Single-String Electric Guitar Construction Directions:



Attach The String To The Neck:

  1. Your guitar neck should have either a notch or two slits in one end.  If it has two slits, use the scrollsaw to cut out the piece of wood between the slits.  Save the wood for use as your bridge.  If your neck has a notch, there is other wood available for your bridge.
  2. Choose which side of your guitar neck will be the top.  The slit should open to the top, so you have two options.  You want the top of the neck to be either perfectly straight or concave.  Look down the length of the neck and see if it has a curve that will dictate which side should be the top (so that the top is concave).  If the top is convex, you are likely to have trouble with unwanted buzzing sounds.
  3. Insert the non-loop end of the guitar string through the loop.  Pull it all of the way through.  This creates a bigger loop.
  4. Put the washer on the machine screw, and then add a "backward" wing nut.  Screw on the wing nut, just far enough so that you can see the hex bolt about to poke through. (see photo)
  5. With your chosen "top" side of the neck facing up, insert the bolt, washer, and wing nut in the slot of the guitar neck, as shown. 
  6. Hook the string loop around one of the wing nut's wings, and stretch the string to the opposite end of the neck.  Decide on a location near the other end (at least 1" from the end, and at least 4" beyond the pickup hole) where you would like to anchor the end of the string.  The string must stretch to at least 1" beyond this point. Make a mark at this location. 
  7. Use the impact driver to screw a 1 1/8" drywall screw into the the guitar neck where you made your mark.  Then use the impact driver to remove the screw.
  8. Stretch your string out, as before.  Adjust its length (by cutting the end off) so that it stretches 1" beyond the hole you made.
  9. Poke the non-loop end of the string into the hole.  Try to get the entire extra 1" of the string into the hole.  Keeping the string in the hole, re-insert the screw.  The screw should anchor this end of string so that you can tighten the string from the other end without the string being pulled from the hole.
  10. Tighten the string by turning the head of the machine screw with a screwdriver or electric driver. Tighten until you get a satisfying twang in the string.


Add The Nut, Bridge, and Saddle:

  1. Add the nut.  Tuck a finishing nail beneath the string, near the slot of the neck.  The nail should be perpendicular to the string, and it should be sandwiched between the string and the neck.  Keep the nut in place by adding a small amount of hot glue at both ends of nail, but not in the middle.  Don't add hot glue near where the nut touches the string.
  2. Add the bridge.  Make a bridge out of wood (about 1/4" thick and nearly as long as the neck's width) and place it beneath the string on the opposite end of the neck from the hex bolt.  You can use some of the wood that you cut out of the neck.  Do not glue on the bridge at this point.
  3. Add the saddle.  Place a finishing nail on top of the bridge, at the edge of the bridge that is closest to the nut.  Glue it in place as you did with the nut.  
  4.  Slide the bridge/saddle toward the drywall screw, wedging it in as closely as you can without extreme effort.  Use a small amount of hot glue to hold it in place.  The string tension will do most of the work of holding it in place.


Find and Mark The First Fret Location:

  1. Make sure that you understand this, so read it...   Your fret mark calculation spreadsheet probably won't work very well for the first fret mark.  The reason is that your calculations assume that the string tension (and therefore wave speed) is constant.  But when you press down the string at that first fret, you increase the tension and wave speed.  Therefore, you can't simply calculate the position of your first fret.  However, after the first fret, you won't be changing the tension much as you play at subsequent frets, so your spreadsheet will work for the rest of them.  So you'll need to locate your first fret by measuring frequency directly, and making sure that the frequency of the first fret is 21/12 times the frequency of your open string.  Here's how...
  2. Play your "open string."  This means simply plucking the string.  If you have a really good ear, you can skip to step 19 and place the fret mark by ear.
  3. Measure the frequency of the open string.  You can use this online tuning app.  Allow the app to use your microphone.  Then hold the instrument close to your device and play until you get a good sense of the string's frequency.  You'll have to estimate; it won't zero in on one precise number.  Since you probably don't have a pickup at this point, you can amplify your sound by pressing the guitar neck against a table.
  4. Multiply the open string frequency by 21/12 and write down the frequency.  This should be the frequency when you play the first fret.
  5. Depress the string with your finger (a nail may be more precise) where you think the 1st fret might need to go, pluck the string, and measure the frequency.  Adjust your position until the frequency matches the frequency you wrote down in the previous step.  Mark this location in pencil on the guitar neck.  Test it out a few times with your finger.  Play the open string and the first fret, and make sure that the frequency increases by a factor of 21/12.


Mark The Rest Of The Frets:

  1. Precisely measure (to the nearest 0.1cm) the distance from the first fret mark (not from the nut) that you drew to the saddle.  Write this number down.
  2. Enter the number that you just wrote down into your spreadsheet in the cell labeled "distance from saddle to nut."  Yes, I know that this isn't really the distance from the saddle to the nut, but this is a workaround that is necessary to deal with the string tension problem mentioned above.  So just imagine that the first fret mark is the nut, and everything will work out fine.
  3. Tape a meter stick securely to your guitar neck, so that the edge of the stick runs down the middle of the neck, and so that the 0cm mark is at the first fret location that you drew.
  4. Use pencil to mark the positions of all of the frets on the neck.  The distances in the rightmost column of your spreadsheet should match up with their corresponding positions on the meter stick.
  5. Keep adding fret marks until you get to the pickup.  You will almost certainly need to extend your spreadsheet to make this happen.
  6. Before you remove the meter stick, take a look at your fret marks.  Do they look even?  They shouldn't really be even, but they should diminish in size at a regular rate as you get farther from the nut.  If some are missing or look out of whack, go back and fix them.  When they look good, you can remove the meter stick.

Test The Frets:

  1. Compare the frequency of the 12th fret to the frequency of the open string.  It should be just about double the open string's frequency.  If it's not, have Mr. Stapleton take a look at it. 


Add The Pickup:

  1. Insert your pickup into the drilled hole (beneath the string), with the flat head of the nail facing the string.  You will want the pickup to be as close as you can get it to the string -- without the string ever touching it.  Don't glue the pickup in place at this point!  You may need to move it.  Wait until you have played your guitar (especially the higher frets) to choose the final position of the pickup.  And even then you should use minimal glue so that you can remove/move the pickup easily.
  2. Add a magnet to magnetize the string.  We have had good luck hot gluing one of the large, rectangular magnets to the bottom of the neck, touching the pickup nail.  But there are many other possibilities.  You just have to magnetize the string near the pickup coil -- without letting any magnets touch the string.
  3. Now hook up an amp/speaker and try it out.  You may want to tighten the string some more by turning the machine screw.