MARTHA’S GUITARS

handcrafted ~ recycled ~ different

Recently added:

  • 2017/05/1
    Guitar Acquisition Syndrome/Gear Acquisition Syndrome

    Should a strongly addicted man seek for help? Is it life-threatening condition? In a guitar world GAS is a serious case. But is it dangerous? Should I cure it? GAS stands for Guitar Acquisition Syndrome or Gear Acquisition Syndrome. Basically, it means that you're always buying new stuff. An old joke says: - how many guitars is enough? - one more! But there's something into it. Every guitarist and guitar collector wants to get "yet another axe", "yet another overdrive", "this beautiful pick", "oh, come on, that's a legendary instrument, I'll bring it back to life".... Every guitarist's (and collector's) partner knows that it's impossible to stop it. There's a saying: the more you eat, the more appetite you get. This is exactly what happens. Yes, it is an addiction. And it's serious. Is it bad? It's certainly better to be addicted to guitars and guitar gear than to gambling, alcohol or drugs (listen to granpa, kids!). So, should I cure it? For years I've been only nursing GAS in my head, never having enough stomach to start. Granted, I wasn't always able to afford that too and I was probably too scared of my closest ones (who didn't really understood that) as well. Then I started this site and everything changed. I'm a lucky champ because my "better half" understands that. Better yet, she supports me and even helps me. She's extremely efficient in placing winning - and reasonable - bets at auction sites. Just recently, I have found nice accustic guitar that I thought could be useful as a "replacement parts donor". It's not a "high end" piece and if I was to buy it just for playing, I wouldn't do this, even though you can find reviews on forums that it sounds pretty nice actually and is quite good for beginners and intermediate hobbyists. A new one stands for £150-160 (or around 170-190 Euro). But it has mahogany back and sides! The only thing that's damanged is its top. Cracked and dented, I could probably fix it in a day and the guitar would serve me well for long years. All it would take would be some scraps of maple that I already have lying around (free), some glue (free, because I already got it anyway) and a few hours of work (well, that one is not free actually, but I pay myself with that feeling of joy and satisfaction that this work gives me). I paid $14 for that guitar, including shipping. I'm finding myself contantly on the hunt for old/interesting/uncommon/vintage/broken guitars and gear. Not that I buy everything, I'm just looking for that "great opportunity". I can't help it. I visit "dollar stores" and household appliance stores. I look for anything that can be used, re-used or recycled into guitars or guitar parts everywhere. I have already built at least 150 guitars. In my head. But that's good. It's good to know that you got something to do for the rest of your life. Because I'm gonna eventually build them all in a real world too. A retirement plan of mine. That's my addiction. I confess. What's yours? Photo credit: BPPrice via Visualhunt / CC BY

  • 2017/04/1
    Test fitting, see next post soon :P

    In order to build something new from something old, you often need to destroy it first. And so the destruction derby continues :) Once I disassembled entire guitar, I inspected it to find any scratches and cracks. Those were then fixed using some wood dust, scraps of woods (leftovers from other projects) and Rakol Wood Glue/epoxy (depending on the kind of the fix). After that the time came to cut holes for resonator. The resonator "cone" itself is a funny thing. You can buy "replacement cones" for dobro and other kinds of respohonic guitars but they are extremely expensive and I feel like it'd be a kind of against "DIY spirit". I also like to recycle things so I looked for other options. There's a great resource on the subject: Cigar Box Nation forum. I was pretty amazed with so many creative ideas those guys there use for their reso cigar box builds. Finally, I decided to go for a... dog bowl. I found a nice 26cm in diameter dog bowl and bought it online for around 4 bucks. It seems perfect. After I cut the hole for it, I decided that I need to "strenghten" entire construction a bit. With a good chunk of guitar's top some of the bracings were cut out too, thus making entire body much weaker. Add tension from strings and pressure transmitted from strings through bridge and resonator on to the top - and you got yourself in serious troubles. I took care of this with 7 wooden rolls (2.8 cm diameter) that I cut out from some broom or maybe a showel stick that I found around. I glued them in inside with Titebond Original wood glue, pressed them with a pile of books and let it all rest overnight. That worked pretty well. I also drilled holes for pots and a rotary switch (it's a 4 pole 3 position rotary switch that'll be used to switch between magnetic and piezo - or both - pickups, switch the JFET buffer/preamp for piezo on and off and control tiny orange LED power indicator). I also cut two new soundholes as an original one will be covered (a single magnetic pickup will be sitting there too). For covers for these holes I used some kitchen appliances that I found in a "dollar store" and - what a suprise - disassembled. I think they were meant to be used to make mashed potato :) I also made a cover for an original soundhole and started making a bridge nut and a tailpiece but that's a story for another post so stay tuned!

