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  • Making a guitar from a piano...?

    I'm still looking for a cheap source of wood to build a guitar from (electric or acoustic). I would prefer making the guitar from old timber rather than new wood from dubious sources.

    I can pick up (not literally ) unwanted/broken pianos for free from time to time. Any comments on whether the wood from pianos would be good to make a guitar from?

    I believe they have spruce soundboards like acoustic guitars, is this right?
    Any other parts that could be used?
    Ivory keys for fingerboard inlay?
    Does anyone know what the carcass is likely to be made from?

    Cheers Mike

  • #2
    You might be able to re-saw the wood for building an acoustic body, but it'd be way too thin for an electric body or a neck. Beware of laminates.
    <div class="signaturecontainer"><div align="center">All there really is, is virtue and vice.</div></div>

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    • #3
      bump :thu:

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      • #4
        Firstly, how can you be so sure that all new sources of wood are dubious? If they are you should stop supporting the music business altogether because use of industrial woods is very deeply rooted int he manufacture of guitars, basses, violins, pianos, dulcimers, etc.

        That said, you can usually ask your hardwood supplier which woods came from managed domestic forests and which came from exotic forests. Those are basically going to be your good and bad wood sources.

        I also can't speak intelligently on what wood source you would need without knowing what kind of guitar you're trying to build. For example, if you're trying to cut out a pre-war Martin clone you're gonna need a very large peice of mahogany--which comes from overseas.

        If you're wanting to build an electric, you really only need one 5/4 peice of maple (assuming it's a bolt-on neck) and can make the body out of a host of different wood types, including very renewable pieces of poplar from Lowes (though it's not cheap and green like alien blood, which means you'll want to stain it before finishing).

        Ash is easy to work and is renewable, but is a pain to finish if you want a smooth-as-glass, leveled look. I personally never minded the open pores revealing pits in the finish if the rest of it was sanded down nicely buy it's all personal preference. I just felt it was a characteristic of the wood.

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        • #5
          Firstly, how can you be so sure that all new sources of wood are dubious? If they are you should stop supporting the music business altogether because use of industrial woods is very deeply rooted int he manufacture of guitars, basses, violins, pianos, dulcimers, etc.


          I am in no way sure of anything to do with wood!

          I don't want to inadvertantly buy some sort of wood that impacts negatively on the natural environment. Over here on the Rainy Island (UK), we have very little wilderness and fewer ancient trees so it probably makes me more sensitive to cutting down a three hundred year old tree just so that I can make a mess of it trying to be Leo Fender.

          If I lived in Canada or Brazil I might have a different attitude, but I don't.

          The idea of recycling something that is being thrown away just appeals to me.

          Anyway, as far as type of guitar goes...I'd prefer to start with a Telecaster type. I don't mind laminating 6 or 7 pieces of wood for the body (I don't have any ethical problems with glue...as long as it doesn't come from boiled down horses!! )

          The main point of my post was to find out what types of wood that are used in piano construction can also be used in guitar construction?

          Cheers

          Mike

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          • #6
            Hopeful bump...

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            • #7
              I like the way you think thik mike.
              I was reading about tonewoods and luthiers etc before deciding on what sort of wood to use to make a little bridge for an old archtop, I decided on ebony and ,rather than pulling the leg of my grannies old sideboard and considering the work involved I bought a small peace of eboney tonewood of ebay for a fiver.
              I was reading up on how some luthiers who sell those 5 grand type handmade guitars use a blank peice of wood that they baught for $500 with just enough to make the fretboard.
              And they go on about how good tone wood must come from trees that were lumbered during the coldest freezing part of the year and then giving several years to dry out.
              This makes sence if we remember that wood is/was a living thing. every peice of wood is completely different even if it came from the same tree.
              I always wondered if old peice of furniture from 19 canteen would be good for guitar building,you see them in skips all the time
              Im sinical about so called tonewood salesmen
              :blah:

              Comment


              • #8
                I like the way you think thik mike.
                I was reading about tonewoods and luthiers etc before deciding on what sort of wood to use to make a little bridge for an old archtop, I decided on ebony and ,rather than pulling the leg of my grannies old sideboard and considering the work involved I bought a small peace of eboney tonewood of ebay for a fiver.
                I was reading up on how some luthiers who sell those 5 grand type handmade guitars use a blank peice of wood that they baught for $500 with just enough to make the fretboard.
                And they go on about how good tone wood must come from trees that were lumbered during the coldest freezing part of the year and then giving several years to dry out.
                This makes sence if we remember that wood is/was a living thing. every peice of wood is completely different even if it came from the same tree.
                I always wondered if old peice of furniture from 19 canteen would be good for guitar building,you see them in skips all the time
                Im sinical about so called tonewood salesmen
                :blah:



                Have a look at these:

                http://www.makezine.com/blog/archive/2007/02/ikea_guitar.html

                http://namm.harmony-central.com/SNAMM00/Content/Taylor_Guitars/PR/Pallet.html

                I think in the right hands you can make a guitar from anything...problem is having the right hands

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                • #9
                  Im looking at my Ikea furniture haha
                  Youre right about the hands but its mostly in the mind, if you can focus properly l00%
                  I carved a good archtop bridge using a peice of ebony ,a peice of bone for the saddle all with a stanley an a bit of sandpaper.and its much beter than the one it replaced.

