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It’s no secret that we love Gakken kits here at MAKE, and the Mini Guitar kit is no exception. It has a built in amp, speaker, and line out so it’s a lot of fun, even if you don’t own an amp. After building the kit, just pop in some AA batteries and you are ready to rock.

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Most of the Gakken kits don’t need any English translation because the illustrations are so well done and they go together easily. This kit has the same great step-by-step instructions, but because it is a little more complicated, we thought it would be a good idea to make our own how-to just in case you needed a little extra help. So let’s get started building the Gakken Mini Electric Guitar kit from the Maker Shed.

What you need:

  1. Gakken Mini Electric Guitar kit
  2. Phillips head screw driver
  3. A few pieces of tape
  4. (2) AA batteries

Note: You can see all the pictures from this build in my Flickr photo set found here.

Let’s get started:

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Start by unpacking everything and taking inventory. You can see a complete parts list on page 88 of the included magazine. Now let’s get started with the assembly.Part 1

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Start out by locating the 4 tuning pegs. They all have a small “notch” on them.

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This notch, or tab, needs to face up, towards the front of the guitar when they are installed.

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Each one is inserted, notch-side up, with the hole for the guitar string towards the center of the guitar.

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Leave all the tuning pegs sticking out about 7-10mm (or about 3/8″). It isn’t super-critical how much sticks out, a good guess is good enough!

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Now locate the rest of the tuning peg parts. Each one of the pins gets a knob and bolt attached to the end. This is how you with tighten up the strings and tune the guitar.

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Insert the bolt into the tuning nut and screw onto the tuning peg. No need to tighten just yet.

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Done! Now let’s move on to part 2.

Part 2:

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Now it’s time to attach the neck of the guitar. For now, just use one bolt.

Part 3

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Next, we can add the screw that will hold the strings in place. Use 4 of the screws that have the built in washer.

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Only screw them in about half way. You need to leave room for the strings to wrap around.

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Insert the brass grommet of each string into the metal bar from the kit. Make sure to put them on in order from thinnest to thickest, left to right.

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Insert the bar into the body of the guitar. Again, from the back of the guitar, the strings should go from the thinnest on the left to the thickest on the right.

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Now place each string through the respective hole in the pegs.

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Then wrap around the top of the neck, making sure each one is in it’s own “groove”.

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Next, wrap the end each string around it’s individual screw on the back of the neck, and tighten down each screw. Make sure the string is pulled tight. Now you can add the last bolt that holds the neck of the guitar in place.

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Finish up by placing the 4 bridge supports into the front of the guitar. I know these have a better technical name, but you get the idea!

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Once they are all in, you are done with this part of the build and can move on to part 4.

Part 4:

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Now lets add the electronics. The guitar has a built in pickup, amp, and speaker. Start by unscrewing the bolt and washer off the 1/4″ jack.

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Use the small black screw in the kit to attach the plastic knob to the potentiometer on the circuit board.

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Now lets add the speaker. I found it much easier to insert the 2 small black screws into the rubber housing of the speaker holder first.

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Now you can attach the speaker and the 1/4″ line-out plug to the plastic housing of the guitar.

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Next, plug in the power connectors from the plastic housing into the circuit board

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Now you can gently cram everything into the plastic housing. It’s a snug fit! Once it’s seated properly, use a few screws and attach it permanently to the plastic housing. Don’t worry about that extra wire, we will attach it to the neck of the guitar in a later step.

Part 5:

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Now it’s time to make the pickup. Yep, you are going to hand wind your own pickup. Neat! Find the 2 pickup housing parts, and snap them together.

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Now take one end of the pickup wire and insert it into the hole on the housing and tape it down, leaving about 2″ of extra wire at the end.

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Now attach the pickup housing temporarily to the back of the guitar with one of the extra screws. This will help hold it in place while you wrap the coil. Clever!

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Now you can start wrapping the coil of the pickup. It takes forever a while, just be patient and keep wrapping, and wrapping, and wrapping, until it’s done.

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When you’re all done, loop the last bit of wire through the hole in the housing and remove it from the guitar.

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Now attach the wire with the quick connector to the wires from the pickup. You can use any kind of tape, but electrical will work best. I used standard clear tape just to test it out and it’s fine.

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Now we need to secure all that wire in the pickup. Use another piece of tape, preferably electrical, and cut it down to about 1/8″ wide and about 3-4″ long. Wrap it around the coil, making it secure and clean looking.

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Now we can add the magnet to the housing of the pickup.

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Next, add the sticker to hold it in place.

