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Thread: Hybrid electric

  1. #1
    Registered User keme's Avatar
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    Default Hybrid electric

    So, am I a builder? I guess not. Dabbler at best. But let me start with a bit of background.

    I have a cheap Epiphone mandolin, fitted a piezo myself, using it in a band I play with but never quite satisfied with the sound.

    A good 15 years ago we had to cut down and get rid of an old, huge cherry tree in the garden, before it would fall down by itself from sickness and wind, and flatten part of the house or the neighbor's garage, depending on the direction of the next storm. I kept a few fairly sound pieces of wood (don't tell the wife).

    Now what have we? A band situation in need of a better mandolin. Wood that can be made to look really good. Instrument hardware from other projects that never started. Corona lockdown with canceled gigs and time to spare. Basic woodworking implements. A player who is optimistic about his woodworking skills.

    Let me whittle myself an electric mandolin!

    My guitar is a Rick 360, so I figured it would be a gimmick to model my mandolin to a similar shape.
    Click image for larger version. 

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    The laziness

    The premade fretboard is for a concert ukulele. A bit too large, so the scale length is going to be 15 1/4". Could have cut it down by 2 frets for a normal mandolin string span, but heck, let me try this!

    Glued the fretboard with pva glue (just forget that you read that). Could have used hide glue, but then I would have to buy some and learn how to work with it.

    The mistakes

    Already mentioned the glue, but that mistake I made willingly.

    Cherry tends to warp a bit, and I am essentially carving this instrument out of one single piece of wood. I do not have any neck reinforcement, and the increased scale implies a 20% above average load on the neck. Silk lined strings is perhaps a good idea...

    Shaped the neck profile past the nut. That is going to be a weakness. Realized too late. It seems that "volute" is a key element I did not incorporate. Wish me luck!
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    Finishing with tung oil. Looking good, but I tried to buff it too soon, and got some shiny and some woody areas. Rub down and start over.

    To be continued..

    Advice and comments welcome, of course.
    Last edited by keme; Jun-28-2020 at 12:28pm. Reason: Insert images, fixed formatting

  2. #2

    Default Re: Hybrid electric

    You lucked out! That high E string will be just under the pitch where it would break more easily at that scale length.

    Looks pretty!

  3. #3
    Registered User keme's Avatar
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    Default Re: Hybrid electric

    Quote Originally Posted by Explorer View Post
    You lucked out! That high E string will be just under the pitch where it would break more easily at that scale length.

    Looks pretty!
    Thanks for the feedback. If I break too many strings, I will just have to tune down a whole step and capo up, or simply adjust my playing.

    Capoed mandolin. I guess that is going to be be a first. I have a small Shubb-style capo which is going to work, I think. Not playing much high up the neck, anyway.
    Last edited by keme; Jun-28-2020 at 1:40pm.

  4. #4
    Registered User keme's Avatar
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    Default Re: Hybrid electric

    Plans:
    There is a small air channel from under the saddle pieces, out to the wedge soundhole. Acoustic mic goes in the middle of that channel.

    An even narrower channel cut out for a piezo rail.

    Making a tiny unity gain preamp for the piezo. The mic is a condenser. I will need phantom power.

    Made pickguards from scraps of the same piece of wood. Have some other sheets of pickguard material (tortoiseshell-pattern and black with white core). I'll see what fits best, if I need it. Preamp is only 4 components, so it will fit anywhere, even inside a jack plug shell. I will see whether I need controls on the instrument front.
    Last edited by keme; Jun-28-2020 at 1:07pm.

  5. #5
    Registered User keme's Avatar
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    Default Re: Hybrid electric

    Realization:
    The premade fretboard is for a concert ukulele. A bit too large, so the scale length is going to be 15 1/4". Could have cut it down by 2 frets for a normal mandolin string span, but heck, let me try this!
    I'm not making a mandolin. It is going to be a mandola.

