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Next project: scratch build resonator guitar - thoughts & questions

Discussion in 'Tele Home Depot' started by alathIN, Nov 21, 2020 at 2:29 PM.

  1. alathIN

    alathIN Tele-Holic

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    Stewmac has a pretty good project outline (this one is wood body but a lot of the info will transfer to my intended metal body project)
    https://www.stewmac.com/video-and-i...-yourself-resophonic-guitar-a-resophonic.html

    I was surprised he did not use an adjustable truss rod.
    I guess he's just assuming string tension will get him the correct relief?

    I am planning to make the body aluminum. I know most of them are steel or brass. But unless I find a reason not to, I prefer aluminum for workability and I have some favorite aluminum finishing techniques.

    I am planning to purchase the cone, spider, bridge etc. - the "resonating" parts so I guess it's not technically a scratch build.

    This will also be my first attempt building a neck.
    I have seen videos of how Warmoth etc radius fretboards - is there a manageable way to do this without the specific tools?
    I am tempted to just but a pre-radiused unslotted fretboard from Stewmac.
    I could use a CNC mill to do the basic radiusing then clean it up sanding by hand.

    Will be interested to hear any thoughts, suggestions, or experiences.
     
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  2. guitarbuilder

    guitarbuilder Telefied Ad Free Member

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    See my fretboard radius jig here. It is pretty simple and cheap to make.




    Post 24 has my latest made for a harbor freight trimmer.


    Let's make a neck! | Telecaster Guitar Forum (tdpri.com)

    frj.jpg

    Plans are here


    Blackwater River Guitars - Tools - Fretboard Radius Jig


    I cnc my fretboard radius on most necks these days and it works out fine.

    The stewmac boards are good bang for the buck, but you are limited to their radii too.
     
    Last edited: Nov 21, 2020 at 3:27 PM
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  3. Freeman Keller

    Freeman Keller Friend of Leo's

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    I own three resonators, one which I built. They are very very different in many ways, if you are interested I can talk about them all day, but I would like to know a whole lot more about how you plan to play it, what your goals and your building background are. You mention buying "the spider, bridge, etc....", the spider is the bridge on spider bridge guitars, there is no spider on biscuit bridge or tricones. You are also wise to buy the cone(s) - spinning your own would be a real hassle (I'll recommend NRP for a biscuit or triecone, Quarterman or Beard for a spider).

    The was a wonderful build thread at MIMF quite a few years ago where a brass tricone was built from scratch. I'm sure it could be found with sufficient searching - I remember printing it out and that must be in a drawer somewhere. This is also an interesting variation - it is an aluminum body and does not have a cone, but sure has the bark

    https://eddowling.com/

    Here are mine, one the left is a brass bodied biscuit bride Duolian, right is a 1932 spider bridge Dobro type 27, and the middle is my tricone

    IMG_2509.JPG

    IMG_2510.JPG

    I've got lots of pictures of the insides and some build pics of the tricone - let me know how I can help
     
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  4. Freeman Keller

    Freeman Keller Friend of Leo's

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    PS - I do have an AutoCad drawing of a National tricone body that I could make available to your.

    Pps - the original Nats and Dobros did not have truss rods, they are built like tanks. Square necks are particularly strong. Depending on how you string and tune yours you will have somewhere in same order of string tension as most acoustics - lets say between 165 and 185. I feel that need an adjustable truss rod and put one in my tricone.

    There is another minor problem with this - most resonators use a neck stick (which is used to set the both the geometry and the action) - a neck stick could interfere with the truss rod. The spider has no truss rod but has a neck stick, the biscuit has both a truss rod and a neck stick, the tricone has a bolt on neck with a truss rod. You've got lots of options.
     
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  5. Freeman Keller

    Freeman Keller Friend of Leo's

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    One more quick comment. There is a current thread at the Acousitic subforum where a guy has an Amistar tricone that he is futzing around with. I don't think he completely understands what he has, but he wants to change the action. There are a few pictures with the cones out of the way, you can get an idea of the insides, including the neck stick.

    https://www.tdpri.com/threads/ngd-amistar-tricone.1054575/

    And here are a couple of pictures of the insides of my biscuit

    IMG_1005.JPG

    IMG_1009.JPG

    IMG_1008.JPG
     
  6. Freeman Keller

    Freeman Keller Friend of Leo's

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    One more comment. Resonators traditionally have either flat fretboards or very slight radius. It will depend on how you play - lap style you'll want flat, Spanish style with mixed slide and fretted you'll want a very slight radius, purely fretted you'll want whatever you like. My metal body has 16 inch which I think is too much. My tricone has 20 which I think is just right. The old dobro is dead flat, that works too.
     
