View Full Version : Vintage guitar conversion to zouk or mandcello
I am toying with the idea of converting an old archtop guitar into a mandcello or zouk. If I narrowed the neck down to amke it more playable, would this weaken the neck to muc? Assuming I start out with a good neck and maybe one that has a reinforcement rod?
Archtop guitar to convert (http://cgi.ebay.com/ws/eBayISAPI.dll?ViewItem&rd=1&item=3739551938&ssPageName=STRK:MEWA:IT)
Check out frets.com (http://www.frets.com/FRETSPages/Luthier/Technique/Guitar/Structural/8StConvert/8stconvert.html). I would think an archtop would only be easier. Given guitar scale length, I would definitely favor cello tuning over octave. So did Martin; they built their MC-1 and C-2 mando-cello models on their style C archtop guitar body.
I looked into having this done, even contacting Frank Ford for some details on the Martin conversion he cites. The major issue is the width of almost all guitar fretboards. Personally I can't imagine getting good on a ~2" wide fretboard even if the long scale was OK.
If you can find a tenor archtop guitar, the conversion is fairly simple. I found a set of mandolin tuners that just fit the existing 4 holes on the peghead and I drilled out the additional four. You don't even have to change the tailpiece, you can double thread guitar strings through the existing four holes. The neck may feel a little thin if you're expecting a chunkier wide-neck, but it works fine. I've converted a few of them. The photo below is a plain old harmony tenor. The other two are portuguese guitarras, that were originally 12 strings, but I converted them to 10 stringers...
I'm a newbie poster, but I'm all fired-up about the octave and am too cheap to spring for one.....yet.
I like the idea of converting a tenor guitar to an octave mandolin. But for a cheap, mellow sounding octave , how about a 12-string conversion? I just had the local shop convert an old Aria 12 to an octave mando. It only took a new bridge and nut and set-up work. The string tension is less than a guitar, and it is a gas to play! Easier than my regular mando, though you do have to stretch some or alter some chords.
$30 guitar + $120 repairs and set-up= big fun!
Not sure If you can handle that 25.5 scale? Try this:
I also experimented with a six string Guild. By removing the G string and moving the D and A strings over one slot, I found I could tune the top 4 strings to an octave GDAE, Then I tuned the low guitar E to C. Instant 5-string Mando-Octo-Cello. Just don't strum that low C when you don't want it; the gap between C and G makes that easy. Bonus: A whole new set of chord options! Negative: I miss the twin string sound.
I have an old Gibson L-10 that sounds like a giant mandolin. It would make a wonderful mandocello, except I can't deal with the huge stretches of tuning in fifths, and I can't bring myself to chop up a rare guitar in that way (even though it's a refin).
I've briefly seen a Loar-era mandocello that was converted to a guitar - tuners removed, peghead filled an re-bored for three-on-a side tuners.
Then there's the Loar Tenor Lute. What were they thinking?
There's something about conversions that makes me think of recombinant DNA kits. Your grandkids will be playing with them out in the garage, making triphibian frogs with wings, stuff like that.
I wouldn't chop the ol' Gibson either. Too much of a softy, I guess. But I would try re-stringing it like the Guild I mentioned. Couldn't drill holes in it either. My son gave me those puppy eyes when I mentioned the idea. Still it is fun playing Mutant Mandos. Somewhere there's a neckless box just begging for a retrofit. Happy hunting!
Why is the archtop important? Is it a question of strength, or merely of tone?
The archtop seems easier to convert to me, because of the tailpiece and bridge. You can put a mandolin or 12-string tailpiece on - or just leave the original and feed two strings through one hole. The archtop bridge can be replaced relatively easy and inexpensively.
I also coverted a no-name 6-string archtop to a 10-string cittern.
Archtop Cittern Photo (http://www.dwightmark.com/Instruments/cittern.JPG)
Nice job on those conversions, Dwight. What tailpiece did you choose for the archtop cittern? Did you fill the existing tuner holes and redrill, or just add holes? What kind of tuners did you use? Is there a pickup?
My very beastly conversion is a flat top Aria 12 string. We just used the existing bridge with pins.
I've converted a few old Silvertone archtops to 'cellos and they worked out just fine...
A perfectly playable instrument can be had for 100 bucks and a few hours of labor...
One was even plywood-topped, and it sounded fine...
I even doubled up a couple of the strings onto the existing 6 string tailpiece, so no need for a new tailpiece either....
For my archtop cittern, I had an extra 12-string tailpiece laying around. I bought individual mini-guitar tuners. My luthier plugged the tuner holes and put an ebony faceplate on it. He reshaped the headstock as well. I have it tuned with octaves and it sounds really good, but 10 strings in long scale can be hard to play...
Thanks for the tips! I guess I'm going archtop hunting. If the wife lets me.....
I gues this thread has sort of taken on a life of it's own. Cool.
I found alot of conversion prospects on Ebay:
<a href="http://search.ebay.com/vintage-archtop_Acoustic_W0QQbsZSearchQQcatrefZC6QQcoactio nZcompareQQcoentrypageZsearchQQc
yZ2QQsotrZ2" target="_blank">Vintage Archtops On Ebay today</a>
If you have some $ to spend you can get decent quality. But there are always deals to be had for $100 or less. Just be careful.
Mine is an old Harmony tenor converted to an octave. It's got great volume and sweet tone.