I have been working on a new 4-stringer CBG with a 20" scale length and which will be tuned like a Baritone Ukulele, except with steel guitar strings. That is, it will be tuned D-G-B-E so I can get a bit more familiar with the guitar layout while playing with an instrument whose dimensions are more to my liking.
I have a few photos, so I guess that would be a good place to start.
Here is a photo of the neck. It was designed originally to have a 22" scale with the idea of doing a Tenor Guitar. But after the problems I had with my last long neck 3-stringer, I decided on using a couple more inches inside the box so I'd be sure the neck would not bow after tuning the instrument. If you look as the heel end of the neck, you will see a pair of industrial strength triangular corner flanges (or what ever you call these do-ma-jiggies). I have more photos showing how it anchors in the box. But before that, lets take a look at the headstock:
Here's a shot showing the slotted head. It features a 15 degree scarf joint, and as this is my first slotted head with scarf joint, I place the slot above the scarf joint so it could not weaken the scarf joint. Next time, I'll likely do the scarf joint more on the neck and try to compress the two down so the head won't be so long. As both of these photos show, the wood used is some kind of pine. I salvaged this wood from the packing material from our new washing machine. The wood was in really rough shape, but cleaned up pretty nicely. The wood also was not kiln dried, as when I was working on it, sap would sometimes ooze out. You can see the dark stains on the wood. It will be interesting to see how it will stand up. As I have said before, finding good wood in China is really tough. In the end, I spray painted the neck and head black, and it looks pretty good. Maybe I'll use black spray paint to finish off everything.
Here's the cigar box I sacrificed. The box is a Tabak Especial from Nicaragua. It's dimensions are 9" x 7" by 3.5" and it is heavily built. I sure wish I could saw straight lines. Well, I filed the one side down a bit, so it's not so noticeable, but there is a rather big gap on the sound board all around the neck. I was thinking of affixing trim, but that seemed like too much work. Those of you with sharp eyes might notice another screw up on the sound board that I patched over. Well, I'll just write this one off as another prototype.
Here's the inside of the box. I added a "backbone" down the middle of the box which stands off from the bottom of the box by about 1/4". It was a tight fit and I glued it in place. When trying to fit the neck, I notice the hole was a bit too deep and so I added a piece of wood as a spacer to the top of the backbone so the neck would rise up out of the hole and be above the sound board by maybe 1/8". Yes, it was another mistake. But that's how you learn (at least the slow folks like me). The four holes in the backbone are for my industrial strength triangular flange do-ma-jiggies. You'll see that next:
Here you can see how the neck attaches to the box. To make the 2 triangle flanges easier to work with I took a screw an over-sized nut (used as a spacer) and another nut and screwed the two flanges together. That made it easier to mark holes to drill for the 8 wood screws that hold it in place. This picture also shows some additional corner reinforcement blocks which I later decided weren't worth the weight. So, my final build don't have them.
Here's another angle on the neck-to-box connection.
Since these photos, I spray painted the neck/head assembly black. I made a fancy "tunable" bridge where the bridge is divided into four pieces and fit into "tracks" and are held in by string pressure. I can move them one by one to better tune each string for better intonation. The idea is one of many I've acquired by browsing Cigar Box Nation. The only problem is that it raises the string action objectionably high, especially the higher up the neck you go. For this reason, I have only fretted it with a dozen frets and did so with chromatic fret spacing. The frets are also nylon tie wraps. Why no metal frets? Well, I'm to lazy to measure them out, having been spoiled by the printout from the wfret.com program and my printer is not working (hasn't been since I moved). And the wife doesn't want me messing with her computer/printer setup. So, with a digital tuner and nylon tie-wraps I can easily fret the neck. Also, I'm lost on a fretless instrument, so that wasn't an option. I have a Kyrgyz Komuz to play when I want to experiment with fretless instruments.
The other problem I had with my slotted headstock was that the tuners did not really fit right. The shaft was too short. When I checked around for Chinese made tuners, they had long enough shafts, but the holes were drilled to low and so I'd have no hole visible through which I could string up my instrument. So, I went with the short shaft tuners. The 4 strings going over the nut (a machine screw with the head cut off) was a bit of a mess going to their respective tuners, so maybe next time I'll do yet another head design so the string layout can be cleaner. Maybe it will have two parallel slots on a wider head, like my Romance brand Chinese Qin-qin has (as I causally look around my room).
Okay, I got a few new photos I thought I'd share. Here's the first showing the whole instrument:
Notice the tunable bridge which allows me to adjust the scale length of each string individually. That, coupled with movable (tie-wrap) frets, should allow me to set the intonation very accurately. But, in reality, it has proven to be difficult. I believe this is because of my rather tall tunable bridge which has raised the play action of the strings excessively, especially above the 12th fret, and also screwed up the intonation the further you get from the nut. So, because of this, I am planning to remove the tunable bridge and replace it with a simple wooden one, or perhaps an eye bolt or something similar. It's times like this that make me appreciate the KISS principle. If I try to do this again, I'll build the tracks directly on the sound board and make the "mini-bridges" shorter, trimming this 7/8" tall bridge down to a more feasible 1/2" tall bridge. But that will be on some future build. I want to get to playing this 4-stringer.
Initially, I tuned this 4-stringer to DGBE using the 4 lightest (thinnest) strings from a set of six acoustic guitar strings. After messing with it for one afternoon, I decided I wasn't ready for DGBE. It was all unfamiliar territory unless I capo-ed it at the 5th fret (making it GCEA like a ukulele). Since I need an easier learning curve to ease into 4-stringers I decided to approach it as a 3-stringer GDg with an extra high string. But, I also plan to try it as a 3-stringer DAd with an extra low string (ADad?). I'm not sure which I'll like better. But, both should be easier than the DGBE tuning. Maybe some time I'll return to DGBE, making it like a Baritone Uke, as it is a kind of stepping stone to the standard 6-string guitar. It seems all my CBU (ukes) end up as some kind of strum stick. Well at least this one has chromatically spaced frets. Now I'll have to transcribe my diatonic tabs into chromatic tabs, and get down to practicing how to play the 4-stringer.
My next two photos are close ups of the tunnable bridge. Notice that the four "mini-bridges" are held in by string tension only. I got this idea from Cigar Box Nation.
This tunable bridge was built on a 1/4" tall block of wood which adds an extra 1/4" to the height of the bridge. Next time I'll build it directly on the sound board to save this 1/4". The height of the four mini-bridges can be trimmed a bit as well.
I messed up a bit mounting the tail piece. The paper trim is torn as you can see in the above picture. Next time I'll have to take an "exacto" knife to trim the paper out of the way before I attach the tail piece.
Well, that's all for now.