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Thread: Conversion from cheap 6 string

  1. #1
    Registered User Cary Fagan's Avatar
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    Default Conversion from cheap 6 string

    I bought this small (23" scale) guitar for $30 from a guy. (We did it in a parking lot, like it was a drug deal.) All laminate El Degas, which was a distributor (in the 60s and 70s?).

    The bridge had pulled up, damaging the top, so I removed it and patched it (there was no top layer of wood under the bridge, don't know if that's common). Recarved the neck, cut down the fretboard, cut the 3 on a side tuners to 2, added tailpiece. Then I stained the top black to help cover up some of the scars of the conversion and just for fun.

    For a dubious dabbler like me, it came out well enough. I enjoy playing it.

    Cheers, keep well.Click image for larger version. 

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    Cary Fagan

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  3. #2
    Registered User Bunnyf's Avatar
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    Default Re: Conversion from cheap 6 string

    Cary, that was quite an undertaking. It came out nice. I love my TG, even tho the longer scale is a bit of an adjustment.

  4. #3
    Registered User fox's Avatar
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    Default Re: Conversion from cheap 6 string

    Cool, well done!

  5. #4
    Registered User mreidsma's Avatar
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    Default Re: Conversion from cheap 6 string

    After reading a few other accounts of tenor conversions and asking a few questions of Cary regarding his previous baritone ukulele conversion - he convinced me to use a 23" scale guitar. My donor guitar started life as a 23" scale Hondo slot head steel string/ladder braced guitar from the early 1980s that someone had scuffed up with sandpaper. I bought it a year ago from the local Goodwill for the tailpiece, and it's hung in a corner of my shop since.

    A few weeks ago I took a break from working at home and cut down the neck, cleaned up the finish, refretted it with medium frets, added maple dots to the board from my plug cutter, cut down the headstock, and fabricated a tailpiece from brass. Then I played the dickens out of it. (I liked the tenor so much but wanted a shorter scale, so I bought a 1920s Regal 21" scale.) But the conversion was fun, and surprisingly easy.

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    Thanks for the inspiration, Cary!

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  7. #5
    Registered User Cary Fagan's Avatar
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    Default Re: Conversion from cheap 6 string

    Hey, nice! I've owned 3 Regals. I fixed them up and sold them a few years ago. Do sort of wish I'd kept one.
    Cary Fagan

  8. #6
    Registered User mreidsma's Avatar
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    Default Re: Conversion from cheap 6 string

    I just got mine strung up last night. I got a heck of a deal on it, as the seller listed it as a baritone uke, but it was in pretty rough shape when I got it. Several top cracks, a few cracked braces (which was a challenge, since unlike a 6 string I couldn't position wedges to hold braces together while I reglued them, because my hand didn't fit in the sound hole!) It also had the BOTTOM 4 strings of a medium guitar set on it, 56-46-34-24! They looked new, and the neck was mostly straight. It had a slight bow that corrected with the fret leveling. It still needs a little tweaking at the nut, but I've been playing it on and off all day, and it's a wonderful little guitar. Mine is unmarked, but recognizable as a Regal.

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  10. #7
    Registered User Cary Fagan's Avatar
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    Default Re: Conversion from cheap 6 string

    Sweet. I think they look better with banjo tuners, with that headstock. Of course they originally had friction tuners. Enjoy!
    Cary Fagan

  11. #8
    Registered User mreidsma's Avatar
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    Default Re: Conversion from cheap 6 string

    Agreed! Should it work its way into my heart enough to stick around, it will get some banjo style tuners. I have it tuned CGDA, which I'm enjoying. Did you ever try yours in other tunings?

  12. #9
    Registered User Cary Fagan's Avatar
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    Default Re: Conversion from cheap 6 string

    I only used GDAE. It was good for single note playing, less so for chording. I suspect it likes CGDA better.
    Cary Fagan

  13. #10
    Registered User mreidsma's Avatar
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    Default Re: Conversion from cheap 6 string

    I wondered if the short scale would make the GDAE tuning a bit muddy. Do you remember the gauges you used? I haven't yet fixed the butcher job the "music shop" I bought it from did on the bridge and nut to fit a 56 w string in there, so I doubt I'd have trouble converting to GDAE without modification.

