Make a License Plate Guitar

A friend recently asked for input on this, so here’s just one recipe for using an old plate as the top (face) of a 1, 2 or 3 string (of course you could make it a 6’er) slide (again, could add frets if you wished) guitar.

Note, I’ve not added tool list and etc., nor directions on how to create a bridge or nut (those 2 pieces the strings cross over at bottom and top before entering tuners) nor tailpiece (the thingee you secure the strings with/in at the bottom of guitars) but going to and simply searching for that info. or even looking at the many photos you can get it pretty easily.

This is one I made years ago, play on occasion in concert and never fully finished. My daughter had an old busted shelf she asked me to toss and as I was headed to the dumpster got inspired. Never even cut the extra glue away from the “nut”, over-compensated for the width of the plate, etc., etc.. Sounds cool, plays great!


Christmas is coming, who knows, you may want to try building one. If it works out gift someone -if not, keep it and re-do, fix up and just have fun!

As always, thanks for stopping by. -Glenn


Measure plate, create 4 wooden sides as deep as a cigar box or however thick you wish the “body”, and cut them to match length and width of your license plate

Those 4 wooden sides would best be between 1/4 and 1/2 in. thick because in that thick part of the sides is where you’ll screw the plate into place as the “top” or “face” of the guitar

Create either a 1 or even 2 piece wood bottom which you can eventually glue or screw into place when the rest of the guitar is finished – or use another plate for the bottom, or even leave it totally open-backed -your choice

Use good wood glue and clamps to assemble the 4 wooden sides making sure they’re set even (place plate to be sure before gluing/clamping up) and to thoroughly dry

Pre-drill through plate in at total of about 10-12 inside edge spots all around (perhaps 4 places per each long side and 2 or 3 places up top where neck will join frame and 2 or three on bottom end as well

When glued wood is fully set consider what you’ll use for a neck, measure, pencil, then carefully cut away the 2 wood slots you’ll need to embed the neck into the top of frame

Finishing that, insert neck flush into both slots and if building the typical way where we allow the neck to stick out 2 inches or so below bottom of guitar, pre-drill the 1, 2 or 3 holes for string slots

Pre-drill starter holes right through plate holes you’ve already drilled and slowly screw small round-headed wood screws through plate holes affixing the license plate to the frame

There are lotsa ways to create some sort of tailpiece or just use bottom of neck as per my mention of it above

There are tons of ways to create a bridge and nut, again, see for that and all things related to building, tuning and so on -and no, I don’t work for ’em, just love Ben, Shane and the folks and what they offer including more parts than you can imagine

You can pre-drill and screw 2 tiny screws right through the license plate and into the neck to hold the neck in place

Regardless  of how you build and use some sort of bracing or not, acoustic tone in my view has more to do with string gauges, reflection off the plate itself and actual bridge and nut material and placement of bridge than any other factors

There are a number of ways to add a pickup and this of course will completely affect the tone via an amp or p.a.

Lastly, the license plate needs to be firmly screwed into the slides and bottom to avoid buzzing -and that can also occur unless the strings are nice and tight going over whatever you use for a bridge

A last-resort but easy fix for any plate buzz is placing tiny metal or even thin rubber washers under the screw heads that hold the plate against the wood

-Glenn Kaiser

4 thoughts on “Make a License Plate Guitar

  1. Cool stuff. Just a small note on license plates. They are not all give the same ring when you test them for tone. Thickness, paint, and materials used in plate make a slight change. Still a Live Free Or Die New Hampsire plate is hard to pass by as is a Texas plate. If you can look for a plate that has a number O or 8 in the right place you can cut inside of the number for a sound hole. Just saying, hope this inspires more plate builds.

  2. I’m going to make my first one soon. License plates coming from a relative in Kentucky. I live in Vermont, so, going after the New Hampshire plates real soon.

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