The “Savart-Nought” Trapezoid Guitar


It takes a special kind of idiot to become intensely interested in the size and shape of violins crafted by a long-dead physicist like Felix Savart (1791-1841). Luckily, I am just that type of idiot.

Felix was known for a bunch of stuff.  He invented the “Savart” which is a unit of measurement for musical intervals. He built a device to measure the range of human hearing (Savart’s Wheel). The man seemed to be very into several things, not the least of which were acoustics, vibrating bodies, and naming stuff after himself.

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Which is how he came up with the trapezoidal, flat-top, Savart violin. This creation was highly regarded by all the governing violin organizations of his era (aka: snobs and purists) and the tone and timbre was pretty much indistinguishable from  classically shaped violins. That was no small feat.  Seriously . . . convincing a bunch of elitist fancy boys to endorse your weird instrument - no matter how well it sounds/plays - must have entailed one hell of a lot of schmoozing, stroking, and quite likely . . . bribes.

Anyway . . . so I was studying Savart violins, and was about half done with making one, when my mind was struck with the sort of fuzzy inspiration most commonly brought on by excessive consumption of high-test, homemade hooch and uncooked pork.

Why not a Savart resonator guitar, I thought?  Why not make it big and loud, I hypothesized? Why shouldn’t I immediately create a “Savart-Nought.”

The rest, as they say, is either fake news or history. I always get those two confused.

The “Savart-Nought” probably sounds as good as anything I’ve ever built (or bought). The wide bottom allows for an extra soundhole at the lower left corner, which really punches up the bass response. The 9.5 inch resonator cone - inset into the 3.75-deep body - growls like either (take your pick here)

A: The 1,000 horsepower Corvette Z06

B: Hillary Clinton on the night of November 8th, 2016

C: A hungry Rottweiller with an ingrown toenail and a hangover

In other words, it’s sorta’ loud and a little angry.

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It gets louder if you plug it in, and crank up the volume and tone controls. The internal piezo is encased in about 1,000 layers of rubber cement (much like the legendary Hattori Hanzo katana sword) which means you get very little handling noise and tons of reso goodness.

Being a perpetually broke sort of backwoods luthier, I can’t afford fancy wood. Thus, the body of the Savart-Nought is constructed from red oak, Baltic Birch plywood, Luan plywood, some poplar (my homemade kerfing and the centerline neck stick), and regular old chunks of 2x4 (those form the trapezoid corner posts to which the sides are attached).

I’ve included a National, 25” scale (actually I set it at 25 1/8th . . . it sounds better) and the action is lightning fast. That’s likely because, again since I’m impoverished, the fingerboard is made from poplar and sprayed with Walmart’s finest black lacquer. The body itself is stained in black cherry, and topped off with Walmart’s second finest clear lacquer.

Oh . . . the neck is maple. I don’t know how the hell that happened.

And . . . lest I forget . . . the cone coverplate is from a 1961 Falcon, mutilated quite artistically with my $9 Harbor Freight angle grinder, and coated on the bottom with a bit of JB Weld so it doesn’t go all floppy.

I think Felix Savart would be both disgusted and impressed.

I could ask for nothing more.

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Scale:  25" scale • 15 frets to the body

Strings:  6 of ‘em

Body Size:  18” at base. 8” wide at heel. 3.75” deep

Total Instrument Length: Around 41"

Acoustic Gizmo: 9.5" resonator biscuit cone 

Cone Cover: 1961 Falcon hubcap coated with silver metallic Rustoleum

Tail Piece: 24-gauge steel lopped into shape with my HF angle grinder and coated with the aforementioned Rustoleum.

Amplification: Internal Piezo Pickup with volume and tone controls. Inset into neck stick and encased with enough rubber cement to dampen any handling noise.

Neck: Maple . . . and steel reinforced

String Height at Zero Fret: 1mm

String Height at 12: 4mm 

Neck width at zero fret: 1 3/4"

Neck Width at body: 2 1/4"

Weight: The Savart-Nought, being of French descent, is very vain. It thus declines to step on a scale and weigh itself.

© Ron Marr 2019