Building a Super Mario Guitar from 10,000 Lollipop Sticks
If the video player is not working, you can click on this alternative video link.
Love to play guitar? Have you been looking for the perfect custom guitar?
Then this Mario-themed piece might just be right up your street. Follow this guide to find out how you can make your own custom guitar using little more than thousands of lollipop sticks!
But, before we get stuck in we will need some things first. This guide also assumes you have a basic knowledge of building a guitar from scratch.
Tools and equipment needed
- CAD plans
- White perspex sheets
- 5/64 inch (2mm) thick lollipop sticks (around 8 thousand)
- Scrap wood for making jigs
- Colored dyes
- True oil
- Guitar wax
- Guitar pickup
- Other electric guitar parts (frets, bridge, strings, etc)
- Wood glue
- Table saw
- Forstner bit
- Belt sander
- Metal files
- Coping saw
- Random orbit sander
- Wood router
- Drill press
- Various nuts and bolts
- Vacuum chamber and pump
- Band saw
- Hand plane
Step 1: Sort your sticks
The first step is to give your lollipop sticks a once over. Check that they are more or less the same dimensions. You should also discard any damaged, or particularly "ugly" looking ones.
With that complete, you will need to bundle the sticks together and trim off the rounded tops and bottoms using a table saw.
Take your time, and ensure that the same amount of material is cut per bundle. This will take you some time, so be patient.
Next, square off bundles of sticks using a handsaw. Again, given the number of sticks needed, this will also be a little time-consuming.
Next, take bundles of sticks, and cut them in half longitudinally to form elongated cuboids. Use a table saw or bandsaw to do this.
These will form the pixels of the final guitar.
Ensure you take precautions and wear protective gear where needed. You don't want to chop off any fingers, after all.
You will also need to plane each squared bundle of lollipop stick halves once again. This is to ensure they are all in the same dimensions. Failure to do so will likely affect the final look of the guitar.
Next, grab bundles of your "pixels" and cut them exactly in half.
For white pixels, you will need to make more sticks using a material like perspex. Cut down to the same dimensions as the lollipop sticks. Go through the same rigmarole as you did for the wooden sticks.
Sadly there is no way around this. Dying the wooden sticks white rarely provides the same aesthetic appearance.
For this project, around 29,000 "pixel" sticks were required. This took around 3 months to complete. Adjust your project accordingly.
Step 2: Dye the sticks
Next, you will need to dye the sticks to the colors required. For this project, the creator employed the use of a vacuum chamber to get the job done in batches. This is not only quicker but also leads to a more uniform coloration of the sticks.
Add the sticks and colored dye inside the chamber and leave to run. Obviously, you can skip this step for the perspex ones.
Each batch should take around 2 minutes to achieve complete saturation.
Do the same for the neckpieces of lollipop sticks. This will be made from full sticks with just the rounded tops and bottoms trimmed off.
Step 3: Begin to build the image for the guitar
With your pixels ready, it is now time to start building the Mario collage. The creator of this project divided the main image into pixels and decided to assemble and glue, batches of 100 at a time.
To do this, he made a small jig large enough to hold 100-pixel sticks from pieces of wood. You can do as you see fit. With that prepared, choose your portion of the image to build, and assemble the required colors for it.
Then begin to assemble the image 10 pixels at a time, move to the jig, and glue as needed. Clamp into place, and leave to dry for 20 minutes and then remove and trim off any rough ends using your band saw. Then rinse and repeat for the next 100 pixels.
When a few 100-pixel blocks are complete, check they are all the same dimensions and adjust as needed by filing them down. For every four completed blocks, you can then match them up, and glue them together in a larger jig as before.
Ensure to clamp them very tightly together to squeeze out any excess glue. Leave to dry once again and trim off any excess, as needed.
Rinse and repeat until the entire body is finished. Be sure to add some sacrificial blocks for the edges. These will take the brunt of the pressure when they are all glued together and the shape finally cut out.
Next quality checks each 400 block- block, to discover the range of variation between them, and then adjust them accordingly. This will usually mean trimming all other blocks to match the dimensions of the smallest of the lot.
If you don't obvious gaps will show themselves, and some pixels may not line up in the final piece.