    Realization pt. 2:
    That preamp will not work from phantom power. Needs decoupling or high voltage will run to output. Balanced output is also desirable. Found another one which requires more components and takes more space. Routing of the body, and consequently pickguard fitting, is required.

    I will post a link or pictures to wiring diagram when I am satisfied that I'll go for this, given that copyright allows it.

    So why is it a hybrid: let's see:
    • Multiple technologies: piezo pickup and acoustic mic., and possibly magnetic too.
    • Solidbody and archtop (more of that later)
    • Intending to have a "passive fallback" to piezo (and/or that magnetic) if power fails.
    • Intended as a mandolin, but turned out to be a mandola.


    Retrospect:
    The project came about as a "recycling project", sort of instrument making - good for the environment. I had too many instrument parts and too many never started projects. I had to throw stuff out or make use of it, or go crazy over all the clutter building up in my shelves.

    Some of the wood was not as sound as it appeared.

    Fungus damage forced me to shave away much of the headstock part. The base plate for the tuners is going to have corners protruding off the edge of the head. I have metal files. I will deal with it.

    Fungus damage also forced me to make the body waist slightly slimmer than the original, and significantly thinner at the upper bow. I just think of it as part of the design.

    Design objectives:
    • Better adjustment of intonation by making individual bridge pieces for each course.
    • Low noise output like my current setup through the option of passive piezo output.
    • Onboard mix of all sources, with a balanced sound. Passive or active. This is going to be a challenge with piezo + magnetic, and of course a condenser mic is not a passive component so that part of the equation does not compute.
    • Acoustic emulation. Bridge pieces are carefully matched so together they form a comparatively airtight surface. Each piece is an arc (hence the "archtop" mention above) with the piezo rail as one pivot point, and vibrations should make them act like pistons against the air funnel below.

    I have no idea whether any of those design goals can be achieved, let alone all of them together. Let's say I have an ambitious beginner's project (adding up all my previous projects into one, and then some).

    If this is entirely impossible, please tell me so! I would be delighted to prove you (and myself) wrong. Regardless of final outcome, I find pleasure in the process. Otherwise, I would have bought an instrument instead of spending endless hours on this.

    Realization pt. 3:
    This turns into a blog. Not my first, but the most active by far.
    This subforum could the wrong place for blogging. I could not find anything in user guidelines or ToS to that effect, but don't hesitate to redirect me!

    Realization pt. 4:
    Mandola + capo is not unheard of. I learned that today. So, the envisioned discomfort of using the one on the other will not be.

    Now where did I stow away that soldering station ...
    Last edited by keme; Jun-29-2020 at 9:12am. Reason: Realizing new stuff. Realizations fit better added "inline" than in a new comment

  6. #6

    Default Re: Hybrid electric

    I have recently built this Click image for larger version. 

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    It has magnetic and piezo pickups. The piezo is in the bridge and has a FET buffer built into the body. I run it off a 9v battery. But it can be made to run off phantom power. This is what I used http://www.scotthelmke.com/Mint-box-buffer.html this is a bit more information on the phantom powered version http://www.till.com/articles/PreampCable/index.html
    Good luck with your build.

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  8. #7
    Registered User keme's Avatar
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    Default Re: Hybrid electric

    Quote Originally Posted by sonic
    I have recently built this [...] It has magnetic and piezo pickups. The piezo is in the bridge and has a FET buffer built into the body.
    Thanks for feedback and tips! I appreciate it.

    Do you run the magnetic output in parallel with the buffered output from the piezo, through a "resistor grid" setup, or do you have a separate preamp/buffer for it? The condenser, piezo and magnetic are 3 fundamentally different signal sources (differences in signal phase, impedance, voltages, frequency response), and I don't know enough about interfacing different kinds of sources. I am learning...

