Travel Guitar [project]


 This project was inspired by my little Fernandes Zo-3 Travel guitar. I have wanted one of these since I was about 15 and saw one being advertised by Dweezil Zappa on the back of an American guitar magazine. They didn't sell them in the UK at the time (this was before the internet) and I really couldn't have afforded one if they did, but there was just something that really appealed to me about the idea of having a little practice guitar with a built in amp and speaker 

Anywho, flash forward  cough, mumble... teen  years and I stumbled across one on eBay   one night while stuck at work. There it was, Excalibur......A ltd edition "Art Rock" Zo  with Derek and the Dominos paint, maple fretboard, one single coil pick-up and a Whammy bar......... I knew then that the first thing I would need to do is raise the bridge, file down the nut and take the buzz out' the low E"



Où est le boeuf [][?][] 


je ne comprends pas 

So my Zo arrived and I was chuffed to bits. It's cute as fuck and the build quality and finish are amazing. Like, really amazing, the best I've ever seen on any guitar I have owned. I love the little hockey puck headstock and the recessed,  countersunk, neck bolts.The floating trem and Tuning pegs are also really nice and not just some cheap fender-a-likes. It looks amazing, was put together really well using quality components, and the finish is top notch........ So where's the beef  

 Well, basically it  sounds like shit and just isn't very nice to play. The neck is way too fat, it's ridiculously neck heavy (the thing is constantly trying to fall off your leg). The short scale length in combination with the small body means the playing position is all wrong, everything feels shuffled over to the right and  You can't stand it up......or lay it flat (the body is twice as thick as normal guitar) and what would be a pretty  decent amp circuit (it actually uses a LM386 chip, Amp circuit) is ruined by the 4 inch full range hi-fi speaker. You can't even play it acoustically because there is so little actual wood in the body (most of it is routed out for the massive speaker) that it just sounds completely flat and lifeless.




So what to do [][?][]


Well at first I just chalked it up to experience and hung it on my wall in the living room, but after getting into the whole DIY guitar amp building and developing my own amp circuit which sounds a fuck of a lot better than the one in the ZO (more on that later) I  started wondering if I could build my own. 

  • Feels Like a toy due to short scale length
  • Small body design means the leg contour is wrong place which shuffles the bridge and neck over making everything feel weird and out of line. 
  • Neck heavy because of small body, falls off your leg every time you lean over to grab a plectrum
  • Doesn't stand up on it's own so constantly falls over.
  • Sounds dreadful - Shit amp circuit / full range car speaker 
  • Sound horrible played acoustic. Not enough wood,  Sounds flat / dead
  • Only one pick up / no tone control - so no tone shaping options. Brittle and shrill is all you get 

  The logical thing to do seemed to be to take an existing, cheap and readily available guitar design and mod it into a suitable travel/practice guitar. I had already built a guitar with an amplifier in it and have since developed my own amp circuit. I also know from experience how easy it is to modify an existing guitar body by just hacking bits off and re-shaping it so jobs a good un.


I chose the Telecaster as a base because....

  1. They are slab bodied with no contours, cut outs, routs and caps that might limit re-shaping options (unlike a strat or a Les Paul)
  2. They are cheap and ubiquitous and fairly consistent in size and shape from manufacturer to manufacturer.
  3. There are shit loads of off the shelf parts and accessories available for them with tons of variations in style and price
  4. The telecaster is my favourite guitar shape and I already have about 5 or 6 telecaster bodies kicking about the house.





Body Shape Prototype No.1








Headstock Design Idea [][][] 







Modding the pickup rout [][][]








Straight string pull [][][]










Mmmmm.........Rosewood [][][]









































Brief [][][]

  • Must be able to play it on sofa
  • Pick up and play. The most i wanna have to do before I am playing and practicing with an inspiring guitar tone is to flick a switch and possibly plug a pair of headphones in. (plug iPhone into inbuilt doc/Plug in Korg?)
  • Must feel like and sound like a proper full size guitar (as much wood as possible, full size neck, Bridge
  • internal amp and speaker
  • Would be nice to have multi FX or at least Delay o reverb
  • 1 wire or less.......preferably less (that means battery powered on board headphone socket, holder/socket for iPhone/Korg/other multi FX
  • Must stand up on the floor by itself, At least while leaning against something. Preferably all by itself (inbuilt stand? only of it's not too faffy)
  • WIREless



4in speaker V's Small paper speakers