Step 4: Begin to assemble the main guitar body
With your 400 block blocks ready, you can now begin the final assembly. Make another large jig, and begin to glue the 400-block together like a giant jigsaw. You may want to number them so you don't get too lost.
Once complete. clamp into place, as before, and leave to dry. Then remove the clamps, and jig pieces, and remove the block as one piece.
For any other blocks that couldn't find the jig, you can now glue them into place by hand and clamp/leave them to dry once again.
Once fully dry, you can now sand down all exposed surfaces of the guitar. Use a variety of grades of sandpaper and either complete by hand or using power tools like a Dremmel or belt sander.
Step 5: Make the guitar neck blank
Next, prepare larger neckpieces of lollipop sticks. Arrange into the design you want, and then begin to glue them together. This process will be less intense than the main body, but still, take your time.
As before created a jig, and begin to glue them one by one. You will want to lay them vertically in the jig.
Clamps, and leave to fully dry before removing them from the jig. Rinse and repeat to make three identical blocks. Once complete, plane level, and glue all three together.
As before, clamp together, leave to dry, and tidy up once fully cured. Do the same for the fingerboard, with the exception of using black sticks.
Step 6: Begin to shape the guitar
With those steps complete, take the neck blank, and begin to shape the neck and headstock to shape using a jigsaw. Then plane, once again, and form the scarf joint using glue and clamps.
Next, repeat the same process you did for the main guitar body to create the head plate. The only difference is that you will use shorter lengths of pixels. Rinse and repeat the process, as before, until complete.
Then clamp and leave to dry. Once complete, remove, trim to shape, sand down and glue to the main neck.
Now, you can add a carbon fiber reinforcement in grooves to the main neck, if required. Next, grab the fingerboard, plane down, and tidy up as needed, and cut the frets using a saw.
Once complete, take the fingerboard, and cut it tapered, as needed, using your table saw. Then glue it to the guitar neck, clamp it, and leave it to dry.
Next, cut out the final shape of the headstock using a coping saw.
Do the same for the main body of the guitar. Sand down and round off any edges, as needed. Round off the neck using rasps and sandpaper, as needed.
Then flatten and raise the fingerboard as needed.
Step 7: Connect the neck to the body and start building the final guitar
Next, core out four holes using a Forstner bit. Then grab your router and shape out the neck pocket as needed.
Insert the neck. Adjust as needed, but ensure a snug fit.
Next, triangulate and route the holes for the bridge to the main body. Insert the bridge, once complete.
Now, you can mark out and drill the string through ferrules to the body too. Also, create cavities for the pickups too.
If you want to add more details to the fingerboard (like in this case a Bowser image), create the image as you did for the headstock. Excavate the fingerboard, and glue it into place, as needed.
Next, use a drill press to insert all 24 metal frets into the neck. Glue into place from the sides, as needed. Trim off any excess, and sand down/file down level with the body of the neck.
Color the tips of the frets with a colored pen, and then file down until the ink is completely removed. Continue to file, and polish, as needed.
You can also create some other custom pieces (volume knobs) using the same pixel technique as before, but this is completely up to you.
Now, unless already complete, drill holes for the bolts and ferrules, and output jack, as needed. Also, drill and install threaded inserts on the neck.
Excavate a hole on the body for the guitar controls, and keep some of the material for the cover plate.
Step 8: Finish the guitar
Next, sand down the entire exposed surface of the guitar using 320-grit sandpaper. Coat the neck (and head) with a few layers of "Tru Oil", and wax the entire body of the guitar.
With that complete, begin to wire up the bridge, tuning keys, etc, as needed. Take care not to damage the bodywork when doing this. Securely bolt the neck into place too.
Next, make the nut, and sand down to size and shape. Once complete, mark out the string notches, as needed.
Secure the but at the top of the neck once happy. Then add pickups, strap attachments, and any other pieces needed.
Finally, string the guitar.
With that, your Mario-themed guitar is basically complete. Now just fire her up, tune it, and start bashing out your favorite tunes!
If this project has whetted your appetite for some more custom woodwork, why not consider another challenge. How about, for example, converting an old hammer into an iron first?