will lay, epoxied in place serving as a truss rod. This is more or less what’s called a neck through body construction seen sometimes on electric guitars with resonating cavities. The neck on this guitar will actually sit 1-2mm below the soundboard so that it doesn’t interfere with vibration (i.e. sound level). The fretboard, also made of red oak, will laminate on top of the neck, raising it above the soundboard.
A comparison of size. It’s a full size guitar, not ukulele sized like a Cigar Box guitar, although ultimately the same shape. I think down the road I’ll make a 4 string cigar box guitar out of a cigar box, but after months of going back and forth on this, it just made more sense to build a full size guitar with six strings, rather than a miniature guitar in a cigar box. Plans for this guitar include: arch top tail piece, plank construction soundboard, piezo pickup (radio shack special) with volume knob + jack. And frets. Of course the most distinctive feature will be that the reinforement for the guitar will be on the outside, rather than the inside!
As for the name? Well I noticed that it’s roughly the size of a sheet of newspaper. Like the width of a horse cart or F1 car, there is an unspoken standard size for “largest size instrument you can carry” and that happens to be the width and height of a sheet of newspaper. Also I’m using essentially crate construction methods with the added twist of gluing the sides of the planks of my crate together for better sound. Hence the “Newspaper Crate Guitar”. But basically it’s just a 7/4ths cigar box guitar at heart.