Buick Hubcap Guitar


hubcap (4 of 6)I was commissioned to build this guitar featuring a vintage Buick hubcap as a resonator.  The earliest musical instruments were made from found materials- gourds, shells, and even human skulls were used as resonating chambers, so a hubcap makes perfect sense.

There has been a recent resurgence of building guitars in the tradition of dust bowl troubadours, who favored  wooden cigar boxes for both their musical properties and ready availability.  This guitar is a sort of mashup, combining the cigar box and a Dobro style metal resonator.

The neck was purchased complete with frets and given to me along with the hubcap and some  other bits.  I glued up a heavy block of oak, both because I had a nice piece in the shop, and to achieve respectable sustain.  The neck itself is a simple piece of one inch stock; the heel piece is integral to the body.  I attached the neck by fitting it with brass knife-edge threaded inserts, and using 1/4-20 stainless screws to fasten it.  This affords clamping pressure superior to wood screws, and allows repeated (though hopefully unnecessary) tweaking and shimming without weakening the threads.  The hobos of yore never had it this good.

I dressed the frets in a non-traditional way.  I thought about getting fussy with a file, but I’m fortunate enough to have a machinist’s surface plate almost the length of the neck.  I simply affixed PSA longboard paper to the plate and dressed the neck using progressively finer grits, detailing by hand.

The electronics fit under the hubcap.  By loosening a couple of screws on the back of the, um, guitar, the hubcap can then be rotated ninety degrees and removed. Once exposed, the pickup can be adjusted closer to or farther from the steel hubcap.  As with the original Telecaster steel pickup cover, there’s no problem of signal interference.

I’m not too nuts about the threaded rod nut.  It was a suggestion I should have resisted.  Positioning it for intonation was a combination of calculation and experimentation.  In the final analysis, it plays much better than it ought to.  (That’s not me in the photo- I rarely wear hats.)

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This piece is currently in a private collection.