Spinal Tap references aside (thank you Matt for that reminder!) homemade guitars and their accoutrements have a long and proud history here at MAKE. In MAKE Volume 4 Ed Vogel introduced us to his ‘sweet-sounding, three-stringed mini guitar’ that used a cigar box as the instrument’s resonator. In MAKE Volume 9 Ed returned in collaboration with Blind Lightnin’ Pete and built a $5 Cracker Box Amp using a low-voltage LM386 op-amp. In Volume 15 electronics author Charles Platt would theorize a ‘Hypothetical Tremolo Wheel’ that would later become the Optical Tremolo Box; and most recently in Volume 21 MAKE’s Editor-in-Chief Mark Frauenfelder updated the Cigar Box Guitar to include some high-quality ‘string and stick’ options. Not to mention roasting pan, bundt pan, tuna can, and even game console guitars all reported on over the years.

Now our latest Weekend Project continues this time-honored tradition of building a guitar from scratch by turning a disused license plate into the resonator top of a guitar’s soundbox. We call it the License Plate Guitar and it looks and sounds great! We walk you through the woodworking steps needed to build a custom box fitted for your license plate, how to hand-wind a pickup, and solder and mount some basic electronics components. Whether you’re from the Empire State, Show Me State, Golden State, or anywhere that uses license plates for that matter, no two will look or sound the same!


And if you’re looking for some novel ways to string up your License Plate Guitar be sure to check out these DIY Tuning Peg options!