April 4, 2014

Bottleneck Slide DIY

OK folks.

As a keen fan of slide guitar music, I thought I’d talk you through the art of making your own bottleneck.

Bottleneck 2 slider

But first, a brief history.

The great American Rock ‘n’ Roll artist Bo Diddley, famous for his square guitars and driving rhythms, got his name from a simple instrument called a Diddley Bow, which in turn finds it’s ancestry in African instruments. A diddley bow consists of a piece of wire stretched between 2 nails, usually banged into a wall. It’s stretched tight.

Then the player twangs the wire while sliding a piece of metal or glass along the wire. That produces a change in pitch, so that tunes can be made.

So it’s not a big leap forward to apply this principal to the guitar. If you “open tune” a guitar and run a slide along the strings, you produce the effect we all know and love. Some of the earliest recordings featuring slide guitar were made in the early 1920′s.

You could use a glass bottleneck, a bit of steel tubing or a specially made slide that is mostly used for “lap steel” playing. Some of the old blues artists used the blade of a pen knife.

Today, we are going to make a proper bottleneck.

First, you’re gonna need an empty wine bottle with a nice, straight neck. Make sure the straight section is long enough to cover your little finger.

Now, take a sharp file and etch a circle around the neck close to the “shoulder” of the bottle. So you should now have a line that goes right round the neck and joins up where the line started. It’s just a shallow “scratch” that acts as a guide when we do the serious filing. Now repeat the process at the other end of the neck. The gap between the 2 scratched circles should be slightly longer than the length of your little finger.

Now get a hacksaw and start to saw into the scratched lines. This should end up with a deep cut that goes all the way around the neck in 2 places. By the way, be very careful when you do this. I don’t want any fingers getting chopped off. So if you feel like you can’t do it yourself, ask someone else.

The etched lines you are creating should be a minimum of 1mm thick. Try to make it 2 mms.

How are you doing?

Next, stuff the bottle neck with a rag (I usually use a tea towel). It’s important that you really jam it in.

Here comes the interesting bit. Get a rubber mallet or similar. Definitely not a metal hammer. Now grip the bottle firmly by the neck with the main part of the bottle pointing away from you. It might be a good idea to wear goggles for this part. You might also want to wear some protective gloves.

Using the mallet, smack down sharply onto the shoulder of the bottle. Make sure you smack away from your body. If you’ve etched the line around the neck deep enough, the body of the bottle should break away cleanly from the neck. And if it does that, there will certainly be a sharp line of glass left on the neck bit that you need to file down immediately to avoid cutting yourself.

Now repeat the process. Stuff the neck with your rag and then smack down sharply onto the “lip” of the bottle neck. Once agin, file away any sharp edges before you do anything else.

So by now, you should have you very own hand-made bottleneck. I’ve had mine for many years and used it on countless sessions. And IMHO, glass sounds much better than metal.

Here’s few great slide players:

Bukka White

Derek Trucks

John Fahey

George Harrison

Elmore James

Posted by in Blog, Blues, Guitars and tagged as , , ,

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