I rather like these "quick and easy" musical projects. Was 
recently given a very inexpensive Checkmate brand steel-string 

In a couple of hours I converted it into a fretted, acoustic, 
metal-stringed bass guitar that is surprisingly loud and is very 
useful for noodling around and (heaven forbid the word) practicing.

This conversion is so simple as to scarcely warrant this article,
Click here for a photo of this simple conversion.
The existing two outer nut-grooves can be used as-is (or perhaps 
with minor groove enlargement) for the bass' E and G strings.

Carefully plot where the two new grooves in the nut should go and 
then file away, being careful to go slowly so you don't remove too 
much material.

I used an old set of Rotomatic round-wound bass strings that were 
given to me. Boiling them removed lots of crud*. The hole in the 
E string's tuning gear may have to be drilled a bit bigger to fit 
the E string (mine did not). 
*Click here for more information on boiling strings.
Although the Checkmate guitar utilizes "through the bridge" string 
attachment, I opted instead to make a very simple tailpiece to 
connect the ends of each string to. My reason was that the area 
around the Checkmate's bridge had started to bulge up a small bit 
(when it was still a guitar) & with the tailpiece system, this 
should not be an issue.

Made my tailpiece by carefully hacksawing up the not too thin 
aluminum chassis from an old ham-radio project. Evenly space 
the four string-holes.

NOTE: After this conversion is made, the two tuning gears that
now have no strings attached to them can end up vibrating
mercilessly. This is easily cured by either romoving them or by 
taking a few inches of nylon fishline and tightening it onto 
(between) the two empty tuning gears.

On my second conversion, I used Fender medium-light gauge 
flat-wound electric bass strings and I pulled out the frets. 
I very much like the results! Slippery smooth & fun to play. 
It's not as loud as with the round-wounds, but very adequate 
for tinkering around. I find myself using this instrument a 
lot for figuring out bass lines -- also throw it in the car for 
trips, it being so small and portable. Note that if you pull out
the frets, the grooves in the nut have to be lowered so the
bottom of each string is only about a business-card's thickness
from the surface of the fingerboard.

Dennis Havlena
northerm Michigan
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