  • 2017/03/22

    Recently I mentioned that I have found my very first guitar and I'm going to give her a new life. It seems I'm already quite deep into the process :) Originally, that was a 7-string guitar made in USSR. I have no idea how old is that but I got it when I was about 15. So, it's at least 25 years old but my bet is that it's a bit older, around 30 probably. I have no idea what it's made of though I suppose the top is spruce. That's how the wood look like and spruce was/is quite popular and cheap wood in Russia. I'm not sure of that though. Anyway, I decided to convert it to a resonator (dobro-style) guitar. I watched tens of movies on YT related to that so I decided to give it a go. I wrote previously that it was in excellent condition - "not even a scratch" - and that's true, meaning that it's exactly as it was back when I lost it first. It doesn't mean though that it wasn't damaged. It was, badly. And back than I tried to fix it, knowing absolutely nothing about guitars. Now, I know something tho :) That said, the first step was to disassemble it entirely. So I did :)  

  • 2017/02/22
    DIY resonator guitar conversion

    I really thought I'll never see her. Then I just opened a box and there she was. Suddenly, out of the blue, I found her. My very first, very old guitar of which I was sure that she's lost for good. That was a surprise. Hiding inside a long-forgotten cardboard box, she survived over 20 years, not even a slightest trace of dust. I'll be giving her a new life this year by converting her to a diy resonator guitar ("dobro"). I just need to find a nice pet food bowl... photo: Paul Beard/lic. CC2.0/wikimedia

  • 2017/01/4

    Because of a Xmas/New Year holiday period and some personal stuff I didn't have enough time recently to continue building. I did however find some time to complete a tiny side project and restore my other guitar. Over 20 years ago I bought a guitar that I just loved because of its look. Back than I knew nothing about guitars and I could barely play a bunch of open chords but that didn't matter. The guitar was in "catastrophic" condition. I took it to the luthier nearby and he managed to make "an instrument" out of it. It was barely playable but at least was again complete and looking pretty nice. It's a hollow-body clearly inspired by Gibson ES 335 or ES 355 (single cutaway version) though materials are different and it wasn't "electrified" originally. It was just an accoustinc (with tremolo bridge!). During last month I was working on it, like 10-20 minutes a day but finally it's done. New pickups, some cleaning up, new wiring with Orange Drops capacitors. I also did some adjustements to the bridge to make action reasonable. I'll be taking some photos of it soon and will also probably record some demo of how it sounds so I think next 2-3 posts will be about it and meanwhile I'm getting back to building my own axe. Photo: Gibson ES 335; WikiMedia Commons by John Tuggle/lic. CC 2.0

  • 2016/12/14

    As you may remember, the main wood that I chose was pine. While the body blank is already glued I decided to make a switch. Recently I aquired a pile of very old and very well preserved spruce. The thickness of the planks is nearly perfect for solid body so while the width of each of them is about half of what I need, the body will be glued out of two pieces. That's different from the pine one because that one was glued out of four pieces. The spruce is reclaimed. We're - and it will take a few months more - doing a major makover of our flat and we had to cut some holes (for doors) in the walls. The building was set around 1934, mostly out of wood. The first floor (on a ground level) has a brick walls but the next two floors are of wood. Back then they usually used 3-4 kinds of wood and spruce was one of them. The tree had to be at least 60-80 years old before it could be cut and then it had to be seasoned for next 10-20. That means that my planks are at least 150 years old currently! It's healthy, very dry and quite nice. Spruce is actually widely used for accoustic guitars and I recently seen more and more builders using it not only for tops of electric axes but also for entire bodies. I'll give it a try. The pine blank will just rest and wait for the next build.   Photo: Howard Huges piloting Spruce Goose/Wikimedia Commons/CC 2.0/by Brace Tuten