1940s/50s/60s/2000s Silverware-Box Partser Resonator Guitar

Yesterday was one of our off-days. It was just chill enough outside that we didn't feel like going out into nature and I (thankfully) forgot all about the promise to myself to do taxes (I did that today: ugh, new tax code, ugh). So after hanging-out with the Mrs., we both started work on disparate projects. I whipped this sucker up in a few hours because the handsome resonator guitars passing through the shop lately were instigating minor bouts of lust.

This is entirely built from shop "refuse" -- bits and pieces that were left behind from other projects. The neck is a '90s or 2000s Peavey, Chinese-made electric job with a narrow nut. The coverplate is off of a late-'40s/early-'50s Kay resonator (it's like a surplus National plate with the holes drilled askew), the biscuit is from an import resonator that got reconed, and the cone itself is a Beard (or Continental?) biscuit-style cone that was collapsing in normal use but is now inverted and works fine. The tailpiece is off of a '50s United-made "parlor" guitar, the tuners are '80s Gotoh salvage from my parts-bins, and even the structure that makes up the "dowel" inside is scrap from taking apart a defunct kitchen counter. Yes -- the mounting screws for all the hardware are mismatched, random stuff, too.

I've made a number of partser ukuleles with inverted biscuit resonator cones (so -- like in an amp, the "speaker" direction points out) but I hadn't yet tried it on a guitar-size instrument. I wanted to do that with something I wouldn't regret butchering, so when I found this silverware box among my inlaws' antiques, all the gears clicked into place and I said, "Ah-hah! Let's do it."

Said box was found while playing a 2-hour-long bout of hide-and-seek with the kids on Sunday. We exhausted the house and moved into the shop and I found this box hiding with one of my kids waaaay back under a table. I knew I liked the result of Rick's space cadet silverware-box electric, so I figured -- why not? The top and back were both lightweight ply, too, so it was perfect.

The end result is a lot better than I was hoping-for -- it's actually pretty addicting to play. Its tone flits somewhere between National bark and Dobro-style sustained mellow honk. I'd say it responds more like an old-time banjo, actually, though -- in the way the notes are sing-songy and sweet with good sustain rather than brash and kerrangy. Bass response is a lot better than I'd expected and projection is good, too. Volume-wise it's about the same as an old Dobro wood-body but with less of the upper-mids nasal cut or swoon -- whatever you want to call that sound. Playability is like an electric, of course, and the long neck and fret access makes it ideal to open-tune and then capo-around to get where you want to be.

Work included: ...the obvious... cobbling this together. It also meant giving the neck just a touch of a fret level/dress job and then of course a setup, too. The neck is straight, the truss works, and the action is 3/32" EA and 1/16" DGBE at the 12th fret. It has an adjustable, archtop-style saddle, too. I wanted to keep the strings "electric" in tension due to the neck design, so it's strung with 46w, 36w, 26w, 17, 13, 10 gauges. As a bonus, it feels terrific with these gauges and with the sustain and bite of the resonator sound, bending is super fun on the G-through-high-E.

Scale length: 25 1/2"
Nut width: 1 5/8"
String spacing at nut: 1 3/8"
String spacing at saddle: 1 15/16"
Body length: 15 3/8"
Body width: 11 1/8"
Side depth at endpin: 3 3/8"
Top wood: ply birch
Back/sides wood: ply birch
Neck wood: maple
Fretboard: rosewood
Neck shape: 14" radius board, slim-C rear profile
Bridge: rosewood adjustable saddle, maple biscuit
Nut: original plastic

I have a whole deck of these "spotter" cards. I have a fondness for the "widowmaker" B-26 and its swollen belly.

My kids love moons -- if I ask them what the soundhole should be, they always say moons. Hence -- a moon. No, I didn't bother to clean it up much after zipping it with my Foredom.

The top is an unbraced piece of ply with a big hole cut in it and a the resonator cone's lip just flattened and placed over the top edge. The coverplate is then screwed-down over that and both helps to keep the cone secure and stiffens the "soundboard" up to the point where the board itself didn't need any extra bracing. Quick-n-dirty can sometimes be just what you need, huh?

The biscuit comes complete with extra locator holes for the saddle posts! The saddle comes just barely fine-sanded! Note my "lightning-bolt" compensation on the top edge for 3-wound, 3-plain stringing. National did the same for their '60s electrics.

At least these ugly Gotoh tuners work swell.

Here you can see the 2x4 down the center-back, a smaller block above it to help the heel locate correctly, and the very minor arched cutout on the bottom of the centerblock to let the back vibrate a little more freely.


Unknown said…
Home run!!!! That sounds wonderful
Ivan said…
The above was my comment
Ivan said…
It must be a wonderful feeling to be able to take leftovers and create something that sounds so good.
Unknown said…
You willing to sell it Jake?
Jake Wildwood said…
Sure, yep -- pop me an email. I'd sell it for the time I have into it (a couple hours), as the rest was free, hah hah.

I have some scratch-building missions involving this same basic design idea to get to.