How to Build a Guitar from a Wood Pallet, Part 3: Sound Chambers

Reader Contribution by Warren Mckenney
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Read Part 1 of this series of a general materials list for this project.

Read Part 2 with help in designing and planning a pallet guitar project.

Tools for Installing a Guitar Sound Chamber

You will need a few basic tools to do this build:

• A plunge router, this is used to create the cavities.
• A rotary tool
• An orbital jig saw

Making a Plan for the Inner-Workings

This post is done on a very cold day here in Wisconsin, -20 degrees. Too cold to be outside. Besides, this is much more fun. Anyway, below you will notice a horizontal cross section of the guitar. Imagine the top cut off. This shows, I hope, the routed out areas that make up the sound chamber, pick-up pockets, and control panel – brown in color. The brown hatched areas are the built-up sides. These are, for the most part, free hand drawings, so bear with me. I draw these again to actual size to avoid transposing measurements, I’m Irish, old and simple, need all the help I can get. Here goes. Again maintain that center line. If you look close you can see it on my plan.

Applying the Plan to the Material or “Field Engineer” If It Is Wrong

Once you have developed the plan you are hap! hap! happy with, cut out around the outer perimeter of the drawing, lay out on the block of wood material selected for the body with neck attached, and trace. Don’t cut out the shape until you have routed out the inside cavities with the router. Once the routing has been complete, cut out the perimeter “shape of the guitar.” This is where the jig saw comes in handy. Now the body and the neck should be one piece and in a rough form. Using the rotary tool, clean up any rough areas.


I use copper foil for all my shielding. You might say, “what in the heck is shielding and why?” Without proper shielding, the pick-ups, potentiometers “pots” and input jacks would pick up outside humming noises, even hum-bucking pick-ups don’t always stop all noises. I save as much copper flashing material as possible for this use. If purchasing is the only source, hobby/craft stores carry copper foil by the roll or sheet. I use latex-based contact adhesive to adhere the shielding material to the cavity base and sides. Got to think (environment) sometimes. If you want, you can substitute magnetic chalk-board paint for copper shielding, this works, but is not quite as effective as copper. Remember, all cavities should be shielded, except for sound cavities.

I know this may be hard to understand without progressive images. I didn’t start taking image shots till later builds. Feel free to contact me with questions.

We used to make what we thought was music with very rough instruments: stump fiddle, wash tub base and drum, four string guitar and harmonica. Not in tune, but fun. We didn’t consider ourselves poor, just resourceful. Doesn’t take much to make me happy. Did I mention I’m a simple, poor Irishman?

Electronics: Fun Stuff

Now we get into the electronics. I made up my harness outside the guitar, this way I can take time soldering and will be able to test the components before installation. I used all reclaimed pieces, pots, input, pickups, and any switches needed. You will need the following equipment. Various electronic component diagrams are available for free on the internet. Just search “guitar electronics.” Many diagrams will show up. To start with, select one that is basic. I use all passive systems, meaning no pre-amps or batteries are needed, must keep that carbon foot-print as small as possible.

Needed Equipment:

• soldering gun
• flux
• solder
• cordless drill, I’ll explain this later
• multimeter 
• wire stripper
• assorted pliers

Follow the diagram very closely as to where the wires are located. I label all components, and use colored wire. You will notice some pick-ups have 4 wires and some 2. I make most of mine 2 wire applications, again, I’m a simple Irishman. Now we are ready to test.


This is where the cordless drill is handy. I use an amp, cordless drill, and a multimeter for testing. Follow this procedure and things should go well.

1. Solder following the diagram.

2. Test connections using the multi-meter set on ohms to check continuity.

3. Plug your jack cord, one end into the input of your harness, the other into a small guitar amp.

4. Turn the amp on with volume about half, crank the volume and tone pots all the way up.

5. Using your cordless drill, hold it near the pick-ups, you should hear an amplified version of the drill.

Happy thoughts, thanks.

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