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                  • #10
                    Im looking at my Ikea furniture haha
                    Youre right about the hands but its mostly in the mind, if you can focus properly l00%
                    I carved a good archtop bridge using a peice of ebony ,a peice of bone for the saddle all with a stanley an a bit of sandpaper.and its much beter than the one it replaced.


                    Yeah, I've been walking around for the last few weeks thinking, "I wonder if I could make a guitar out of that?"

                    I made a nut out of Corian (just like a Taylor!) to replace the hollow plastic nut on my cheapo LP copy. I'm pretty pleased with it. It's amazing what you can do withan old hacksaw blade, a piece of kitchen worktop and 180 grit wet and dry paper!

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                    • #11
                      I pick up pianos off craigslist that I see that are listed for free. Sound boards don't normaly make good wood fod full size guitars but they work very well for Ukuleles. They are normaly about 1/4 inch thick so they need thined down.the sound board braces make the best braces for full size acoustics. The sides of the piano are normally around 2 inchs thick and are normally Poplar, white oak, mahogany, or in some cases Brazilian rosewood. I use these for solid body builds and lap steel. the piano string bridges are maple. I use this also. The flat/sharp keys are eboney on older pianos. It is different from the newer eboney. It's non porous. It makes better nuts then bone. And polishes up beautifully. I save the ornate pieces for future project ideas. On the one I am taking apart now it has mahogany 4x4 braces at the rear of the sound board. I will use them to make necks. The ivory keys are realy nice for inlaying altho they are thin you need to glue a backer to then to make them thicker. These pianos would end up in the dump. I like the fact that they live on threw multy instruments per piano. I am picking up another one tomorrow morning.

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                      • WRGKMC
                        WRGKMC commented
                        Editing a comment

                        The wood doesn't have to be a piano, it can be from anything made of wood. I built my last three electrics from antique wood over 200 years old from shelving inside an old dresser. My buddy restores antique furniture and the own wanted illuminated glass shelving inside to show off his collection so he had the shelves laying around and gave them to me.

                        The one guitar I used a Walnut top, Rosewood back and maple sides in a semi hollow build. Used a Tele neck and Gibson bridge and tailpiece, with mini humbuckers and it came out great. It's my number 1 or two over all my other guitars. A second I made was from a maple slab butcher block. It was found on the street floating around after a major hurricane here. I made a similar build and it too is a killer guitar. I have several others built with chunks of wood scavenged.

                        if you did use a piano, the sides of the piano would probably do better for an electric over the sound board. Pianos usually have decent solid wood sides. Some may be laminated, but even with that carefully sanded down would give you a good grain.

                        Electrics rely less on wood tone than an acoustic does. If you're building an acoustic then the thin wood must resonate well like a diaphragm moving the air to generate good tone. The sound board of a piano would be too thick so you would have to sand it thinner for an acoustic. For an electric, you can cut several layers and laminate them together with glue for a thicker body.

                        Older wood has less moisture in it and the sap from the tree petrifies in the wood to make it more resonant. Wood types for instruments is usually a denser tighter grain. Softer woods that grow quickly contain allot of soft pulp which absorbs vibrations. Think of the rings in a trees wood cross section. The hard rings are the bark layer which sheds each year. The soft pulp layer is between them. If climate is good for growth, the pulp layers are thick and spongy. Wood used for a Stradivarius, was harvested after the little ice age when days were short and growth was slow. The pulp layers were thin and therefore the wood was denser and more resonant.

                        For electrics the best source of wood for a body is EBay. You have hundreds of body's listed that some jackass decides to refinish and botches the job because they don't take the time to learn what's involved refinishing. Many of them sell for $50 or less.  You also have people buying guitars and parting them out and a perfectly good finished body can be bought cheap as well.

                        They also sell blanks which need to be cut and routed. If you don't have the tools and the experience to cut route and finish a blank, you will need to spend a couple of hundred buying the tools you need. Once you have the tools, and the experience it gets easier and cheaper to do a body. I suggest starting with a cheap pine or plywood blank because you will make mistakes and you don't want to be making those mistakes with high quality woods.

                        You can make electric bodies from non wood sources too. Plexi glass, metal, and composite resins like fiberglass particle board even MDF like in Dan electrics is all possible. It just takes a determined mind and experience using those materials.


                    • #12

                      Hopefully you can find some wood and craft it so I can see the final product! Sounds like a kick-ass project.

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