    I don't have the magnetic PU yet, but as mentioned earlier I try to utilize what I have. Not buying unless absolutely necessary. I have a fairly large (~2 kg or 4lb) reel of 0,09mm (38 - 39 gauge) coated copper wire and a few strong magnets, so I figured I make that pickup too from scratch. Too heavy wire (I have gathered that pickup wire gauge should be in the 40s) so it is going to be either really bulky or terribly low output/impedance (probably both).
    Last edited by keme; Jun-30-2020 at 4:18am.

  9. #8

    Default Re: Hybrid electric

    I have a push pull pot setup, which puts the two outputs to a stereo jack. In the down position they are parallel, however I have found that if you roll either volume off too much you lose the other too. Pull the pot and you get one signal per “channel”. I have made a splitter lead that goes from a stereo jack to mic plug and either to a short lead to two mono jacks or a switch box. That I have to finish the design of, but A B Y type setup is the basis of it.

  10. #9
    Registered User keme's Avatar
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    Default Re: Hybrid electric

    Quote Originally Posted by sonic View Post
    [...] I have found that if you roll either volume off too much you lose the other too. [...]
    Yes. If you mix inputs by running them in parallel directly through the pots, and you have the middle connector of each pot wired to output, turning one pot to zero will short the output from the other pot to ground, effectively muting that too.

    As far as I have seen (also see the initial diagrams of this page):
    • For single volume setups (typical of Ibanez and Fender) it is common to wire the volume pot's middle connector to output. This will give a consistent load impedance on the source (pickup/buffer), but varies the impedance on the output side.
    • For setups with separate volume control for each pickup (typically Gibson and Rickenbacker), it is more common to connect the input (from pickup) to the pot's middle connector. This gives a fairly consistent (high) impedance on the output side, so with cascaded outputs you don't short everything to ground by turning down one of the faders. With this, the load impedance for pickups will vary, which (I guess) may have a bearing on tonal characteristics.
    • Instead, you could insert a resistor (same order of magnitude as nominal pot value) between each volume pot and the output. This will attenuate the output some, (around 6dB, audible but most likely within the gain headroom for your amp) but the pot "crossfade" will be largely eliminated even with pot-center used for output. This "onboard mixer" setup requires few additional components (one small resistor for each source), and may yield the most predictable output. See this page (note that the resistor symbols in the first drawing does not mark up for extra components, but merely symbolize the internal impedance of signal sources).


    Note: I have not built those circuits to compare the different options, so my writing above is based solely on theorethical observations and using the principles in other contexts.

  11. #10
    Registered User keme's Avatar
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    Default Re: Hybrid electric

    Quote Originally Posted by sonic View Post
    I have a push pull pot setup, which puts the two outputs to a stereo jack. [...]
    I have looked at the push/pull possibility for other purposes, but the one I have and ones I can find available are too bulky for my use. They extend 25mm (1") or more below the mounting surface, which my slab of cherry wood will not accomodate. Perhaps I will bite the bullet, route a cavity all the way through the slab, and make a back plate for the body. Less of a challenge to install condenser and magnetic PU if I do, but I like the feel of one single piece of wood (or perhaps it's just the idea of "whittled myself a mandolin" which suffers if there is too much assembly work done).

    Do you have push-pull pots with a lower profile (less than 19mm or 3/4" below the surface)? If so, where did you get them? (I will buy stuff if I must.) Are the switches DPDT (six connectors) or just on/off?

  12. #11
    Registered User keme's Avatar
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    Default Re: Hybrid electric

    No room for a trapeze tailpiece in this project. Bridge goes too far back on the head. Making a stop bar instead. Not sure that a wooden stop bar made from cherry will hold up, but I take my chances. I have seen wooden stop bars for guitars, so I guess this just might work.
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    • Small nails to hook the strings onto. (Mando strings don't usually have a bullet, so string-thru-bar is not an option)
    • Half round brass bar from an old drawer handle, leveling the strings over the saddles.
    • Brass screws from an old front door lock assembly holding the bar in place (top picture of my first post, you see them protruding diagonally off the body).


