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Building the Ugly Duckling/Beautiful Swan CBG


(I found this old post on my computer of the Ugly Duckling/Beautiful Swan CBG Challenge from the old Yahoo CBG group (2008).  I thought you'd enjoy it.  BTW, I won the Challenge)


Crocker Ugly Duckling/Beautiful Swan (final)


Well folks, I needed the creative kick in the butt this challenge gave me. My understanding from the beginning was we were challenged to start with the Ugliest Duckling cigar box or most beat up or most annoying box, the one you'd never consider for an instrument, and turn it into a Beautiful Swan.  


Here's what I started with. Incomplete, broken pieces from two similar 1886 boxes. No tops and an extra back and two sides that weren't the same size. I got them from Wichita Sam who passed them over for his build. 


PERFECT for the Ugly Duckling/Beautiful Swan Challenge!!!!! 


Here's the Ugly Duckling: 




And here's the Beautiful Swan: 






There's all kinds of cool detail goodness. Dang, I think I turned this 1886 into a 9881! I made a brass top. Cut from a door kick guard. I milled the maple neck from parts of some kind of frame my friend found in the trash. I used a lot of the extra box wood to make some of the parts (the wood was so old, dry and brittle that I put the parts in the bathroom with a hot shower running for hours. I still had to reinforce some of the pieces with a coat of CA glue or the screws would crush it. This was a challenge... 






I used some of the original wood to make decorative corners and pieces for the screw points for the top. I also made one of my signature 'bridge over the bridge' which proudly displays 9881 and retains the tongue joint from the extra side (every joint was reglued)! For the critical parts like bridge and string retainer I used East Indian Rosewood. Same for the knobs, but I also drilled a 1/8" hole and used an eighth inch brass dowel for a dot. 



I braced the inside, made a base for the neck that's the full depth, made a 4 string Stonehenge with volume and tone and used some conductive paint to shield the circuit a little. 






(see, she's a 9881!!!!!) 




I drilled a small hole in the top to run a wire under the brass saddle to ground the strings. The 2 holes are where the bridge over the bridge mount.




I used a spare piece as a headstock laminate. I also used another small piece as a string tree. 



Of course, Taxi donated a feather for mojo... 



The back of the neck has some cool grain going on. Sadly, there is a small hole that meant only one side could be up. A lot of y'all will be proud of me that I didn't go crazy on the neck. I just couldn't find the time, and I basically just smoothed the edges instead of an all out shaping. WOW, I'm loving the square feel... 



I have drawers full of store bought parts and pulled out some gold strap pins. Something told me they would have been rejected by the Swan so I made my own. I used a brass decorative washer, a regular washer, a screw and a silver bushing from Sears Hardware. I used a gold metallic marker to turn the silver gold (same as the jack nut/washer). Strap pins are cheap, but the Swan called for something elegant... 



She is gorgeous and has a comfortable aura. Believe it or not I haven't played her for more than 10 minutes total - I wanted to get my entry in on time but in a few minutes I get to go wild! She sounds great through the tube amp and I'll put her through her paces in a few minutes through the MicroCube. She has a Stonehenge... 


Playing is the icing on the cake. 


One more parting shot of the Beautiful Swan 



And in case you were wondering after seeing the carpet tacks on the bottom, YES, she does stand up by herself... 



This was a lot of fun to create and some much needed creative therapy. THANKS!! 


Big Daddy and Sam, if I'm not mistaken, we're in the early hours of the first of the month - what's the challenge for October?? 



Ted Crocker 


Views: 1314

Comment by Randy S. Bretz on February 18, 2011 at 3:56am
Wow thats one beautiful build my friend !!
Comment by Wichita Sam on February 21, 2011 at 10:28pm
I'm proud to say that I was the contributor of that ratty box.  I thought that it would be impossible.  This build made me a true believer re: the genius builder named Ted Crocker.....
Comment by John Wendell on March 12, 2011 at 9:10am
Man...this is inventive as heck....that wooden bridge cover is cool!!!
Comment by Grayling Pingel on May 3, 2013 at 2:40am

Excellent work! This is a beautiful guitar.

Comment by jamie bark on July 26, 2013 at 9:44pm

Amazing build! 

Comment by Hal Somervill on July 28, 2013 at 9:20am

Hi Ted. Just saw you posted this guitar build on Facebook and I have a question; What did you ground the bridge TO? I have been getting a buzz from my single coil pickups and wondered if not grounding something was my problem. Thanks in advance for your help. Hal

Comment by Hal Somervill on July 28, 2013 at 9:20am

Fantastic build by the way.

Comment by Ted Crocker on July 28, 2013 at 4:46pm

I grounded the brass saddle to the back of the volume pot, which is connected to the negative lug of the jack.

Comment by Jim N. on November 16, 2015 at 6:22pm

Wow... the Ugly Duckling/Beautiful Swan build is absolutely amazing

Comment by Ted Crocker on February 21, 2020 at 2:28am

A blast from the past and just so many good tips for builders


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