Guitar #1

Okay – finally finished Laser-Cut Cigar-Box #1. (Not the test one (pixie-stick), but the one before that)

Turned out okayish – about 60% (just wait til next time)

– the action is way too high (fixable)
– the nut is (again) too far north (fixable)
– none of the joins, join terribly well (if you don’t like it you can piss off)
– the fretboard needs to be above the soundboard (yea, yea)

I’m not sure how to deal with the “door” at the back… still a bit buzzy, but looks ok. I think I might resort to smaller doors.

I’ll fix the stuff that can be fixed, then do a video.

Anyway, photos – with an all-over-the-place mix of colour-balances.


Tetris Shelves

I tend to work in a small 8 x 4 inch clearing in the clutter of my desk, on account of everywhere else being utterly over-run.

So I made some Tetris Shelves. You can rearrange the shapes etc.





All of these are a bit tatty and bodgy on account of it taking a few goes to get the dimensions right, but given a laser-cutter a whole lot more powerful than the one I’ve got, they could be quite cool. I’ve only made 3 shapes so far. There’s no need to go mad etc.

They’re made out of 8mm thick hardboard… which is pretty solid… and takes quite a long time for my laser-cutter to cut. If I was to make these to sell to people, I’d probably need to get someone else to cut them. Not sure if you could do it with a CNC router as the corners are need to be quite square. It’s shiney on one side, and rough on the other – I think I might need to make the backs shiney. See how that goes.

I’ve designed it with crafty plug things to attach the walls together… a bit like lego:



This is what it looks like covered in crap:


Gets it all out of the way I suppose, but I think they might look better when they’re not actually being used.

Laser Cut Paua

You can laser-cut Paua!

I’ve been using laminate so far – but you can cut shells straight off the beach… which is a whole lot cooler… at least partly because the closer you get to the source, the purer the magic.



This shell comes from this bay in New Zealand, which is where I was on the weekend.

There’s quite a cool zoomy thing here.


Brass Nuts

In an attempt to make the whole thing sound brighter, I’ve made a nut out of brass… haven’t cut the grooves in it yet, but it’s turned out quite well.


I quite like working with brass – kindof time-consuming, but you wind up with things that look like jewels… although there’s nothing like taking photos of things to show up the scratches etc. Pity it doesn’t stay jewel-like. Maybe I should use gold. There’s no reason not to… apart from the expense.

I made the nut out of the bit of brass rod sitting next to it. Not sure where that came from. “The Basement”. There’s quite a lot of useful stuff in The Basement. God knows how it got there.

More Fretting

Yea, ok, I possibly need a bit of a tidy


especially as this is the “Clean Room”. All the sawdusty stuff happens next door

Anyhoo… finally finished the frets on guitar #1.


Number of lessons learned:

1) don’t use gorilla glue in the fret-slots.

It does this weird foamy thing… I’m not sure what sort of glue I should use… I seem to recall some sort of acrylic based thing. Will need to research that a bit more

2) make sure the frets are seated properly at hammering-in time, because super-gluing the cracks afterwards is a total pain and I never want to do that again. I saw someone on Youtube doing it. Nope. Hassle.

3) one of the nice things about using a laser-cutter to cut the fret slots is that you can use the same pattern to cut masking tape to the exact right sizes to mask off the fretboard.

4) oil the fretboard before doing this masking… because the final polish with a buffing wheel is dirty. If your fretboard is oiled, you can wipe it off, if it isn’t, getting rid of the stains is difficult.

So there you go. Dressing the frets consisted of

0) masking all the wood off (with masking tape)

1) filing them so there are no high ones, and the whole thing is flat. Using a big flat file (like the one I made earlier) kindof does this by default. Marker pen on each flat shows up scratches and unevenness in height.

2) sand with 200 grit paper… with a block. This is to get rid of the file scratches… any that are too deep, use a fret-dressing file

3) sand with 800 grit paper

4) polish with a dremel with buffing wheel, and metal polish paste.

I use a desk lamp angled so the light bounces off each fret so I can see exactly what’s going on etc.

Turned out quite well… solved some problems from last time, introduced a few more new ones. Not really up to professional standard yet, but it IS 100% the real thing.



Laser Cut Clamps


I got all inspired by this the other day, so had a go at making purely laser-cut ones.

Not sure that my versions are quite as robust… on account of not being made out of steel etc. But they work, and they’re really quick to make. I made two different sizes… which probably aren’t the “right” sizes for what I need, but the beauty of digital stuff is you can change the design, hit a button, and make another one.


big ones (holds roughly 145mm by 100mm): clamp_big_1_plt.svg

smaller ones (holds roughly 20mm by 90): clamp_medium_2_plt.svg

If you’re going to use these files, you might want to check the measurements… tinker, adjust. They’re Inkscape .svg files… and I’ve got a strange laser-cutter which means I need to scale down images by 78.74015% for PLT files to come out the right size. I find it’s useful to put little (8mm diameter) dowels in strategic places to make the alignment easier for gluing.