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Now the pickup can be attached to the guitar. Use 2 screws to hold it in place.

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Now you can plug the pickup wire into the circuit board. Make sure to feed the wire through the middle of the guitar body.

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Now you can attach that “extra” wire from the plastic housing to one of the screws that holds the strings in place.

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Now it’s time to attach the plastic housing to the guitar. Use 2 of the larger screws to secure it to the back of the guitar.

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Last but not least we can add the 2 covers to the back of the guitar’s neck. Start with the long one first. Use the small screws with the built in washers.

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Now you can add the last cover to the back. Again, use the same type of screws and secure. You’re all done!

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Add a couple of AA batteries, tune it up, and start jamming! It sounds great, but for now you will have to take my word for it. I’ll shoot a video demo soon!

Marc de Vinck

I’m currently working full time as the Dexter F. Baker Professor of Practice in Creativity in the Masters of Engineering in Technical Entrepreneurship Program at Lehigh University. I’m also an avid product designer, kit maker, author, father, tinkerer, and member of the MAKE Technical Advisory board.


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Comments

  1. I'm Dom. says:

    Wow. This looks pretty nice, and it cna even be made into a lefty.

  2. alienmeatsack says:

    I just finished building one of these myself. I’m having issues with the pickup though.

    It’s very weak and I can only tell it’s even working if I plug it into someting and crank the volume on the guitar and the input level on the computer I have it plugged into. If I don’t plug it into anything, I just hear the amp’s buzz thru the speaker. I wound it correctly, attached it correctly, etc. I have no clue how to fix it aside from unwinding and rewinding the whole thing, reconnecting it, etc.

    The other issue is the delay. When its plugged into something like the computer, I hit a string there’s a long delay before it plays (weakly).

    Any thoughts, ideas? Anyone/

  3. alienmeatsack says:

    Ok, I think I may know what is wrong with mine.

    Since I am new to this guitar pickup thing, and noone explained anything to me, I just did what it showed, and worked around the issues I had.

    And that is where my problem, I think, lies. The wire broke pretty close to the end, so I just wound what was left and put the rest aside. I did not realize the wire was coated, and that the ends that are silver were the uncoated part.

    So, if I am correct in my thinking now, the reason mine doesn’t work right is because one end of the connector wires going to the pickup is not touching the wire, just the coating.

    And a side note, I have found that it is suggested that the start of the wire is connected to the black (-) connector wire, and the end goes on the red (+) end. For anyone who wondered, cares, or whatever. :)

    1. Thanks! Just ran into the same problem and your post put me on the right track.

  4. RickD says:

    Some cheap guitars don’t have a strong enough neck or tight enough tuning pegs to hold a tune, so you’re constantly re-tuning the thing instead of playing it. How well does this hold a tune? If the neck flexes from the string tension then the strings may end up so high above the frets as to make it difficult to play. I’m worried that it may be a wast of money if it’s flimsy. Thanks.

  5. MrPlantain says:

    Hi alienmeatsack,

    I just finished my build and unfortunately I made the same mistake as you. I broke the coil wire near the end and the pickup wasn’t working at all. What I did was trim the coil wires and then used 600 grit sandpaper to very carefully remove the copper coating. Once I saw a hint of silver, instead of twisting it with the plug wires, I soldered it to ensure a clean connection. Some heat shrink later and the guitar works perfectly! I’m really impressed with the quality of sound that comes from this small package.

    Hi RickD,

    I was worried about the quality of the plastic as well. In person the build is much more impressive than the pictures. The neck seems to be a heavy grade plastic or filled with some material because it has a good heavy feel to it. The two cross bolts and cover plate is really secure and keeps the guitar very rigid when tightening the strings. I’m not an expert at all, but the design for the tuning pegs helps hold the tune since the strings are anchored behind instead of the peg itself. I’ll update my comment after a few weeks of use for a more accurate reading.

    I love Make! This was a really fun build and it’s going to make the perfect fathers day gift! Thanks!

  6. UFOSqL says:

    Can you tune it like an Ukulele? GCEA?

    1. Actually, it IS tuned to a ukulele, just a baritone one (top 4 strings of guitar)

      Link to the various ukulele tunings out there

      http://ukulelehunt.com/2008/04/10/ukulele-tuning-notes/

  7. DJ says:

    Thank you MARK! Your instructions were perfect and I did not have to learn Japanese to build the guitar. The quality is impressive for a relatively inexpensive product. I am used to a 6-string guitar but the Ukulele style 4-strings will take some learning on my part. Looking forward to it.
    Cheers!