Everyone secretly wishes they could play guitar. I know I used to, that’s why one day I picked one up and taught myself how to play it. Guitar players are considered cool, they have been for many years and I can’t see that trend changing for a while. One of the coolest things about guitar players is what their guitar actually looks like. There are hundreds of different designs of guitars for each and every style, but what if you want something a bit different? What if you want something that changes and evolves with you as you and your musical skills grow? That’s where this post comes in.
Recently I’ve had a few people show interest in my Chalkboard guitar. I mainly use it when I’m performing live and on a few occasions I’ve used it when I film videos for cover songs that I post on my YouTube channel. The great thing about this guitar is that I can change it’s design whenever I like. Sometimes I write the name of the event or venue that I’m playing at along with my Twitter handle should anyone want to follow me. Other times I’ll write the name of a particular song I’m playing if it’s a video or just do a silly doodle. The question I get asked most is where I got it or how I made it, so I’ve decided to put together a quick blog post to answer that question. Here’s the story of how I made a chalkboard guitar.
First I needed an actual guitar to modify. I can’t guarantee that this will work on every guitar so I would recommend getting hold of a relatively cheap instrument if your going to try this yourself so that you don’t destroy you favourite/most expensive guitar.
I had a particularly tough time finding the right instrument as I wanted something very specific. Since this guitar was mainly going to be used while I was on tour or for playing live, I knew I wanted something fairly small and light so I opted for a ¾ sized guitar. I also knew I didn’t want to pay too much for it just incase my ‘upgrade’ didn’t work out entirely as planned. Finally I’m left handed which means that my option of guitars are fairly narrow to start with.
My initial searches didn’t go well, trying to find a ¾ sized guitar that was in my price range was hard enough to begin with. Couple that with the fact that I was looking for a left handed guitar and seemed to be an impossible task. I was mainly looking on Ebay for secondhand instruments, partly because a brand new instrument was well out of my price range, but also because I didn’t want to get a brand new instrument just to strip it down and change it.
Finally after months of searching I managed to find something that matched all my criteria. I placed a bid for £50 and won a hardly used secondhand guitar… in bright pink! Not quite what I’d imagined but it didn’t really matter since I was going to be covering up a lot of the colour anyway. From what I can see it’s a Rikter D-2. I’m not familiar with the makers but it plays very nicely for something I got for so cheap.
So now I had a guitar I could get to work on modifying it. I began by taking off all the strings and rubbing down the face of the body with sandpaper. The guitar originally had a very glossy finish but since I was going to be covering that up I decided to roughen it up so that when I put the paint on it wouldn’t just slide off.
Next came the fun bit. To make the guitar face a chalkboard all I needed was some fairy standard blackboard paint. Simple as that. Luckily there happened to be a tin of it in my shed from a while ago so I didn’t even have to go out and buy it. From what I hear this stuff is pretty common nowadays, a quick search on Google brings up plenty of results and it’s probably sold in most DIY shops too.
There was no special technique to applying the paint other than trying to get a good even cover over the entire body. Since it wasn’t a huge surface to cover I did have to be careful especially for the more fiddly bits around the bridge and sound hole.
I considered painting the whole body with blackboard paint but since the back and sides would hardly be seen by the audience there wouldn’t be much point in writing or drawing anything there. Besides leaving the lightish red/pink sides and back gave a flash of colour to the otherwise black body. This did mean that I had to be very precise when I was painting the very edges of the blackboard face so that I didn’t spill over into the border. Again there was no special technique for this other than using a fine brush with a very steady hand. I also had a spare bit of tissue to quickly wipe up any minor mistakes as I went along.
Once the first coat of paint had dried I added a second just make it more solid. One thing I have found is that the chalk is quite good at scratching the paint off and reveals the original pink body below. I’ve covered over the worse scratches with tiny top ups of paint and have been very careful with the chalk ever since but at some point I will probably add a third coat of paint just to make it even more solid.
Since this guitar was going to be used predominately for live performances I knew I wanted to add some amplification. Before I restrung the guitar I added a relatively cheap pickup that had gotten lots of god reviews online figuring it would do the trick. It clips on and off very easily as I wanted something that could be removed with out too much hassle and I also didn’t fancy drilling into the body. In the future I may install a better pickup as the current one can be a bit muffled and the treble doesn’t ring out as much as I’d like but it’s good enough for now.
This particular pickup has a non detachable wire that ends in a ¼ inch jack. In order to keep this neat and tidy I used a combination of black and red electrical tape that I happened to have lying around in order to route the cable round to the back of the guitar so that it wasn’t just hanging down the front.
And that’s pretty much it. After that I just grabbed a box of coloured chalk and started coming up with designs. The chalk comes off very easily with a damp cloth so it’s easy to correct mistakes or change designs as often as I like. Best of all it gives me a talking point during my live sets and allows me to keep my YouTube covers fresh by creating different design for each video.
I hope this has been at least mildly interesting. It’s a very simple idea but as I said, lots of people ask me how I did it. I’ve linked to some of the videos that I’ve used this guitar in below if you’d like to see it in action and if you want to hear more of my ramblings then you can Follow Me On Twitter or Like My Facebook Page.