Today’s fun little project was converting a kid’s electric guitar into an amplifier. My daughter’s friend got an electric guitar for his birthday, but didn’t have an amp. He did have his old First Act electric guitar which he wanted to trade me for one of the little amps I have sitting around to put into cigar boxes or other containers. It was one of those little electric guitars that have a speaker built into the front of the guitar. It was pretty beat up. 4 of the 6 tuning knobs were missing, and the machines were pretty crapped out too. A couple adjusting screws for the bridge/tailpiece were missing. I said, “You know how your guitar has a speaker? That means it has a built-in amp. So we can use the pieces from your guitar and build an amp.”
At first I was thinking we would take the pieces out and put them in a cigar box or something. When we started looking at it I said “Why don’t we just take the neck and tailpiece off, and then the guitar body can be your amp.” So that’s what we did. They grabbed screw drivers and started removing the neck (while I went and grabbed a camera to document their progress)
Then they removed the tailpiece/bridge.
They we started uncovering the electronics.
Here’s where you can kind of start to see the plan coming together. On this guitar you have a magnetic pickup, but instead of just going through a volume pot to the output jack, it also goes to a little amp which is connected to the speaker. If you plug in a cord, a switch in the jack cuts the signal to the on-board amp and sends it to the external amp instead. So our plan was to just switch things around. We wanted to turn the output jack into an input jack. It seemed like the simplest way was just to cut off the magnetic pickup and hook the wires to the jack. So here they are removing the pickup.
Next we stripped the wires, and then hooked up a battery and plugged in a guitar. Esther played her guitar while I touched the stripped wires to the tabs on the jack to make sure we got things hooked up right. I would have originally figured white wire to white wire, and black to black. But I wasn’t taking that switch into account. So once we started hearing Esther’s guitar through the speaker we knew we had it right. Once we had things in the right place, I soldered them up. I usually like to let the kids do pretty much everything. Esther has done soldering on a cigar box guitar she built, but her friend had never soldered before and it was kind of a tricky job for someone who’s never done it before, so he helped hold wires in place while I soldered them.
From that point on, I let them finish it up themselves. They screwed the back plates back on and tightened up the strap knobs. (We realized that because the amp is battery-powered, if we left the strap knobs on, you could wear the amp.) Below is a quick video of Esther demonstrating the finished product. It’s not the best amp ever, but it will make a nice practice amp for him to use while he’s learning to play his first real decent guitar. (He got a Fender StarCaster) His parents will probably appreciate that it doesn’t get very loud.
I got to keep the extra parts. I’ll probably put the neck on a cigar box, after I dress the frets ends (which are sticking out on both sides of the neck and are rather sharp.)