Small Version




Big Version




First Video

Video of Guitar #0… which isn’t very good, but which possibly isn’t bad for a first attempt.

Need to fix:

1) make metallic, earthed bridge

2) earth everything that needs earthing electronics-wise

3) shift nut south. Sharpen it. Maybe use metal for that as well – zeroeth fret.

4) de-buzzify the box itself if possible

5) get planetary geared tuners

Nick Taylor

Laser Cut Files

Made a thing for filing frets today:


Looks a bit like Ayers Rock


Works really well. Maybe I should make guitars but sell guitar-making tools. This one might need a bit of refinement though.

I also finished the Pixie Stick guitar… attempted to make a video earlier but bungled it.

Swappable Fronts

Partly because I have commitment issues, I’ve made the designs so you can swap the fronts.

This is a massive hassle, and no one will ever do it – but it does mean that if I get my shit together to actually sell these, then people will be able to design their own fronts. Or choose from galleries. Or design fronts for other people to buy. etc etc.

Here are the first 3 attempts:




The neck isn’t bent… that’s just the photo angle. Better be. If it is actually bent, there’s going to be the biggest tantrum humanity has ever seen. I think it’s ok though.

I think I’m going to go with the first one… the least photogenic (I think it might be the light/angle) but in real life it looks best. And if I decide down the track I’d like to do something different, I can. Modular you see. Replaceable.

(Word to the wise: Always do test-runs with cardboard first, because curved wood NEVER winds up doing what you think it’s going to)

This is the Pixie-Stick Guitar btw. It’s the small-scale one made out of off-cuts.


I’ve been putting this off for months. This is the one thing that I’m not sure I can do. It’s the scary bit.


So I looked at all the videos on the internets about how to install frets… and figured I needed some tools. It’s a bit like Western-Tradition magik this… if you want a sword to do invocations etc, then you need to make your own. Buying one doesn’t cut it – a ‘bought’ sword has psychic contaminants, so can’t be used for magic. So you make your own… and to achieve better purity, it’s best if you extract your own ore, and use tools that you’ve also made yourself… using tools you made to make them. So you’re kindof encapsulating the whole evolution of the sword-making tool-chain / tech, into a single instrument.

So with this, I figured I needed a hammer with a soft head, and lead shot inside it. I found some bits of wood from one of the (apple I think) trees that blew down in last-year’s hurricanes. Drilled them out, fitted them together etc:


And then attempted to make my own lead-shot… by melting lead and dripping it into a bucket of water. The key to this is having the temperature of the lead as low as possible. Otherwise the drops of lead explode when they hit the water… the ones that don’t explode look a little bit like teardrops… or swans. In the trade, this sort of shot is called “Swanshot”.

To me they looked more like tribolites, but then I wasn’t getting the temperature right


Wound up with this… which I had to redo a couple of times to get rid of all the bits that looked like cornflakes


Then put them into the hammer, and blocked up the hole.


Works like a dream. Weird when that happens.

I also found that I needed a fret-bender… because even with a flat fretboard like I’m using, it’s easier to get the frets to behave if they’re curved.


Which also works like a dream.

I also made a rudimentary fret-pusher to use with a drill press



And lastly, I’ve found it’s really useful to have a bit or perspex with a hole cut in it the same size/shape as the wire cross section, so you can force the tang to point down. With this one it kindof works like a pendulum, automatically making the fretwire sit vertically.



So there you go. I’ve found it’s easiest not to cut all the bits of fretwire to the right length first, but to cut (with a dremel) as I go. ie: install a long bit of wire, then cut it off to the right length.

I put glue in the slots first, then applied super-glue to the join between fret and wood to fill any gaps… for no other reason than the internets told me to. This is a bit of a pain to clean off the wood afterwards. Got to be a better way.

But anyway… after about 30 minutes of filing, polishing, wound up with this:


Which is a bit scruffy, but not bad for a first try.

Next time:

– make tool to check that fret slots are exactly the right depth. Maybe just a marker on a saw.
– clean up excess glue straight away
– maybe not use super glue in the join
– try doing all this before shaping the neck, so I’m working on a flat surface, rather than treading on eggshells around a finished finish. Mind you, then I’ll be treading on eggshells re: the fretboard when shaping the neck. It probably is a whole lot easier to use a separate fretboard.