2017 Wildwood Hackety-Hack Electric Cuban Tres

Update 2018: I re-strung this slightly (moved the low G to a wound one) and swapped the tuners at some point and so I figured I might as well share acoustic and electric videos of this and snag some proper pictures. I've updated a few bits of the original text. Back to the original post...

The world is awash in what are, essentially, toy guitars -- intended to let a kid "start playing" for $49.99 at your nearest big-box store. I've done this same mod before and it turned-out swell (if ugly), so why not do it again? This Kawasaki-branded 19" scale guitar was traded to me for one of my spring rumblers (yes, I'm making more).

I'd originally thought to string it up uke-style for my father-in-law whose fingers are just too big for a soprano uke. Fortunately, I spared him that and have a nice old Harmony baritone uke on the way. That left this free to hack to bits. I quickly leveled and dressed the frets (amazingly, the neck is straight),  yanked the saddle (which was located over 1/8" too far to the rear), and then made a new nut and added new "screw-style" saddles -- which are a thing I use from time to time on oddballs as I can add compensation easily and adjust the action up/down with a turn.

I strung it up with pretty light gauges -- 10/26w, 15/15, 10/10 -- so I could tune it to a variety of different tunings. It sounds good in standard GCE, tuned up a step to ADF#, relaxed in AC#E open A, and has a nice sparkle and chime in GDG open modal G which is what you're hearing in the videos above.

At some point I stuck an old '70s Japanese-made Strat pickup in the soundhole and knocked its pole-pieces flat like a Mustang pickup. The mandolin-style tailpiece got a ground wire and I added a volume control on the top-lower-bout. It gives the instrument a plugged-in vibe much like the kind you'd hear from soundhole mounted pickups on actual Cuban tres instruments -- a spooky, cutting, saucy chime that can be heard playing counterpoint and lead on a lot on Buena Vista Social Club recordings (for example) and the like.

The new nut is really just a spacer as -- shock of shocks -- this thing has a zero-fret.

Obviously, this uses the finest junk plywood for the body and random bits-bin hardwood for the neck and fretboard.

Even if this were strung as a guitar, that saddle slot would've put intonation pretty flat. I've filled the old slot very clumsily as I didn't want to waste much of my off-day time with this project.

FYI, the bolts under those dots are just about the only thing holding the bridge on. That's also very typical of this kid-sale riffraff. I still can't help wanting to recycle stuff like this, though.