    Yep! Definitely getting rid of some of the crap that has collected over the years. Feels good.
    Last edited by keme; Jun-30-2020 at 7:33am.

  13. #12

    Default Re: Hybrid electric

    Quote Originally Posted by keme View Post
    I have looked at the push/pull possibility for other purposes, but the one I have and ones I can find available are too bulky for my use. They extend 25mm (1") or more below the mounting surface, which my slab of cherry wood will not accomodate. Perhaps I will bite the bullet, route a cavity all the way through the slab, and make a back plate for the body. Less of a challenge to install condenser and magnetic PU if I do, but I like the feel of one single piece of wood (or perhaps it's just the idea of "whittled myself a mandolin" which suffers if there is too much assembly work done).

    Do you have push-pull pots with a lower profile (less than 19mm or 3/4" below the surface)? If so, where did you get them? (I will buy stuff if I must.) Are the switches DPDT (six connectors) or just on/off?
    I have standard push pull pots bought from the bay of evil. Not sure on exact dimensions but an inch or so sounds about right. I had a little trouble with depth in that my cavity cover is carved inside to accommodate the pots. Less carving or a conventional cover rather than a wooden on carved with the back will work better. Or make the blank thicker to start with. The pots are DPDT so you can use the so called on on on switches instead to do the same thing I just like the pots.
    I went for a chambered design to keep weight down, so at least a two part body makes fitting the buffer and battery easier too.
    The next one is for a musician friend and will incorporate the lessons learned from this one.
    I will get the soldering iron out later and swap the wiring round to the two volume suggestion see if it cures the problem.

    The current setup is magnetic to parallel/series switch then volume/tone and out to second push pull. The buffer goes to volume/tone and then second P/P pot.
    The switch is wired as you look at it top left to ring of the jack, top right to tip (ground to sleeve) middle left is piezo, middle right is magnetic. Bottom pins are linked together and to top right. This is done with a resistor “leg” through the holes in the pins. So in the down position both go to the tip, pull up and it splits to ring and tip.
    I suppose you could find a suitable plug with enough wires for each signal. I suppose it depends on how you plan to use the signals. Mag to amp? Piezo and mike to mixer?
    Mine was deliberately so a standard mono guitar lead and amp could be used. Or amp mixer, two amps etc could be used with the splitter lead. The idea being it would suit a giging musician like my mate play small venues sound like a mandolin but alleviate the feedback problem common in those places. Especially when playing with a drummer and guitars.

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  15. #13
    Registered User keme's Avatar
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    Default Re: Hybrid electric

    Correcting silly mistake from previous post. My head must have been somewhere else.
    No room for a trapeze tailpiece in this project. Bridge goes too far back on the headbody. [...]
    Correcting (or rather compensating) other silly mistake:
    I used a handheld drill with no jig setup to drill the holes in the headstock. First with the exact diameter of the tuning posts, then drilling halfway from the front with larger diameter to accomodate the bushings. With 4 tuners on a plate, error margins are small. Nice idea. Hard to do right. Mistake accomplished. I had to drill all the way through with the larger bit to have all posts stand fairly upright, and then extend a few holes a bit more for the bushing to be properly centered.

    This multiple pass drilling by hand made the holes slightly larger than intended, so 4 out of 8 bushings are loose. Bushing flanges will still cover the holes, by the looks of it, so I'll just attach them with epoxy. Hoping that I never need to pull them out, and that the epoxy does not spill and mess up the top of the headstock. Trying a less sloppy procedure for this than what I observed while drilling.

    Making excuses
    OK. This is my first build, the project frame is "using what I have already", and the primary objective is towards sonic and playability properties, not looks.
    This is prototyping. I am allowed some slack.

    ... aren't I?
    Last edited by keme; Jul-01-2020 at 7:09am.

  16. #14
    Registered User Bob Clark's Avatar
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    Default Re: Hybrid electric

    Hi Keme,

    I thank you for this thread. I am enjoying your adventuresome spirit and willingness to share your thought process. I am having fun following your build and hope you end up with an instrument you will enjoy. In any event, I hope you are enjoying the process.

