The Mudcat Café TM
Thread #53809   Message #830060
Posted By: Rick Fielding
19-Nov-02 - 02:04 PM
Thread Name: Convert your guitar to a Dobro (quickly)
Subject: Convert your guitar to a Dobro (quickly)
Hi. I promised I'd put this in a few days ago, and it was first discussed in a thread about my recent concert in Branford Ct. I was going to make a couple of the little gadgets I use and send them to some people, BUT it occurred to me that if opened by American Customs Agents (especially since Uncle Sam lowered the boom about two weeks ago) it could be very problematic. You see they are sharp(ish) and could look to some like a weapon rather than a musical accessory.

First off (as part of pedant alert, ha ha!) Dobro is a copyrite brand name....so the thread could ACTUALLY have read:

CONVERT YOUR STEEL STRING GUITAR TO A RAISED ACTION HAWAIIAN STYLE GUITAR IN THIRTY SECONDS. AND BE ABLE TO GET IT BACK TO REGULAR ACTION AND TUNING IN ANOTHER THIRTY SECONDS (depending on how fast you can tune the sucker). Note: metal "Nut raisers" have been around for close to a hundred years but take (at the best of times) about four or five minutes to put on and take off....and by then, you've probably lost yer audience.

So, OK, here goes: I first made this little gadget years ago, but this is a bit of an 'improved' one.

#1. Get a brass rod about 12 inches long and about 1/6" wide. My local HOBBY/TRAIN store has a good supply. I think the one I currently have is 5/36". Haven't a clue what they're used for in the electric train biz, but they're perfect for string raisers....you can make about three of 'em from the one rod. (or two, if ya screw up the first one)

#2. Cut off a piece that is about four inches long.

#3. Put it in your vice and bend about one or one and a half inches into a right angle.

#4. The long part should be long enough to go across your fingerboard at the second fret with a bit to spare. The short part acts a "handle" and the end should now be smoothed so ya don't cut yerself.

#5. Put it in the vice with the 'handle' sticking up and bevel the end of the 'long part' to a "smooth point". This end (with the handle sticking up) has to slide under all six strings from the bass to the treble without scratching stuff.

#6. Put it back in the vice but this time with the handle pointing down. This part is a tad tricky, but don't worry if you screw it up, you've still got enough metal for two more. With a black felt pen you wanna mark six spots where you'll cut (file) tiny grooves so that the strings will stay in place while you're playing. You can measure it directly from your guitar's normal spacing OR you can make the spaces a HAIR wider as I do, to facilitate some Jerry Douglas licks.
Take a file and put the tiny grooves in (remember the handle is still DOWN so this is the OPPOSITE side of the 'bevel' discussed in #5. With some very fine sandpaper or a nailfile do a bit of smoothing around the groove so that there are NO sharp edges.

#7. No number seven....yer done!

Get your guitar, tune it to Open D (D,A,D,F#,A,D...from the bass string)
With the handle up, slip the long part under the strings just behind the second fret, from the treble string side. Once it's under..push it up so it bumps into the fret...turn the handle around so it's DOWN, and slip the strings into the grooves.
If you want a very clean sound, put your capo on (loosely) behind the string raiser....and it'll get rid of any unwanted vibrations.
Do a fine tuning (it'll need it) lay the guitar on your lap, grab your slide (I use a Stevens Bar, but the John Pearse are good as well) and start playin' San Antonio Rose, Crossroads Blues, or Aloha Oe(!!)

Couple of other points. The REASON for raising the strings (rather than just tuning 'open' for slide) is to get that very clean "Dobro" sound, with no fret noise.

Never tune your guitar "UP"! Always tune it "down" so you don't put extra stress on the neck.

Here's a couple of other tunings (and remember, since you're putting the string raiser on the second fret...at least in THIS example..yer two semi-tones above.....so a D tuning becomes an "E" tuning actually.

An ACTUAL modern Dobro tuning is GBDGBD which I'd NEVER do on a regular neck steel string guitar. You MIGHT try FACFAC (which becomes a "G" tuning when on the second fret) but I'd ALWAYS put the guitar back in regular tuning immediately after practicing for a few minutes. You simply DONT wanna stress your neck.

Here's a 'sort of' dobroish tuning that you can practice most dobro licks on and it won't mess up your guitar.
CFCFAC (it'll be a G tuning when you got to the second fret.

Cheers and have fun.....questions welcome...'cause it's easier to MAKE this little sucker than to explain it.

Rick