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The DIY Musician: Shane Speal's Mailbox Guitar

(Want to build your own? I've documented how I did it here.)

This guitar was never built to be a gimmick. I made it simply because I wanted a steel-bodied Dobro guitar but couldn’t afford one.

Back in 1998, I was in the lowest point of my life: lost marriage ... living in a tiny apartment ... no TV ... no internet. Yet in all my boredom and depression, I was still obsessed with music. Most importantly, I wanted to own a metal-bodied Dobro guitar.

It was 2 a.m. when I found myself wide awake, nothing to do and $15 in my pocket. I decided to go to the one place that was open (Wal-Mart) and find materials I could use to build an instrument using the cash I had. After trolling around the empty store, I walked past a cheap metal mailbox in the hardware area, and the voice inside my head screamed, “There's my dobro!” I took the mailbox home and started making plans to create the one instrument that could satisfy my obsession.

The next morning, I sacrificed an old Kay acoustic guitar I owned. It was the perfect corpse to extract parts: bolt-on neck, floating bridge and trapeze tailpiece. Within four hours, the mailbox guitar was complete. It was perfect. It sounded just like a metal-bodied dobro and it was mine!

One more thing. Soon after I created this, I had a chance to meet B.B. King after a concert, and I had him autograph the Mailbox Guitar. Of course, I asked him to sign the door so it looked like I stole his mailbox and made a guitar out of it. (B.B. looked kinda scared, but he signed it anyway.)

See more photos and get a peek under the hood at

Shane Speal is "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.

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