When Strange Apparatus first opened its doors in 1995, Max was a co-proprietor. He has a definite predilection for strange and unusual things and has recently completed construction of the world’s shortest full scale guitar measuring 680mm (or 26-3/4 inches in the old money). The claim to having built the World's shortest guitar will no doubt be challenged at some time, but for now the title remains. The following notes have been compiled by Max.
The world's shortest full scale guitar @ 680mm
This little project was undertaken for no more laudable reason than the fact that its builder is a somewhat eccentric artist and frustrated guitar player. The idea of making a guitar as short as possible came about during a brief flirtation with a Steinberger “broomstick” headless guitar and thinking “I could make one even more compact”.
So, the project began with a list of parameters:
• Obviously as short overall as possible – from headless stock to tail
• Must be a playable instrument set up for slide/bottleneck
• Must sit safely on its own “bottom” when leaning against an amp
• Use standard nickel steel guitar strings - not double eyeletted
• Have 36 position indicator inserts (showing 3 full octaves)
• Incorporate the machine heads into the body
• Be comfortable to play sitting or standing
• Simple, clean aesthetics.
The next phase naturally was to sketch these ideas on paper, gradually refining and redrafting to get a workable design. To save a lot of trouble & fabrication, a second-hand Stratocaster copy was obtained and used as the sacrificial basis. The Strat was dismantled, headstock sawed off the neck and some of the hardware stored away for re-use.
The next task was to start cutting/routing/drilling and generally hoeing into the solid body. Scary stuff? Nah . . . simply good fun that appeals to the latent vandal in some of us. Meantime, I acquired a Badass bridge, a decent set of machine heads, a new 250K potentiometer, pick guard material and sundry other items of furniture/ and fasteners.
From Top to Tail
Headstock – custom made nut and Sternberger style “headstock”. These two plates were drilled and tapped to serve as the tensioning nut in lieu of the existing “bullet head” type. Simply left ¼” of existing threaded end protruding and ground it flush once nut & plate fitted/tensioned.
Neck – all frets were removed and replaced with colour coded acrylic position markers. The board was extended to 3 full octaves. Orange markers for octaves, white for 3rd 5th 7th etc. and red for the remainder.
Pickups – twin single coil pickups in the bridge position to allow free use of a steel slide (if desired) over the full range and to maximise treble “bite”. Also for aesthetics (artistic license)
Bridge – an off-the-shelf badass bridge allows strings to “roll over @ 90deg onto a second s/s rail before another 90deg turn to the machine head/body thingo.
Machine Heads – incorporated into the body (which I have never seen done before). They were recessed into a special niche to allow access without obstruction to playing area. This design required lengthening the posts progressively (see photo) so they arrive at staggered positions for stringing. Stringing may be a little more awkward than a conventional guitar, but it's a concession to this unique design. The back of body recesses were covered with a transparent smoked acrylic plate, currently screwed in place, but could be quick release for use in anger.
Body – more or less “broomstick” shape sits comfortably on the knee for practising. There is plenty of cutaway for easy neck access. The Strat copy jack plate set into side of body keeps the lead out of the way nicely. Twin end pins on its arse keep the instrument perfectly vertical when resting and prevent string contact with the floor.
Single – volume control with no tone knobs or selectors keeps things streamlined. The guitar body looked busy enough with all those cool tuning knobs sitting in it.
It only remains to experiment with open tunings and string gauges (the easy task) and then become proficient with bottleneck techniques & styles (the HARD task)