    Best wishes,

    Bob
    Purr more, hiss less.

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  18. #15
    Registered User keme's Avatar
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    Default Re: Hybrid electric

    Quote Originally Posted by Bob Clark View Post
    I thank you for this thread.
    [...]
    ... hope you end up with an instrument you will enjoy. In any event, I hope you are enjoying the process.
    Thanks again!

    I am learning from the process, which is enjoyment in itself. Glad to know that my sharing is not a total waste.

    I realize now that the fault across one of the tuner holes is going to leak epoxy. I am quite sure that I am not able to keep the sticky stuff below the surface there, and I would like to keep the rustic appearance that this fault contributes to. Have to take care about that. Perhaps temporarily fill the crack with wax, modeling clay or something.

    Bridge sliders already made. Cutting a guitar bridge blank to pieces for individual bridge saddles. Not sure that I can make a slot in each slider with snug fit for the saddle piece, while retaining sufficient strength. Otherwise, epoxy goes there too. I can't say I like that stuff, but it usually gets the job done.

    Band practice this evening. Tomorrow and Friday also mostly spoken for. Itch needs to be scratched...
    Last edited by keme; Jul-01-2020 at 9:08am.

  19. #16

    Default Re: Hybrid electric

    Being just as inaccurate with a hand drill as you, I worked out a way to get my bushings accurately located. See this. https://www.mandolincafe.com/forum/t...35#post1776635.
    Rather than glue the bushings in with epoxy, I would just smear it round the holes to bring them back undersized, then redo the holes as described in the link. Are you aware that when dealing with epoxy brown mylar packing tape is your fried, because epoxy doesn't stick to it and you can use it for masking, improvised moulds etc.

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  21. #17
    Registered User keme's Avatar
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    Default Re: Hybrid electric

    Quote Originally Posted by JimCh View Post
    [...] I would just smear it round the holes to bring them back undersized, then redo the holes as described [...] brown mylar packing tape is your fried, because epoxy doesn't stick [...]
    Good ideas, and useful knowledge. No, I didn't know that. Thanks a lot!

  22. #18
    Registered User bbcee's Avatar
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    Default Re: Hybrid electric

    Hey Keme, this is super fun to follow. Thanks for involving us!

    For your next project, I remember using a wood stabilizer, a sort of thinned epoxy, on a crumbly spalted maple electric guitar top years ago. It worked a treat. You soak it into the wood, let it harden, and away you go.

  23. #19
    Registered User keme's Avatar
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    Default Re: Hybrid electric

    Quote Originally Posted by bbcee View Post
    Hey Keme, this is super fun to follow. Thanks for involving us![...]
    Just wish I had done it sooner. With the friendly and helpful attitude commonly found here, I guess I could have avoided a few pitfalls if I did. The main instrument assembly was already done when I started this. Mostly detail work left to do, hardware and electronics bits.

    Even though I can add some retrospect, the mistakes have already been made and not all of them are easily rectified, I guess.

    I mentioned the neck profile, longitudally from body to head, extending past the nut point. That came about partly because I had to shave away brittle regions, damaged by fungus. The head was only3-4 mm thick (1/8" or so) so it would not hold much load at all. 8 strings tuned to pitch woud easily pull it to pieces. I glued on a scrap piece on the backside, but then the neck was already taking so much shape that it was not intuitively obvious that I should extend that reinforcement to somewhere below the first fret.

    Making matching surfaces to the head base and reinforcement piece was also a challenge. I used a small plane, but with the variable wood hardess and texture in the damaged head, I didn't get it perfectly flat. A slight saddle (pringle) shape may have made it stronger than a perfectly flat joint. More likely: the pringle shape is not identical on the two, so there is not contact over the entire surface. (Visible edge of the joint looks reasonably even, but not perfect.) Oh, well. The joint is so large that this is not a main weakness. Air bubbles trapped in there may crack it open in 50 years time or so, but I expect other things to fail before that (myself included).

