Logo 1 #topThe Poor Man's Fix-it shop.[not for the proficient craftsman] . . . .Logo 2


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    The image to the left is a link that will take you to a gallery of attempts and creations that I've put together just for the having done it. I like to experiment, and some of my outlandish experiments have turned out surprisingly usable. Take a look and see if there's anything there that sparks your creative juices.


Commodiane thm COMMODIANE
    What is it that everyone needs, but there's never one around when you need it? Of course, it's a Commodiane. Here's an idea that might get you off and running (or trotting as the case maybe) on the road to constructing your own Commodiane. If nothing else, it makes a wonderful conversation piece.

Flute link


    The law says you have to be a Native American to call the flute you make a Native American Indian flute. But you don't have to be a Native American to enjoy, or to make a Native American Indian flute. It's a good thing it isn't, and I hope this situation lasts, because I enjoy both making and playing the Indian flute. If you do too, or if you're just curious as to some of the aspects of this amazing instrument, you might like what I have to show you. I can't teach you everything about making a flute, but I can show you some tricks and hints as to how one can be made.




I play several musical instruments. Well, I play at several instruments, rather like a baby plays at being grown up. Most people hold their ears when I play, and those who don't are deaf.

    The picture to your left is my music center made from bits and pieces of this and that. The radio is of course not part of what I want to show you, nor is the steel guitar. I'll show you that later. The box with the small speaker I made to measure for the components in the box. Next to the speaker is a  small electric plug-in with 4 sockets that the speaker and the peddles are plugged into. This allows for the need for only one plug outlet wherever I happen to be.

    The right side of the box, the lid, has compartments built into it where I have a tube warmer, a vibrato peddle, a chorus peddle and an echo peddle, all held in place with an elastic band. The result of my playing passing through all these effects causes even my playing to sound halfway decent. One flip of the finger across the strings produces a masterful sound. Some day, if I ever get to it, I'll post a sample of my playing with a warning to wear ear plugs.






There are three guitars I use most of the time. This is one of them. When this Honer guitar first arrived I was quite upset with it. I would have sent it back to the mail order company I bought it from except the postage would have been almost as much as the cost of the instrument. So I decided to see what I could do to improve it. The sound of the guitar was ok, but I didn't like the playability of it. I had already scalloped the neck of several cheap guitars, so I decided to try my hand at a nearly full size instrument. If you look close you can see the scallops, scallops being indentations between the frets.

    To make the scallops I first carefully removed the marking dots that are set in the middle of the  fret board. Then I used a half-round course file (rasp to begin with) and scooped out about half of the fret board (the part glued onto the neck the frets are set into). I rounded off the edges of the of the scallops so they're easy to access and play. It came out rather well if I do say so, and plays much easier. Some professional players have their guitar scalloped, but by professionals who know what they're doing. This process can cost more than the guitar when done by a pro.

    Why, you might be asking, would anyone want to have their fretboard treated this way? There are several reasons. First, because the fret now stands much higher off the fret board it takes less effort to press the string for the note desired. And, because the strings are so much higher, yet no higher off the frets, it's much easier to catch a string for bending a note.

    Of course the main reason I scallop a guitar is for the having done it, and it makes for an interesting conversation piece.

    A caution if you decide to try this. Begin with an instrument you don't mind tossing in the trash after you ruin it. And, be sure to put some masking tape or some other tape over the frets when you file the neck so you don't damage them.


This was my first attempt at scalloping. I wanted to see what a guitar would play like if the frets were slanted so they fit the hand more naturally. I removed the frets, including the nut (the plastic (bone) fret at the end of the neck), then repositioned them the way I wanted them. This was quite a challenge, and to my surprise it works rather well, and surprisingly it's in tune. My efforts didn't prove out the way I had expected, the guitar not playing any easier with the frets angeled the way they are. Again, it does make for a conversation piece however. 

My second attempt at scalloping.
    If you have sharp eyes you have probably noticed that these last two guitars only have four tuning keys keys. These were originally baritone ukuleles I was able o buy real cheap. A first I imagined I might learn to play the uke, which I did learn, along with the mandolin, but I didn't enjoy playing them, so I sold the mandolin for what I payed for it and used the larger of the ukes as experimental pieces as you see here. I also converted some other ukes into odd conformations which I gave to a friend for his kids, and for him to play (at).




Out of the various instruments I made, this one is probably the most interesting and unique. I cut an opening in the face of the guitar the same size as a pie pan, and screwed the pan to the body. (As yet I haven't finished the face of the banjo since there's still work that needs to be done on it.)

    Banjos have 5 strings, and baritone ukes have only 4 string adjusting keys. I added another key to the head and placed a small model railroad nail at the 5th fret so it adjusts to the high "G" found on regular banjos. This works out well and after about 8 years I've yet to break a string on this contraption.

