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The DIY Musician’s 2015 Gift Guide: Unusual, Unexpected and Sometimes Weird

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!

So here are my top picks for 2015:

Cigar Box Amp Kit, $49.99: Great gift for teenagers. I’ve built a dozen of these amps. They’re easy to make, require just a simple Radio Shack soldering iron and result in a 2.5-watt, battery-powered amp. Because the whole kit is so simple, there are a million ways you can mod them for sci-fi, steampunk or other worldly looks. (I wrote a whole blog on modding them.)

Saga Build-Your-Own Guitar Kit, $145 and up, depending on the model: Perfect for a guitar-playing dad who likes to tinker. If you have a guitarist on your gift list that needs something to do over the winter, these guitar kits are a great idea. Like the amp kit above, I’ve made many Saga guitar kits, too. These are budget instruments for the beginning builder that require not soldering at all. BTW, I suggest the LJ-10 model, which is their version of the Les Paul Jr. because every guitarist needs at least one axe with a snarling P90 pickup.

Junkyard Jam Band: DIY Musical Instruments and Noisemakers, $24.95: Got somebody who needs to get out of a musical rut? I received a copy of this book two weeks ago and it’s already bookmarked, dog-eared and scribbled. Author David Erik Nelson gives step-by-step instructions for some of the craziest freak-out instruments ever to make it in a DIY book: Hacked tape deck Scratchbox, Droid Voicebox, electric kalimbas and cigar box ukes, strange pre-amps and more. This is a cool gift to put in a stocking. Highly recommended!

100 Screen Printed Black T-Shirts from, $399: The ideal gift for any working musician. Yes, this is a very different gift idea, but consider this: If you’ve got a working musician to buy for, you could get their band name or logo screen printed on 100 shirts as a gift. They can then use these shirts to give away to promote their music…or to sell at $10 each and finance their drams just a little bit more.

Guitar Aficionado: The Collections, $49.99: Pure, unadulterated guitar porn. A great coffee table book featuring some of the most beautiful guitars from the collections of the biggest names in rock.

The Edge Guitar Slide, $12:For any slide player looking to get deeper into the blues. This strange guitar slide is meant to play like Blind Willie Johnson’s pocketknife slide. It actually downshifts your playing into a deeper, slower groove.

True Light, True Faith: The Devotional Art of Ed Stilley, $38: An unexpected and beautiful coffee table book for any guitar collector.I wrote about Ed Stilley a few weeks ago on Using only a few hand tools and no prior knowledge of guitar building, Stilley made more than 200 instruments that feature some of the wildest designs imaginable. In addition, each one was fitted with springs, saw blades and other strange attachments to add to the tone. The book is inspiring on so many levels, and the photos are magnificent.

Shane Speal is the "King of the Cigar Box Guitar" and the creator of the modern cigar box guitar movement. Hear the music, see the instruments and read about his Cigar Box Guitar Museum at Speal's latest album, Holler! is on C. B. Gitty Records.