I am stuck with my plans for my first build and needed a little advice.
I am planning to build a 4 string ('cause I really love 4 stringed instrument... ukulele and bass player) licence plate guitar. Having no boxes (find a cigar box in italy -where I live- seems impossible at a reasonable price) and having an hobbyist woodcarver father with a huge lab and lot of machinery I have all the tools to build my instrument.
But here is the dilemma : be brave or cautious ?
First idea was make something gumbo guitar 4 string plate resonator. Simple but pretty, but with some adjustments (I really don't like "pass through" necks). Just make the box, round a rod of hard wood (oak in my case), make a sturdy bracing, cut rod to accomodate the tuners and here you go (well, not quite simple and a lot of checkpoint missed, but you know what I mean).
Seems reasonable and seeing it is my first time project, I am going fretless. But then I though : just make a simple "shaft" neck or try to carve one ? Is it too ambitious for 1st project or I should try ?
Second (and here is the stupid question) : I saw a lot of people put a floating "bridge" (usually a screw) on a license plate resonator and seems good to me. But, isn't the screw going to warp the plate with the string pressure ? Or the "weight" of the pull isn't enough to warp it (I have a '79 american metal plate to use in this project so sturdy metal)
Hope everything is at least understandable... english is not my main language.
Sorry about the mistakes and thanks a lot for your advices.
There will not be enough pressure from the strings to warp the plate unless you use some extreme break angle over the bridge (bolt).
The reason we use a lot of neck through is the neck then takes all the tension of the strings, so a weak box will not break. If it is the look of that you don't like , you can end the neck inside the box so it does not have a "tail" sticking out.
If you are gonna use a round neck, then you need to have some kind of a nut at the head end to hold the strings in a flat plane, or you will only be able to contact 1 or 2 strings at a time with the slide.
If you can get it, a piece of 1x2" ( not sure what that is in metric) oak makes a great strong neck, and will hold 4 strings with no problems. ( especially if it goes all the way through the box), It will also make mounting tuners easier, is you are using geared guitar tuners. Then you can round off the back of that for comfort while playing.
SO, be brave , and cautious!
Thanks Bluesheart !
You really gave me food for though with "unless you some extreme break angle". I'll take care to avoid it !
Yeah it was my idea : take a 1x2" oak shaft, sand it well, just round the angles (more on the back side, less on the fingerboard side... but you are right probably it is better I'll leave the fingerboard side perfectly flat) make a hole in the oak box I'll build and make it all through the box... just not with the tail the tail.
Lower the neck about 2mm (is that right?) in the part that pass through the body so the plate will resonate well, install a bottle cap homemade piezo -that seems to enhance bass frequencies that are kinda sacrificed with plate resonators- near the saddle-bolt (just to figure out if it needs to glued with the top up or down... it seems there are controversies about it... any advice ?)
And that's it.
Another silly question : I would not to drill the plate for soundhole and I plan to drill two small "sideport" hole (one on the top of the box, one on the bottom) so the sound would come outside acoustic even if not "front". Is it enough in your opinion ?
That's interesting ! Thanks a lot to point me there. Maybe someday I will make a pole neck, but right now I want a "standard" neck.
If you lower the neck board you will want a fretboard (fretless board?) to keep the strings above the box. The alternate is to cut away some of the board that would touch the plate and glue this piece to the bottom of the board.
I made two license plate guitars without any sound hole and they sound good to me. If you want to add side holes I might suggest only doing it on the top side as the bottom side will be into your leg if you sit or towards the ground if you stand.
For the piezo I used a little magnet and tried it all over the plate and on both sides of the piezo then picked the spot I liked best to mount it.
For fretless, you can control how high the strings are from the plate by adjusting the height of the bridge and nut, so the neck level with the top of the box should be fine.
With a fretboard added, you will have a higher bridge, a sharper angle of the strings over the bridge and better sound. Bone for a bridge is far superior to just hard wood even if fretted.
I searched a lot to find some bone in europe, but nothing not precut at a reasonable price. So I think I'll go for bolt (that is also more coerent to look at with a plate resonator).
Just for another build: bone [and other luthier stuff] you will find at
in Germany. Scroll down for other sizes available.