    I fond one problem with the banjo, which I compensated for here. A regular banjo (which I have one but rarely play it) has a surface the player can rest his hand on as he picks the strings. The surface of the one I made is far below the face of the instrument. To rectify this problem I took a section of the part of the guitar I cut out for the pie plate and made a hand rest, using two parts of the cutout in order to give it thickness and strength. This works very well, and it doesn't interfere with the playing surface (sound board) of the instrument.

    I like to rest my arm on the instrument when I play. With this banjo there was no place to rest my arm, so I made one out of a piece of wood as you can see in the picture. This took care of the problem.





These dulcimer bodies were a challenge, several challenges in fact. The first challenge was how to bend the sides of the dulcimers without cracking the wood. The tools I made for this purpose is described in another section.

    My second challenge was what to use as a tone board. The one dulcimer I used standard plywood. But for the other I wanted a better tone wood. Good tone wood is expensive, such as Port Orford spruce and western cedar. I learned that redwood is also a good material for tone wood, except it tends to splinter more than the other wood. I found a good piece of straight grained redwood at the local lumber yard, and I slit it into thin slabs appropriate for the sound board of this dulcimer. I was amazed that I was able to do such a precise job, almost every piece being equal. I just wish I remembered how I did it because now my 9" band saw won't even cut a straight line through an eighth inch piece of veneer. I may have to replace the blade.

    I've done nothing more with these dulcimer bodies, my having never taken to the instrument. I plan on converting them to small steel guitars instead, once I get past the flutes and boxes I'm working on now.




    This probably looks strange to you, as if I slipped in a simple box and call it a musical instrument. No, this is indeed a musical instrument.

    One day a few years ago I was visiting a friend in the town I used to live in. I told him I was now playing the steel guitar. He got mildly excited and brought out a box very similar to what you see here. It's a simple box covered with a mesh material (like  what comes on some speakers). He opened the lid, and under the lid was a steel guitar attached to the lid. I think of some sewing machines, how they have the same type of setup.

    Built into the box was a small speaker, and the legs to hold the  box and instrument in place. Although he had this antique steel, he had never learned to play it. I taught him one song, the one he most wanted to learn which he learned very quickly).

    When I arrived back home I decided to recreate what I saw of the instrument (a Harmony). 

    I ran into some unexpected problems in the construction. First of all the speaker and sound system I converted to fit the box didn't work too well, and it caused the space required for the instrument when turned upside don to be too small.  I decided to abandon that aspect of the box, since I like to lay the steel on my lap and not have to lean forward to the table it rests on. I converted the box into a container for the steel rather than be an integral part of the steel.

    The handle, by the way, is from a suitcase that I bought from a local thrift store where they almost pay you to take the many such cases they receive. I bought a few, and took off the handles. Now to figure out what to do with a bunch of handless suit cases.


   The steel as it rest on a shelf designed for the purpose. Remove the shelf and there's space to hold such things as extra strings, the steel bar, cables, and finger picks. Everything inside the box is lined with felt, and there are small compartments built into one side with hinges (cloth) that hold the smaller parts so they don't get lost in the shuffle.
    Latching the top was no problem as far as the back and the sides go. I just used regular latches purchased from the local hardware store. But I didn't want to spoil the front with an out-of-place latch. But without a latch, the heavy weight of the steel and the box cause the front of the lid to pull away from the box. To rectify this problem I screwed in a slender piece of wood, as can be sen in the picture, along the middle of the box. Then I fastened some small brackets (used in picture framing) to the lid that hook under the piece of wood. This works very well, and the unit has lost none of it's clean appearance. A problem might arise if someone who doesn't know about this arrangements tries to open the lid and thinks the lid is stuck, and tries to force it open. But for now it rests in my office, where it holds my extra steel.



   A final shoot from a new angle.

    From this position you can see the hooks and the small board used as a lock for the front of the lid.

    The grommets at the end of the box were for the electric wire I planned on using with the original setup. Now it's just there as a memento of its original purpose.

    The color of the fabric can now better be seen. For some reason the cell phone camera I'm forced to use has a way of distorting color, making almost everything a rich blue. I like blue, so I won't complain too loudly. The fabric is in fact a fawn color, a light brown rather than blue.


    This is my steel, the one I use the most often. I'm not just showing off the instrument as I haven't done anything to it other than to add the cover you see resting against the far side of the steel. I have a problem playing the steel in that there's really nowhere to rest the picking hand, the same problem I had with the banjo I made. One of the things I liked about the Harmony my friend had is that it comes with a built-in hand rest over the bridge. I cut some 1/8 inch veneer and built some covers, and conformed them to the shaped of the back of the fretboard and bridge. The pressure of the wood against the sides of the bridge holds it in place (I was very careful to make sure the fit was snug). I made 4 of them, and painted them black to match the instrument. That little, no-cost addition makes a world of difference, and makes playing a lot more enjoyable.

    A shot of the cover installed over the bridge. I doubt you can see just what I've done here since everything is black and no definition to be seen. If there's anyone out there who has experienced the same frustration, I hope this helps you to correct the factory omission.


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