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  7. alathIN

    alathIN Tele-Holic

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    Very helpful, thanks!

    I will probably play it like a regular guitar. I play fingerstyle which seems to fit this sound.
    I haven't messed with slides very much but that's a possibility.

    My background is that I grew up in an auto racing shop when I was with my dad and also spent a fair amount of time in a luthier shop where my mom worked. I have a broad range of woodworking and metal working skills but not at any of them at expert level. My dad still runs his shop - has done tons of welding, machining, and metal fabricating - so a very well equipped shop, with a built-in teacher, only 20 minutes from my house.

    The auto CAD file would be very interesting to look at.

    I just threw this together in SolidWorks today. Not so sure about those F holes but I do like this way of doing the cutaway.
    reso body.JPG
    I am a little bit tempted to try building in electronics - maybe a piezo on the cone and a neck pickup that could be blended - or maybe just leave that alone.

    I was not planning to make a tricone.
    My idea was to get one of these parts kits and design around those dimensions.
    I don't have the ability to make a spun cone.
    parts kit.JPG

    For the StewMac project I linked above, he built his neck and neck stick as one integrated piece.
    The neck is 3 pieces of wood glued together and the long one just extends all the way back to the back of the guitar.
    I kind of liked that idea and planned to do it that way unless there is some major reason not to.

    It did seem like a truss rod that adjusts from inside the body, like on a regular acoustic, might be awkward. Maybe do it like on a Gibson electric, with the truss rod adjustment under a cover in the head stock?
    The StewMac guy linked above put a non-adjustable truss rod in his.

    I really appreciate all your info and will certainly have more questions.
    I think I struck the Resonator Info Gold Mine :D
     
    Last edited: Nov 21, 2020 at 11:58 PM
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  8. Maricopa

    Maricopa Friend of Leo's

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    I've made...I dunno, 5 (I think) metal bodied resonators, both single (biscuit) and tricone and I'm kinda 'meh' on aluminum bodies. Here's a link to a Pogreba. I've played one in person also and it just doesn't 'grab' me like steel, brass or German Silver but obviously tastes differ.



    I see that you're going the spider bridge route and of course that's a whole different animal than biscuit cones.

    cut-tricone.jpg
    Here's a steel bodied tricone I made.
    Most of my metalbody building was done before I had a digital camera so I don't have all that many pics available of the process, but I'll be glad to post what I do have if it'll help you out.
     
  9. Freeman Keller

    Freeman Keller Friend of Leo's

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    OK, lets just go thru some basics. There are three fundamental kinds of resonators - single cone spider bridge, single cone biscuit bridge, tri cone. They are very different.

    Single cone spiders are the iconic "dobros", almost always wood body, either square or round necks. They have the sweeting singing long sustain that you associate with bluegrass - think Jerry Douglas or Cindy Cashdollar. The cones are about 10-1/2 inches in diameter, have a cast aluminum "spider" that connects the bridge to the cone and looks like this

    IMG_4987.JPG

    The cone, bridge, soundhole convers etc in your StewMac ad is for a spider bridge guitar.

    Biscuit bridge guitars have a different shaped cone, about 9-1/2 inches in diameter with a wooden "biscuit" (duh) sitting on top that holds the saddle. Biscuit bridge guitars can be made out of metal or wood, most of the metal ones are brass or sometimes steel., They are silver brazed together altho I see no reason they couldn't be wire feed welded. There is probably no reason they couldn't be made out of aluminum or titanium or anything else.

    Biscuit bridge guitars have short attack and sustain, they are loud and brash sounding. Wood tones that down a little, metal bodies are just plane nasty. They are ideal for Delta blues, however they can be played for other music, Knopfler's Romeo and Juliet is played on metal bodied National in open G.

    Here is the cone and biscuit, they are different from what you showed but StewMac sells them also

    IMG_1009.JPG

    That happens to be a NRP "hot rod" cone, cheap cones are pressed, good ones are spun, this one has reinforcing ribs pressed into it. Cones are under a lot of vertical tension...

    For what it is worth, the StewMac video and plans that you referenced are for a vintage National single cone biscuit bridge instrument, the spider cone in your picture will not work in that guitar.

    The third kind of resonator is the tricone, they are my personal fav, but you are not interested and I won't spend a lot of time talking about them.

    As I mentioned before, there are different playing styles for resonators - lap (dobro) style or Spanish ("normal"). They are most commonly finger picked but of course you can strum. They are often played with a steel bar or a glass slide, they are particularly well suited for bottleneck play. Its interesting that many of the best ones are 12 fret instruments but lots of bottleneck playing happens at the 12th fret - a good slide player can work around that. Sometimes you see cutaway resonators - I've never seen a need.

