"I beheld the wretch—the miserable monster whom I had created. He held up the curtain of the bed; and his eyes, if eyes they may be called, were fixed on me.” — Mary Shelley, Frankenstein
Ah, junk guitars…I just can’t pass them up when they’ve got price tags of $25 or less.
My workshop looks like the Texas Chainsaw Musicstore with guitar bodies and necks hanging everywhere.
Last week, I showed off a way-cool Teisco electric guitar that I scored and refurbished. This week, I’ve added another axe to my collection, and this one’s even trashier!
Behold the FrankenTulip, a Frankenstein partscaster I cobbled together from dead guitars I’ve bought at yard sales and flea markets. The body is a circa-1965 Teisco E-110 (aka “tulip” body) and the perfectly fitting neck is from a Harmony H-804 model from the Seventies. Fans of cheapo guitars will recognize that these two different models are basically the same guitar and were made at the same Japanese factory.
These plywood slab bodies and simple top-mounted electronics are the most basic guitars ever built. They’re also a blast to mod and a great way for a beginning guitar tinkerer to get his/her hands dirty.
I scored the tulip guitar body for $7 at a flea market. All the electronics and pickguard were gone, but luckily the "ashtray" tailpiece and bridge were still there. I decided to craft my own pickguard using a broken 1928 New York license plate that I got free in another flea market deal. I designed my own unique shape and carefully cut it out using a simple pair of tin snips. Running the rough metal edges on my belt sander smoothed them out.
Since I didn’t have the gloriously nasty Teisco pickup that came with the guitar, I decided to load it with a C.B. Gitty P90 Soapbar. At just $13 each, I buy these by the dozen and always have a pile in my shop. (They’re explosive sounding in my cigar box guitars!) I also bought a hardwood pickup mounting ring from C.B. Gitty, but the wood just didn’t seem to match the license plate. A simple session with a woodburning pen blackened the wood and gave it a rough and complimenting look.
I found the Harmony neck in a $5 box lot at a local yard sale. It was nice and straight and the frets needed only a little filing on the ends to remove any sharp points. The tuners, however, were shot, so I drilled out the holes and added a $15 set of chrome, sealed-gear tuners, also from CBGitty.com.
For $40 in parts, a couple of Pignose snout knobs and a pack of new strings, I’ve got a fun new guitar. The P90 pickup mated with this setup gives a kickass country twang I wasn’t expecting. In overdrive, it delivers a Hound Dog Taylor attitude in spades. And best yet, this project gave me a quiet evening’s project to enjoy.
Oh, here’s the demo video:
Shane Speal is the "King of the Cigar Box Guitar" and the creator of the modern cigar box guitar movement. Hear the music, see the instruments and read about his Cigar Box Guitar Museum at ShaneSpeal.com. Speal's latest album, Holler! is on C. B. Gitty Records.