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Old February 27th, 2010, 01:32 PM   #1 (permalink)
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2010 TDPRI $210 Challenge - TeleSitar

There are still two instruments I want in my arsenal and I don't have them:
an electric 12-string
an electric sitar-style guitar

From my quick, mental calculations, I'd imagine what I want in the 12-string would likely go over the $210 limit, so I'm more inclined to build the tele-style electric sitar. For it to work properly, the bridge tailpiece has to be completely different, so I MUST make the body to closely resemble a tele. The body has also got to be hollow for the sympathetic strings to resonate. I'm starting to design this in my head now, but my biggest problem is the SNOW. Two feet minimum (higher in drifts) block access to my unheated barn/wokshop. If I can dig my way there, I can get to the scrap pile of old barn boards I'm going to use for the body.

Here's the workshop:

Notice that some windows are completely missing. Yeah - it gets quite cold. I hope the bandsaw works.

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Old February 27th, 2010, 02:42 PM   #2 (permalink)
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Looking forward to this one.
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Old February 27th, 2010, 03:17 PM   #3 (permalink)
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I don't normally advocate a shot of whisky before working in the shop, but in your case I think it might be necessary!
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Old February 28th, 2010, 05:42 AM   #4 (permalink)
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Very cool! Looking forward to seeing this one!

I considered doing a 12-string myself... still may eventually!

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Old February 28th, 2010, 11:59 AM   #5 (permalink)
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And so it has begun. Step one - clear access to the workshop:


Next, gather the wood (with sign):

I made it into the workshop and started gathering wood. I have an old pine barn board (about 1 1/2 inch thick) towards the front, but also found some nice cedar. This used to be from my parent's cedar chest when they got married. The cedar is at least 50 years old. the pine board could be older, as the barn was built in the 1800's. To the bottom left is a piece of black plexiglass. This came from an old refrigerator. At the time you had "color options" and all you would do is replace the front panel piece of plexi. The fridge is long gone, but I can still get a good pickguard or 2 out of this (cost $0.00).
The cedar and pine are sitting in front of plywood and hardboard. I'm not intending to use these, but if I have to, the hardboard is exactly what was used on the danelectro guitars and the Coral sitar. I'd rather use real wood, but it's there as a last resort.

Having a real sitar helps with some of the specs, details and ideas:

A sitar body is made from a gourd, trimmed and decorated with wood and shell. It's a soft body, so soft woods would tonally be better than bright woods. I'm thinking the center core of pine with cedar top and back.

The sitar peghead:

My sitar is a "double tomba" model, which means another resonating gourd at the peghead. Time permitting, I might do this to mine, though as an electric, it has no impact on amplified sound. It just looks cool. Tuning gears are all pressure adjusted. I'd rather use geared tuners for the "guitar neck" part.
By design, I want an instrument that any guitarist could pick up and play, but still sound like an authentic sitar.

Sitar neck:

My sitar has 7 playing strings and 11 sympathetic strings. The sympathetic strings run almost the full length of the neck - a LOT longer than the sympathetic strings on the Coral (and Rogue) Electric Sitar. To be more authentic, I believe the sympathetic strings MUSt be long.

Sitar Bridge:

THIS is what gives the sitar it's unique sound. The string to bridge ratio on a guitar is almost a knife point edge. On a sitar, it's a flat almost one inch area. If you pluck harder, the string "moves" across the bridge causing the characteristic buzz. Also notice that the sympathetic strings run UNDERNEATH the playing strings. This would be interesting to do, and I've considered constructing it htis way, but it would require a fat and somewhat hollow neck. A regular guitarist could not easily pick it up and play it. The sympathetic strings have to be on a secondary neck, or alongside the body (as is the Coral Sitar).