    Depending on how much slide you plan to play and your slide technique (whether your slide is curved, how you dampen, yadda yadda) you may prefer more or less radius in your fretboard. In my opinion too much radius is very hard to play cleanly.

    Action is another thing that is debatable on a resonator. For lap play you want one thing - high and flat. However if you are playing Spanish style then my preference is slightly higher than you might like on a finger style acoustic but still reasonable for the fretted notes. I run medium gauge acoustic strings, bump the first and second up a couple of sizes, and tune to open G or D, always down. Resonators frequently have poor intonation - you can compensate for that with your slide of course but fretted notes are often sharp. There are few things that can be done during construction as long as you are aware.

    The important thing about action is that you have very little adjustment at the bridge itself, most of it is done by angling the neck. I've shown you pictures of neck sticks, your plans show the vintage National version. On a wooden body guitar you can use a standard neck block with a dovetail or bolted joint, with a metal body guitar I can't think of how you would attach the neck if you didn't use the stick.

    As far as fabrication, I have a little experience since I worked for 40 years in a metal fabrication shop with laser cutters and various cnc machines. I have never built a metal resonator but I have worked with metal all my life. Traditional metal resonators were made from "bell brass" or sometimes steel, the brass ones are preferred. They are silver brazed but could certainly be welded. Maricopa can give you a lot more information about how he did his. Suffice to say the pictures I've seen of building metal resonators involves building bucks for forming the shape and lots of fiddling to get all the curves (the back is usually domed). Experience with an English Wheel might be helpful.

    Aluminum is certainly a viable material for the body, other than Dowling guitar that I linked I have never seen one. You will have to make allowance for gauge and tig weld and all that stuff but it should work fine. It definitely will change the sound - I'm looking forward to seeing what it sounds like.

    I hope all of that above doesn't scare you off but its pretty obvious that you don't have a lot of experience with resonators - either building or playing. Building one will use all your metal working skills as well as the normal lutherie challenges of making the neck, setting its geometry and all the setup stuff. Then all you have to do is grab your broken off wine bottle and play some blues.
     
    Last edited: Nov 22, 2020 at 1:15 PM
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  10. Wulf

    Wulf Tele-Afflicted

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    Those are gorgeous !
    craftsmanship that is...pure craftsmanship...if you dont mind me saying
    im not a bluegrass player...but something like those i have definately got a place for...a roundneck would suit me best...more versatile for what i play
    i use 6 string banjo too...its a guitar with a different flavour for me..thats all...i love instruments that have a quirky uniqueness about them...sonically and visually
    but for what i mainly use acoustic for ...outdoor entertainment a resonator would be pretty much perfect
    one question...could one be done as a 12 string? (if thats a daft question i dont mind if you tell me so..as an elec builder who fancies a bit of a challenge.im curious)
    cant do a lot at mo...sliced right thumb this morning shaping wood for a little project im working on...down to the bone...its a littlebit sore n swollen...but ill live
     
    Last edited: Nov 22, 2020 at 2:07 PM
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  11. alathIN

    alathIN Tele-Holic

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    @Freeman Keller
    Thanks for the background - super helpful.
    No objection to tricone but the spider cone arrangement seems simpler to me. I definitely like the "sweet singing sustain" you mentioned.
    I plan to optimize for play by fretting w/fingers and slide play as an experimental secondary use.

    My first thought was steel or brass body and get it plated - but my dad was suggesting aluminum mostly for workability and cost.
    But aluminum has never been my favorite material and I have never liked welding aluminum.

    For steel I am assuming regular mild steel? What gauge would put me in the sweet spot of being workable but also not too flimsy?
    If I use steel that would also let me use silicon bronze which I am more proficient with (for the unfalimiar its basically brazing with electric arc instead of gas).

    Would I use the same or heavier gauge material if I use brass?
     
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  12. Freeman Keller

    Freeman Keller Friend of Leo's

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    National Resophonic did make a 12 string version, I don't know if its in current production

    https://reverb.com/item/4906388-national-reso-phonic-el-trovador-12-string-2017-mahogany

    I have been giving some consideration to building my own 12 string resonator, I like both, might be time to combine them. And for inspiration, look at these

    http://www.forbiddenguitars.com/creations.html

    Well, the simplest is the biscuit, it just sits in the cone well and the strings sit on top. Spiders are a little more figity to set up and as I said, I've never seen on in metal. Tricone will be the most difficult, but not unreasonable. My point was, this is your first decision and will affect everything else.

