Entry for September 2019's Guitar Of The Month is now open!
The “Savart-Nought” Trapezoid Guitar It takes a special kind of idiot to become intensely interested in the size and shape of violins crafted by a long-dead physicist like Felix Savart (1791-1841). Luckily, I am just that type of grinning moron. Felix was known for a bunch of stuff. He invented the “Savart” which is a unit of measurement for musical intervals. He built a device to measure the range of human hearing (Savart’s Wheel). The man seemed to be very into several things, not the least of which were acoustics, vibrating bodies, and naming stuff after himself. Which is how he came up with the trapezoidal, flat-top, Savart violin. This creation was highly regarded by all the governing violin organizations of his era (aka: snobs and purists) and the tone and timbre was pretty much indistinguishable from the classically shaped violins of the time. That was no small feat. Seriously . . . convincing a bunch of elitist fancy boys to endorse your weird instrument - no matter how well it sounds/plays - must have entailed one hell of a lot of schmoozing, stroking, and quite likely . . . bribes. Anyway . . . so I was studying Savart violins, and was about half done with making one, when my mind was struck with the sort of fuzzy inspiration most commonly brought on by excessive consumption of high-test, homemade hooch and uncooked pork. Why not a Savart resonator guitar, I thought? Why not make it big and loud, I hypothesized? Why shouldn’t I immediately create a “Savart-Nought.” The rest, as they say, is either fake news or history. I always get those two confused. The “Savart-Nought” probably sounds as good as anything I’ve ever built (or bought). The wide bottom allows for an extra soundhole at the lower left corner, which really punches up the bass response. The 9.5 inch resonator cone - inset into the 3.75-deep body - growls like either (take your pick here) A: The 1,000 horsepower Corvette Z06 B: Hillary Clinton on the night of November 8th, 2016 C: A hungry Rottweiller with an ingrown toenail and a hangover In other words, it’s sorta’ loud and a little angry. It gets lounder if you plug it in, and crank up the volume and tone controls. The internal piezo is encased in about 1,000 layers of rubber cement (much like the legendary Hattori Hanzo katana sword) which means you get very little handling noise and tons of reso goodness. Being a perpetually broke sort of backwoods luthier, I can’t afford fancy wood. Thus, the body of the Savart-Nought is constructed from red oak, Baltic Birch plywood, Luan plywood, some poplar (my homemade kerfing and the centerline neck stick), and regular old chunks of 2x4 (those form the trapezoid corner posts to which the sides are attached). I’ve included a National, 25” scale (actually I set it at 25 1/8th . . . it sounds better) and the action is lightning fast. That’s likely because, again since I’m impoverished, the fingerboard is made from poplar and sprayed with Walmart’s finest black lacquer. The body itself is stained in black cherry, and topped off with Walmart’s second finest clear lacquer. Oh . . . the neck is maple. I don’t know how the hell that happened. And . . . lest I forget . . . the cone coverplate is from a 1961 Falcon, mutilated quite artistically with my $9 Harbor Freight angle grinder, and coated on the bottom with a bit of JB Weld so it doesn’t go all floppy. I think Felix Savart would be both disgusted and impressed. I could ask for nothing more. Scale: 25" scale • 15 frets to the body Strings: 6 of ‘em Body Size: 18” at base. 8” wide at heel. 3.75” deep Total Instrument Length: Around 41" Acoustic Gizmo: 9.5" resonator biscuit cone Cone Cover: 1961 Falcon hubcap coated with silver metallic Rustoleum Tail Piece: 24-gauge steel lopped into shape with my HF angle grinder and coated with the aforementioned Rustoleum. Amplification: Internal Piezo Pickup with volume and tone controls. Inset into neck stick and encased with enough rubber cement to dampen any handling noise. Neck: Maple . . . and steel reinforced String Height at Zero Fret: 1mm String Height at 12: 4mm Neck width at zero fret: 1 3/4" Neck Width at body: 2 1/4" Weight: The Savart-Nought, being of French descent, is very vain. It thus declines to step on a scale and weigh itself.
The Blue Lagoonitar . . . despite it's odd appearance (I enjoy building odd instruments) this critter plays. Here's a video. The Blue Lagoonitar Video What we have here is a, 4-string, tenor, rectangular, resonator guitar featuring a cone cover that is in fact the mutilated hubcap of a 1961 Ford Falcon. It's painted with Rustoleum's finest "Lagoon Blue" gloss enamel, and the body is from whatever bits and pieces I found lying around the shop. If memory serves (and increasingly it doesn't) the instrument is mostly oak and poplar, The technical aspects of this blue reso are similar to most other such guitars, with the obvious exceptions being that this one is Rustoleum blue, rectangular, and has the aforementioned mutilated hubcap (not to mention a hand hammered tailpiece carefully crafted from 24-gauge sheet metal). Here are the deets: Scale: 25" scale • 15 frets to the body Body Size: 12" (and change) wide, 19" (and a smidge) long, 4" (and a drop) deep. Total Instrument Length: 42" (give or take) Sound Thingies: 9" resonator biscuit cone (Stew Mac house brand . . . no gravy with these biscuits . . . sorry) Cone Cover: 1961 Falcon (artistically mutilated with my $9, Harbor Freight angle grinder) Amplification: Internal Piezo Pickup with volume control (Not to be confused with a pizza pickup, which is what Papa John's offered before said Papa got himself banished. The piezo is encased in rubber cement and recessed in the the guitar's center stabilizer. Very little handling noise) Neck: Mostly oak . . . hand carved and filed to fit my hand (mostly because I didn't have your hand size). Steel reinforced ala the old Stellas. String Height at Zero Fret: 2.5 mm (or thereabouts) String Height at 12: 5mm (or so) Neck width at zero fret: 1.25" (close enough) Neck Width at body: 1.5" (or damned close to it) Weight: Roughly 1/6th that of my dog (about 7.5 lbs)
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The Roasting Pan Resonator . . . a 3-string, resonator guitar handcrafted primarily from flotsam and jetsom discovered around the house and/or in some of southern Missouri's most discriminating junk emoriums (with the exception of cone, etc from Stew Mac). I'm including a video, should you wish to hear how the beast sounds. The Roasting Pan Resonator was built in my garage, with assistance from numerous spiders, roaches, and at least one lizard. I've built a couple hundred instruments over the years - some I sell, some I keep, and some I give away to friends/family. The only consistency found in all of them is that they're built out of odd things. THE DETAILS............................ • Body: Vintage Graniteware roasting pan . 12" wide by 18" long x 5" deep • Top: 22 gauge steel backed with 1/8" plywood. Fashioned with aviator snips and metal files • Tone Ring: Plywood rings routed out and glued together. Distance from top to bottom lip - 1 1/8" • Four internal soundposts connecting bottom of tone ring to back • 9" Stew Mac cone • 25" scale • Hand carved neck and peghead - handmade tailpiece • Finish . . . a disturbing number of cans of Rustoleum "hammer-forged" paint (over primer) Here's the Youtube video link . . . it was recorded with a PylePro Lavelier, clip-on mic (I think that set me back $9 . . . dammit) through a 5-Watt Vox mini-amp. Roasting Pan Resonator Video