Sitar Frets:

These I find MOST fascinating. Frets are tied to the neck and can be adjusted based on the pitchtable of your music. The fingerboard curves in, and the frets curve out. The sympathetic strings are nuder the frets. The "playing" strings can be pressed into the frets and bend down almost 2 inches! Again, real cool, but most guitarists would not be able to pick this up and go with it. If time permits, jumbo frets and scalloped fingerboard would yield similar results. Though I've HATED every scalloped fingerboard I've touched, so I may just go with Jumbo frets.

Time to draw it up next.
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Old February 28th, 2010, 01:30 PM   #6 (permalink)
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wow! This is gonna be pretty unique!
I had a sitar once, but it met its demise when I stumbled and fell on it in its case... still have the fourd somewhere.

Good luck, and be sure to post some sound samples!
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Old February 28th, 2010, 04:46 PM   #7 (permalink)
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I'm a sitar player and really curious to see how this goes.
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Old February 28th, 2010, 10:04 PM   #8 (permalink)
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This looks very cool! Can't wait to see how it goes.
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Old March 1st, 2010, 12:12 PM   #9 (permalink)
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Thanks for the kind comments so far!
I feel like I really lucked out on a good deal for the neck - though it still needs some work. A buddy of mine thought he could make an instrument, and on impulse, bought a body and neck from GuitarFetish. He got the unfinished paddle-head neck for a Strat, but after getting it, didn't want it because it was too fat, and there was a knot in the wood on the back of the neck. HEY - you get what you pay for. He had cut the headstock to a strat shape, but it's still unfinished. I bought it from him for $30.00. I "think" I can make it into a tele shape headstock, and I WANT the thickness of the neck, though I may spokeshave and sand it more to a soft v. I will also probably sand the heel contour flatter so that it looks more like a tele neck. For the price of a neck with a nut, I can't complain at all. :)
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Old March 1st, 2010, 12:48 PM   #10 (permalink)
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Nice deal on the neck! Whats the fingerboard? Looks like pauduk from here. You can cut the tele headstock shape out of the strat shape, I have done it before. There may be a wee bit less wood than you need where the bulge is but it looks fine.... heres the one I cut a while back.

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Old March 1st, 2010, 07:29 PM   #11 (permalink)
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Quote:
Originally Posted by tuuur View Post
wow! This is gonna be pretty unique!
I had a sitar once, but it met its demise when I stumbled and fell on it in its case... still have the fourd somewhere.

Good luck, and be sure to post some sound samples!
serendipity for your wife and kids?
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Old March 1st, 2010, 09:12 PM   #12 (permalink)
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Quote:
Originally Posted by edd677 View Post
Nice deal on the neck! Whats the fingerboard? Looks like pauduk from here. You can cut the tele headstock shape out of the strat shape, I have done it before. There may be a wee bit less wood than you need where the bulge is but it looks fine.... heres the one I cut a while back.

Ed
Hi Ed,
Glad to know that I can fit a "close proximity" tele style headstock in an existing strat one. As far as the fingerboard, I believe it is rosewood - at least it's listed as rosewood on the guitar fetish site. I thnik better quality rosewood fingerboards have less streaks, but I really like it.
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Old March 1st, 2010, 09:13 PM   #13 (permalink)
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Quote:
Originally Posted by winny pooh View Post
serendipity for your wife and kids?
HA! Actually a real sitar is a very quiet instrument. I doubt you could hear it being played in another room.
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Old March 1st, 2010, 09:24 PM   #14 (permalink)
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Quote:
Originally Posted by RocknDrTom View Post
HA! Actually a real sitar is a very quiet instrument. I doubt you could hear it being played in another room.
Hence, the need for an electric sitar!
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Old March 4th, 2010, 06:16 PM   #15 (permalink)
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body template

As we know, part of this challenge is to make it "look" like a telecaster. Well to me, the easiest and fastest way to make a body that looks like a telecaster is to trace an existing Tele. So I did just that on a large piece of cardboard:


Now that would be all I would need if this was a one-neck instrument. However, the sympathetic strings will have their own neck, so the body has to be increased to allow for the second neck. I made some quick calculations, moved the tele over by the needed amount, and traced it again. Then I connected the two images, and smoothed the lines, drawing the finished outline darker with a Sharpie.


