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In His Spare Time, Surgeon Builds Cigar Box Guitars

Kirk Withrow, an ear, nose and throat doctor in Birmingham, Alabama, is "obsessed" with making things out of other things, chief among them, guitars from cigar boxes.

A patient with a sinus infection introduced Withrow to the instrument during his residency at the University of Alabama Birmingham about 11 years ago and gave him his cigar box guitar.

"There's a certain element of liberation to it. You're not bound by the rules of what you can get at the store," said the 33-year-old married father of two. "You have the ability to change the things you don't like and make them to your liking... you're pretty much just limited by whatever you can think of."

Over the past decade, Withrow has created dozens of cigar box guitars, most of them three-string, acoustic and electric, though the latter takes more time, he says. He has recorded albums and occasionally plays shows and festivals, though he claims he's not that great and reckons the appeal lies in watching some guy a play homemade instrument.

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Damian is Editor-in-Chief of Guitar World magazine. In past lives, he was GW’s managing editor and online managing editor. He's written liner notes for major-label releases, including Stevie Ray Vaughan's 'The Complete Epic Recordings Collection' (Sony Legacy) and has interviewed everyone from Yngwie Malmsteen to Kevin Bacon (with a few memorable Eric Clapton chats thrown into the mix). Damian, a former member of Brooklyn's The Gas House Gorillas (opens in new tab), was the sole guitarist in Mister Neutron (opens in new tab), a trio that toured the U.S. and released three albums (opens in new tab). He now plays in two NYC-area bands.