Here’s a quick list of gift ideas meant to inspire. I guarantee they’ll get a bigger reaction than a gift card or money in an envelope. Several of them are kits that will keep people busy over the winter months. Others are just unexpected gems for guitarists. And remember, if you can’t afford any of these, you can always make a lap steel guitar out of a 2x4 using the plans I posted in this column earlier this year!
In the pantheon of great guitar makers, Ed Stilley’s work stands alone like a castaway on its own musical island. Imperfect, bizarre and some even un-tunable to the modern equal temperament scale, his crudely made stringed instruments would make the most adventurous guitar collector shudder. And yet, his instruments (and, even more, his story) are just as fascinating as Leo Fender or C. F. Martin.
The guys over at cigarboxnation.com hosted a contest challenging its members to build Halloween-themed stringed instruments. Rules were quite generalized, and just about anything was fair game, whether the guitar was made with a cigar box or the door of an ancient Egyptian sarcophagus.
Last week, I shared two sets of vintage DIY plans for an electric guitar and a tube-driven “throbbing” vibrato. This week, I’ve discovered another treasure from the Eisenhower era—a one-tube amplifier that uses a 117L7/M7GT tube. I’ve taken the original scans of the plans and turned them into an archived PDF with enlarged photos from the article.
Claude Monet had his “Blue Period,” and I seem to be having my “Rust Period” lately. Every cigar box guitar I build has rusty found objects (or ones I painted with Rustoleum dark brown textured paint). It’s a weathered look that’s akin to relic'd Strats and Teles, I guess. Either way, adding rusty things to stringed instruments is putting a smile on my face in the woodshop.
This guitar would be built with a large wooden Punch Cigars box. The bigger the box, the better the sound—and I wanted this one to be a good-sounding guitar. The neck would be poplar, a poor-man’s alternative to maple, but always a great choice for a slide guitar since warping isn’t a factor.
This week, I have archived two more sets straight out of the Eisenhower era…and they’re some of the coolest ones I’ve found so far. The first set of plans, written by Captain America artist and creator C.C. Beck, is for making your own electric guitar and utilizes a semi-hollow body design. The second is for a “throbbing” vibrato unit (actually a tremolo, as later corrected by a letter to the editor) that is tube driven.
There’s something magical about building an instrument with a vague history and word-of-mouth origins. That magic includes a staunch "no rules" ethos among modern cigar box guitar builders, which allows creativity to rule supreme, just like the original makers back in the Depression era. The idea is to create an instrument with found objects and parts that were never meant for guitars.
Two weeks ago, I reviewed several guitar pickups specifically made for cigar box guitars. Why? Because cigar box guitars need to be plugged into Marshall stacks and cranked until the windows shatter. And since we have loud cigar box guitars, let’s electrify a washtub bass and washboard as well.