Next step, cut it out & transfer this to the wood.
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Old March 4th, 2010, 06:19 PM   #16 (permalink)
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I suppose anyone with a sharp eye will notice that I didn't use the same tele for tracing.
Just a quick way to show off my existing homemade teles.
The blonde tele has a fat, chunky sound. I named it "Earth."
The orange ash tele has a bright, airy sound. I named it "Wind."
The red strat (which you don't see) is named "Fire."

Last edited by RocknDrTom; March 4th, 2010 at 06:22 PM. Reason: more superfluous detail
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Old March 8th, 2010, 05:53 PM   #17 (permalink)
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I was away for the weekend, but back on this project with a vengence. Plus, having no internet until 11AM this morning kept me from sitting in front of the computer, and allowed me to do more stuff. Here's today's entry:

I cut out the cardboard pattern, and traced it to the cedar:


Then took it to the bandsaw (it's warm enough in the workshop!)


Here's more detail from rough cutting on the bandsaw:

In the above pic, there is a number stamped into the cedar from the original cedar chest. I suppose it was the model number or build number. I have no idea. The number will not be seen on the finished instrument, as it is on the inside surface.

Next, I cut the old barn board in half:


And cleaned up the edges on the two halves:


I brought the boards into the house, and glued and clamped them. I grabbed the closest thing I could reach to add weight to the top, hence the tool box sits on it while the glue dries.


And while that was drying and set aside, I "freehand" drew the tele peghead shape. Then I thought to be accurate, it would be best to use a real template. So I found one online, and wouldn't you know, I was almost perfect in the line locations.


Next was a trip back to the bandsaw to cut the peghead, and use the orbital sander to smooth the edges (photo forthcoming).
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Old March 10th, 2010, 05:58 PM   #18 (permalink)
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Crazy weather here, so I'm making the most of it. It's in the 60's, so it's barn time again! While I was working, I heard a terrible crash. About a foot of snow fell off the roof. I'm comfortable in a t-shirt outside and we still have 2 feet of snow here!

The old pine barn wood comes out of the clamps, and next I trace and cut the wood for the main chunk of the body. This will be a lot thicker than a standard tele, but also very hollow. Here's a pic tracing the pattern to the pine board:


Next I take the board to the bandsaw and cut it out carefully watching fingers and protecting ears:


Here the board is rough cut and I'm getting ready to rough sand the surface to clean it up a bit. I'm using 60-cut sandpaper on the orbital sander.


Here's the board sanded. Now I see all the surface cracks and imperfections.


Before I head back to the house, I also cut the peghead. Pretty close to a tele shape indeed:


Back at the house, I use super glue to fill in the surface cracks on the back. This is not a common practice, but I feel that this will help strengthen the wood before I use a wood filler.


Three tubes of super glue were used to fill in the surface cracks prior to using wood filler. The wood is very porous, and it just soaks in. I think that's a good thing. Gotta remember to add the glue into the final cost.
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Old March 13th, 2010, 03:39 PM   #19 (permalink)
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Next step involved hollowing out the body. I chose to use an assortment of tools for this: a drill with a forstner bit took out the most wood quickly, followed by a router, and final cleanup with a chisel. This does not have to be perfectly smooth, since it will never again be seen. I just need a hollow chamber.


Here's another view of the hollowed out cavity in the barnwood body:


Here's I'm tapping the back to see how it sounds. It resonates quite clearly. The tapped pitch is "F" :)


Next step is to clamp the cedar top to the body. So I preset the clamps, so I can put them on quickly.


Next comes a thick coat of wood glue, which I work into the wood with a professional glue spreading device.


And clamp it up.


Now I'm off for another trip - another week away from this project. :(
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Old March 15th, 2010, 02:21 AM   #20 (permalink)
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very cool!
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