3-String Guitars Build

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Project by GnarlyErik posted 01-16-2017 01:39 PM 1215 views 2 times favorited 9 comments Add to Favorites Watch

I’ve just finished up the first two out of four of the 3-string guitars (and maybe more) I am buiilding for my grandkids. They sound great to me, but I am not very musically literate. I plan to take them to a real musician for their opinion and critique soon. My wife plays a little and she sounds very good on them to me. The each have piezo pickups should anyone want to use them with an amplifier.

The first one has a cherry body and New Zealand pine bottom and top with walnut intarsia type inlays. The second one is the same, except the body is blonde walnut. The fretboards and tuning boxes are made of cherry. The nuts and bridges are made from a supply of bone purchased from a luthier supplier.

I did some research and decided to build in neck torsion rod adjusters, ‘just in case’ the necks need to be adjusted. As it turns out they did not need adjustment, but it is always possible they will over time.

These are built totally from scratch except for the piezo pickup, frets, strings, screws and tuning pins. The thin wood parts were a little bit of a challenge, but I worked out a method to do these with my planer. I have turned pins on my lathe too, but the bought ones are dirt cheap, more consistent, and less trouble to deal with. I took a tapered reamer tool and ground it back to the taper I need and it works just fine for making the tapered pin holes. Bending the body sides was a breeze with my handy-dandy 'Bee's Knees Wood Bender Thingy’ expressly made for this purpose:

The finish is several coats of varnish sprayed on with a touch-up gun, with very fine sanding between the coats. This seems to turn out extremely well. I threw together a simple rack to hold them for the spraying operation. I may try to do a little fancy finish color blending like commercially built instruments later too, depending on how the mood strikes.

Building these turned out to be so much fun I’ve now got projects planned out for some time now. There’s an Appalachian dulcimer about 90% finished that I am building for my wife, and next on my list behind that are a dobro 4-string guitar and a tenor lute modeled on the one which Gibson built for only one year, in 1924.

-- "Never let your dogma be run over by your karma!"

9 comments so far

View pmayer's profile


1032 posts in 3267 days

#1 posted 01-16-2017 01:41 PM

that’s incredible!

-- PaulMayer,

View LumberingWoodworker's profile


143 posts in 2553 days

#2 posted 01-16-2017 04:13 PM

Nice looking instrument. Looks like it would be fun to play.


View oldrivers's profile


1475 posts in 1768 days

#3 posted 01-16-2017 08:33 PM

Great looking instrument!

-- Soli Deo gloria!

View tyvekboy's profile


1823 posts in 3215 days

#4 posted 01-16-2017 08:37 PM

Nice job.

-- Tyvekboy -- Marietta, GA ………….. one can never be too organized

View helluvawreck's profile


32087 posts in 3068 days

#5 posted 01-16-2017 09:10 PM

That is a delightful looking musical instrument.

helluvawreck aka Charles

-- helluvawreck aka Charles,

View Schwieb's profile


1872 posts in 3663 days

#6 posted 01-17-2017 12:03 AM

Sweet. I love it.

-- Dr. Ken, Florida - Durch harte arbeit werden Träume wahr.

View johnhutchinson's profile


1243 posts in 1831 days

#7 posted 01-17-2017 03:34 AM

It’s beautiful, Erik !!!
I’m sure it sounds as good as it looks.

Ages ago, I made a double courting dulcimer. You’ll have to put one on your to-do list.
The one in the photo is an over-the-top example. Not mine, but close.

-- John - Central Ohio - "too much is never enough"

View majuvla's profile


13376 posts in 3069 days

#8 posted 01-17-2017 05:21 PM

Instrument itself and craftmanship are beyond any comparison. Great work!

-- Ivan, Croatia, Wooddicted

View Howard 's profile


105 posts in 1245 days

#9 posted 01-18-2017 12:40 PM

Beautiful work…and interesting project. Something special when the item can be used for enjoyment.

-- Life Member of: USA + NRA + USMC = Semper Fi to all three.

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