  24. #20
    Registered User keme's Avatar
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    Default Re: Hybrid electric

    Refinished with the cheap brand of tung oil. Left on a thin layer for 36 hours before gently wiping down. Still a bit oily/sticky, but left a fairly smooth and even finish.

    Rationale: "Oil paint is self smoothing".
    Wild experiment: Applied a good coat of oil based furniture polish (non-volatile mineral oil / "vaseline oil" solution) on the half cured tung oil finish and left for another 36 hours before thoroughly wiping off. Now the surface seems fairly resilient and consistent. Not high gloss, but rather a homogenous silky sheen. This time without the noticeable "surface film", just like I wanted it.

    Note to self: Tung oil hardens completely, but may take some time. Do not disturb!

  25. #21
    Registered User keme's Avatar
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    Default Re: Hybrid electric

    Small update, starting on the bridge pieces.
    One guitar saddle blank and four individual bridge pieces.Click image for larger version. 

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    Jigs are for sissies. No router. A stop collar on the drill bit will do. Click image for larger version. 

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    Angry fella...Click image for larger version. 

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ID:	187106 ... but I got the knife. Click image for larger version. 

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    Click image for larger version. 

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ID:	187108One done, three left.

  26. #22
    Registered User keme's Avatar
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    Default Re: Hybrid electric

    For alignment of the holes for tuning posts I tried JimCh's procedure with steel tubing, using posts as drill guide. Great idea, but it requires a bit more work to get it right in my case. My cherry wood is somewhat hard and brittle, so edges of the hole will chip and split.

    I guess it requires sharp and even teeth for a clean cut. Grinding and filing, sharpening and hardening. Not something I am able to make at home. Life is too short.

    This made me think: There are plug bits, which just might do the trick. They will be useful for other work, so it doesn't hurt to buy a set to try. Otherwise I guess I'll pick the quick and dirty option I planned from the start. Anyway, good to have tried. The tube trick may be useful in a different context.

    And the other tip with the packing tape: confirmed! Epoxy comes off with no effort. I'll have good use for that.

    Thanks again!
    Last edited by keme; Jul-06-2020 at 5:00am.

  27. #23
    Registered User keme's Avatar
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    Default Re: Hybrid electric

    Nailed it: Click image for larger version. 

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ID:	187199 - Screwed it: Click image for larger version. 

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    And it is beginning to look right:Click image for larger version. 

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    By no means perfect. note the leaning posts...
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    and also the frighteningly thin point at the nut slot.

  28. #24
    Registered User keme's Avatar
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    Default Re: Hybrid electric

    Another thing which worries me. I tried to make a slight back bow when planing the neck for the fretboard. Now there is a slight forward bow (0.45 mm drop at 7th fret) with no load on the neck. With strings on, this may be an unplayable beast.

    Truss rod? Nope! Dunno how to make one.

    Slide mandolin, anyone? (Think I have heard that on a few Waterboys songs.)

    This one looks like it'll be a ukulele in the end. Not giving up just yet, but optimism is fading. I don't really need a uke.

    Oh, well, guess I can find a song suitable for that too (and the accordeon I inherited from my grandfather as well). Rock'n'roll!

  29. #25
    Registered User keme's Avatar
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    Default Re: Hybrid electric

    Just thinking...

    Would a string tree reduce the torque over the nut? As I see it, the accumulated torque may increase, but a significant part of it would be moved from nut slot to headstock.

    Distributing load is good. String tree will be ugly.

    That is just a loose idea. Maybe someone here can confirm or dismiss it. Otherwise, I will have to refresh what I learned in those statics classes some 35 years ago.

    Or perhaps just take my chances.

    Realizing my own laziness ... my strategy will most likely be the latter ... facing the consequences some time in the future.

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