  14. #11
    Registered User Cary Fagan's Avatar
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    Default Re: Conversion from cheap 6 string

    I think I used the gauges mentioned on the Fletcher tenortone site. His are 21 inch scale.
    Cary Fagan

  15. #12
    I really look like that soliver's Avatar
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    Default Re: Conversion from cheap 6 string

    Great work guys!... I did the same with an old classical ... I wasn't as big of a fan. Mine started as a 23" scale and I shoved the bridge forward to make it roughly a 20" scale... it looks nicer than it did previously, but the intonation is a little off... a great learning experience for sure!

    I replaced the fretboard with some ambrosia maple with dots I made from some ebony scraps with a plug cutter like the op.

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    aka: Spencer
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  16. #13
    Registered User mreidsma's Avatar
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    Default Re: Conversion from cheap 6 string

    Thanks, Spencer! Your post in the Builder forum was the one that pushed me over the edge to actually start cutting. Do you think the nylon strings are part of the issue you've had with it?

    -M

  17. #14
    Registered User fox's Avatar
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    Default Re: Conversion from cheap 6 string

    In theory a nylon classical guitar is a better donor than a steel string due the overall string tension used.
    Most nylon string sets designed for a six string are around 80lb total, most steel string sets are around 160lb.
    So with our four steel strings at around 80lb a classical guitars sound board sound be able to move as designed .... maybe?
    Having said that, i would think that anyone with the skills to adapt a steel six string could also be able to adjust the soundboard bracing.

  18. #15
    Registered User mreidsma's Avatar
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    Default Re: Conversion from cheap 6 string

    After a few weeks, I'm making a few modifications to the tenor conversion. Here is a before and after (I don't have any photos pre-tenor conversion. Whoops!)

    Here it is right after conversion:
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    And here it is today, after the upgrades detailed below:
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    First, the spot the strings attach to the tailpiece needed to be lowered by an 1/8" to get a better break angle on the bridge. I drilled new holes a little higher (at the bend) in the brass tailpiece, and also plugged the existing holes in the tail block and then lowered the tailpiece so the strings come out of the tailpiece a hair above the edge of the body.

    Next, I replaced the rough and low maple bridge I had made and instead made a floating bridge with a compensated bone saddle. I might have sacrificed a little volume here for better clarity and intonation, especially after I switched tunings (to GDAE).

    I also had originally left the large zero fret in, but the action at the first few frets was way too high. First, I pulled the zero fret and replaced it with one the same size as the rest of the frets. (They are all new medium fretwire.) But that was still a little too high. So I pulled the zero fret altogether, and cut the fretboard at the zero fret and installed a proper nut. Now it plays in first position much better. Action is a tad high at the 12th still, about 3/32".

    The guitar looked a little bland, so I also repurposed a martin-style pickguard I had pulled from another guitar long ago. I scraped all the old glue off the back and pressed in in a book press overnight with archival bookbinding double-sided tape on it. Then I clamped it to the top with some cauls for a few hours. It still looked a little bare, so I bound the soundhole with cream ABS binding. If you stand 8-10 feet away and squint, it looks pretty good!

    Finally, the old classical tuners were awful. I first tried rebuilding them with other gears and shafts, but ran into issues with that approach. So, I plugged the large classical style tuner holes and then redrilled holes for standard slot head tuners. I used a set of regular tuners pulled from a 1960s Japanese acoustic and drilled new holes to fit in the slot head. After filing the holes down and cleaning and lubing the tuners, they fit snug and work pretty well. The standard tuning on this laminate guitar was a little thin, so I switched to GDAE tuning, which I really like on my '20s Regal.