    You are thinking of optimizing your guitar for fingerstyle. Let me tell you how I play mine. Right now the Dobro spider is set up for lap style play. Its got a nut extender, the action is 3/8 and you couldn't fret it if you had to. I can take the extender out an play Spanish style but I prefer the tricone for that. Its like driving a classic hot rod

    IMG_0200.JPG

    The metal biscuit is set up for slide and fretted, medium action, medium strings. I mostly play Delta blues on it - think Bukka or RJ or early Bonnie Raitte. Its kind of like riding a Harley

    Sporty & 'bro.JPG

    The tricone is the best of both worlds. When played with a slide it has that bit that only a resonator can have - play Dark Was The Night or Steel Guitar Rag, but fingerpicked almost sounds like an acoustic. Again, it is setup and strung medium but I usually keep it in D. Of the three guitars it is certainly the most versatile.

    As far as materials, I'm guessing the gauge is 18 or 20. Mine is non magnetic so its some alloy of brass. People talk about "German silver" and "bell brass" - you would have to research those. Mine has a sand blasted decoration and is plated, some of the old ones were painted. I suppose you could powder coat.

    I did find the article from the MIMF archives - it was written by Chris Paulick, is 74 pages long and has 100 images. That is just building the body (its a tricone but that shouldn't matter), he doesn't show the neck or assembly. I tried a quick search at MIMF (I'm a member) but couldn't find it. I think Maricopa is an admin there, maybe he could give you the link. Fwiw, Chris says his is made out of 0.035 German silver.

    Back when I was working at the metal fab shop one of my buddies was one of the best titanium welders in the world (he worked for Moots Cycles, currently builds land speed record cars). We talked a bit about building a titanium tricone, the weight saving would be wonderful) but I decided to go with wood instead. Here it is again just for laughs


    Tricone 2.JPG

    I'll leave you to do some more research
     
    Last edited: Nov 22, 2020 at 5:35 PM
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  13. Wulf

    Wulf Tele-Afflicted

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    Thank you for the reply on that...i did start to think i asked a daft one!
    So it is doable...that is great to know
    just need my thumb to get better...
    (yes its worse than i let on earlier...swollen like a big red lightbulb and throbbing..)
    im pleased you sent the links too...its making me want to start sourcing parts...
    not sure of my ability to build one...but if you dont try ...never going to learn
    Great Stuff...You Sir are a Gent
    Skol
    Wulf
     
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  14. alathIN

    alathIN Tele-Holic

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    Appreciate the help again.
    Your resonators are beautiful instruments.

    Will look into the biscuit design. I am copying a lot from the StewMac project so it is probably not a bad idea to use the same setup he did.
    I am a huge Knopfler fan and Romeo and Juliet is one of my favorite songs.

    Laid out the neck in Solidworks and put it with the body just for fun.
    BTW I do not intend the grain orientation the way it came out in the rendering.
    Neck Render Capture.JPG Assembly render capture.JPG
     
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  15. Maricopa

    Maricopa Friend of Leo's

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    I was the original 'Reso Guy' on the MIMF lo those many years years ago and a later a couple other guys did some pretty decent builds and did a much better job than than me on capturing it on film.

    This is a good one from the guy from Mule Resophonic. It covers what ga. to use, etc. One thing I'd recommend is to solder the bodies rather than weld. I'm sure he goes over that too.


    https://www.resohangout.com/archive/30050
     
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  16. alathIN

    alathIN Tele-Holic

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    That's super helpful.
    His body forming dummy is almost exactly what I was imagining.
     
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  17. Maricopa

    Maricopa Friend of Leo's

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    He does it pretty much exactly like I did...and National too except that they have some fancier machines and jigs. That's also from 2012 so he may have some more durable forms etc, by now.
     
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  18. crazydave911

    crazydave911 Doctor of Teleocity

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    Carrying the boy down a deep rabbit hole huh? :lol::lol::lol::lol:
     
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  19. Freeman Keller

    Freeman Keller Friend of Leo's

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    I found the link to the MIMF archives with lots of information on building resonators

    http://www.mimf.com/phpbb/viewtopic.php?f=32&t=913

    You will need to join MIMF, not a bad thing, then scroll to the very bottom and find the section on resonators. Chris Paulick's build thread is near the bottom of that.

    Chris did chime in on another thread on another forum about materials, scroll down to the fifth post

    http://luthiersforum.com/forum/viewtopic.php?f=10104&t=32324

    Note what he says about aluminum.
     
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  20. Maricopa

    Maricopa Friend of Leo's

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    Jeezuz....I'd forgotten all about the Official Luthier's Forum!
     
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