Skateboards, newspapers, aluminum cans, colored pencils, salt, epoxy resin… you name it. Think of a material, and we’ve probably seen some intrepid engineer create a fully functioning electric guitar out of it.
We’ve not, however, come across a home build quite like this: a zero-percent wood acoustic guitar, made almost entirely out of recycled plastic.
The guitar itself was constructed by Tim Sway – an artist, maker and environmentalist, who specializes in “creating functional art exclusively out of reclaimed materials”. Indeed, this plastic guitar is his third non-wood build, following plastic and Corian bass guitars.
According to Sway, his videos are “designed to inspire, sometimes teach and to encourage others to live greener, cleaner and local”.
For his latest creation – which continues this mission – Sway has clearly pulled out all the stops. As you’ll see from the 22-minute video, reclaimed acrylic can be quite cumbersome to work with, forcing Sway to compromise and adapt on numerous occasions to create his tremolo-equipped acoustic.
Examples include melting fret wire into the laser-etched plastic fingerboard due to the material’s rigidity – a process he says he “wouldn’t wish on his worst enemy”. After the fretboard, Sway sets to work on the neck heel block, which is made from leftover plastic that was supposedly used as bulletproof glass in a TV show.
In fact, the only parts of the guitar that weren't made from reclaimed plastic were the top and back, though these were reinforced with yet more recycled plastic cutoffs that were fashioned into bracing beams.
Once the guitar is assembled – and a classic acoustic bridge has been built and attached – Sway strings up the six-string, though found the overall tension was too great for the acrylic acoustic to bear. Switching to nylon strings allayed the issues slightly, though Sway ultimately opted to equip his creation with a tremolo tailpiece to allow for a sturdier overall design.
Although Sway described the build as an “absolute nightmare”, and continually stresses throughout the trouble he had in completing the acoustic – the sides would crack when shaped, for example – the results are pretty impressive.
Given the obstacles Sway faced in his quest to construct a reclaimed acrylic acoustic, kudos must go to his perseverance and guitar-building know-how to get the job done.
Not only is it a piece of eye candy to hang on the wall, the guitar also performs like a normal acoustic, with the added benefit of having a Bigsby-style tremolo to boot. We're not sure reclaimed acrylic will stand up next to some of the more expensive tonewoods, though.
As an added bonus, the reclaimed acrylic acoustic also contributes to an important conversation surrounding the sustainability of guitar manufacturing, which often involves processes and materials that may not be the best for the planet.
To check out the rest of Sway’s builds, head over to his YouTube channel.