    Here's a little sound demo in the shop (not the most acoustic place). It's a lot of fun to play. Forgive my attempt at finger picking. I'm a mandolin player.



    I really have been bit by the tenor bug. This junky tenor conversion has been so much fun to play the past few weeks, that I decided to upgrade. I already have a 21" scale tenor, but the longer scale and bigger body are a really nice mix. Tomorrow my mid-30s Gibson-made Cromwell tenor will arrive (basically the same as a Kalamazoo KTG-14).

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  20. #16
    I really look like that soliver's Avatar
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    Default Re: Conversion from cheap 6 string

    Quote Originally Posted by mreidsma View Post
    Thanks, Spencer! Your post in the Builder forum was the one that pushed me over the edge to actually start cutting. Do you think the nylon strings are part of the issue you've had with it?

    -M
    I think the issues I had are more to do With the janky intonation (totally my fault) and just the fact that I've been playing mandolin long enough that I've gotten used to the smaller fret spacing and just wasn't enjoying playing it. The few guitarists that I handed it to thought it was really cool and we're able to do way more with it than I was.

    I think my main intent was to "scratch an itch"... I'd been thinking about and wanting a tenor for a while, and I'd been wanting to give some slightly more serious luthiery a try so this project satisfied both. I was able to try tenor guitar at relatively little cost and develop some luthier's skills at the same time! I realized that TG was not necessarily for me and that I am excited about possibly building some mandolins!... I do think that if I try to convert another guitar, I would try to do a steel string rather than a classical. It was fun for sure!
    aka: Spencer
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  21. #17
    Registered User Steve VandeWater's Avatar
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    Default Re: Conversion from cheap 6 string

    I did the same thing with a cheap 3/4 size Yamaha recently and am very happy with it. However, it just whet my appetite for a "real" tenor guitar. https://www.mandolincafe.com/forum/t...nor-conversion
    I'm looking forward to when the Recording King Dirty 30's Tenor is available.
    Nice work on yours. It looks great!
    It ain't gotta be perfect, as long as it's perfect enough!

  22. #18
    Registered User mreidsma's Avatar
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    Default Re: Conversion from cheap 6 string

    Steve, your post was one I read over a few times when I was planning my conversion!

    I did buy a "real" tenor guitar, and I've had 24 hours with it, a 1935 Gibson-made Cromwell (basically a ladder-braced L-00 tenor guitar). The difference is a little astounding. I will have a hard time going back to my frankentenor after playing this one, for sure...

    -M

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  24. #19
    Registered User Steve VandeWater's Avatar
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    Default Re: Conversion from cheap 6 string

    Quote Originally Posted by mreidsma View Post
    Steve, your post was one I read over a few times when I was planning my conversion!

    I did buy a "real" tenor guitar, and I've had 24 hours with it, a 1935 Gibson-made Cromwell (basically a ladder-braced L-00 tenor guitar). The difference is a little astounding. I will have a hard time going back to my frankentenor after playing this one, for sure...

    -M
    Good for you! That's awesome! I'd absolutely love to have something like that, but I can't justify spending much. That's why I'm looking forward to the Recording King's arrival. I really wish I'd held onto my Blueridge BT40. Hindsight!
    It ain't gotta be perfect, as long as it's perfect enough!

  25. #20
    Registered User mreidsma's Avatar
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    Default Re: Conversion from cheap 6 string

    Well, I got a hell of a deal on this one. It was a bit too good to pass up, although I had to thin the herd of mandolins a bit to swing it. It's pretty nice.

    The conversion holds its own, though! It sounds pretty good. It's interesting how the 1/2" scale difference is totally noticeable in first position. It's just a little easier to make those stretches to 5 on the slightly shorter Gibson scale. I need to tweak the setup on the conversion just a bit, and I think I have a coworker who is a little small for the dreadnaught someone convinced her to buy who is interested in maybe starting on tenor, so it looks like it could get some use now that I'm ignoring it to play the Cromwell!

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