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Build This Baritone Electric Guitar - 1968

Although this website is mainly concerned with DIY cigar box guitars, I can't help but pass along cool articles like these 54 year old plans for a baritone guitar with a scale length approx 27.25". Make sure to wear a spiffy, starched white shirt and black tie when you play yours.

These were first published in Popular Mechanics, March 1968.


It's called a baritone because it's tuned an octave lower than an ordinary electric guitar. What's more, because its tone ranges from rich and brassy to soft and vibrant, you can use it as a solo, rhythm or bass instrument -- just twist the controls to produce the desired effect.

The body of the instrument can be made of any wood that has a good-looking grain and will take a finish well. The neck, however, must be made of hardwood, such as maple or mahogany. Bandsaw a one inch thick blank to the required outline and work it to final size with a spokeshave or surface-forming tool, and sandpaper.

Route or mill the 1/4 x 1/4 inch groove in the bottom of the neck and then chisel out the small opening near the top of the neck and slip the 1/4 inch diameter reinforcing rod into the groove. Add the nut at the top end of the rod, fill the groove with white glue and add the 1/4 x 1/4 inch filler strip of contrasting wood. It's important here to have only a short section of rod protruding into the well: otherwise, future adjustment will be difficult.

Wipe off excess glue and clap the filler strip to the neck along its length. Set this aside to dry thoroughly and finish preparation of the body by drilling the 1/4 inch hole for the rod and the one inch hole through the bottom of the body. Chisel the latter hole to accept the corners of the nut.

When the neck has dried completely, fit it to the body by applying glue at the mating surfaces, tightening the lower nut and clamping securely. Let the entire assembly dry for a day or two while working on the other details, then finish the body and smooth the joint between the neck and the filler strip.

The fret board can be made of rosewood or beech, shaped as shown in cross-sectional view A-A. Slots for the frets can be cut with a fine-tooth hacksaw or other thin blade. Just be sure to locate the frets as accurately as possible.

Cut the fret wires about 1/8 inch longer than the slots in the fretboard and shape them to approximate the contour of the slots. Fill a slot with a metal-to-wood glue, hammer the wire in place with a rawhide mallet, then quickly wipe off the excess glue and go on to the next fret wire repeating the step. When all the frets have been installed, check carefully for any high spots and hammer them down.

Allow the fret assembly to dry, then grind off the wires flush with the board and round off their ends with a fine file. Glue and clamp the board to the neck and, when dry, smooth off the joint.

Next, install the machine heads for tightening the strings. The spacing between the pegs will vary with the different makes available commercially; however, there is enough room to install individual pegs if desired. Locate the pegs about 1/2 inch from the straight edge of the head.

There isnt any advantage to using a vibrato tailstock for this heavy-string instrument, so a cut-down commercial tailstock can be used. The bridge is an adjustable rosewood type, trimmed flat on the bottom and shortened at the ends.

Don't try to do with out the string hold down bar. Made of stainless steel or brass rod, it prevents stray vibrations and keeps the head of the guitar free from stress.

The pickup is made of two pieces of 1/8 inch thick plastic holding three 1/4 x 3/4 inch alnico magnets. Cover the magnets with plastic electrical tape, then wrap them with 3500 ohms of No. 40 Nyclad magnet wire. Coat the outside of the coil with another layer of plastic tape, mount the pickup and run the outside coil lead to the shield of the jack. Glue the string separator in place, mount a set of Fender six-bass strings and adjust the bridge for the best tonal response.


Support this website by shopping at, where you can get an autographed copy of Shane Speal's book, Making Poor Man's Guitars.

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Apr 10, 2022

Holy moly, another great article Shane Thank you. It was a pleasant Sunday afternoon read, it makes it sound so easy that I may just build one as my next project instead of using a kit. (Not really) I’ll stick to Canjos for now.

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