Perhaps the guitar world has been too one-dimensional in its attitude towards guitar building. With people out there like Burls Art – a YouTuber who’s made guitars out of reclaimed ocean plastic, skateboard decks and even pencils – and Art Mayer, who last month unveiled a french fries-themed guitar to lament the departure of McDonald’s in Russia, the scope of luthiery continues to expand in the wackiest of ways.
And now we introduce you to Shane Speal, an expert on making cigar box guitars out of pretty much anything you could imagine. His knowledge on cigar box guitars is so rich, in fact, that he’s even written a book (opens in new tab) about the subject.
For the uninitiated, a cigar box guitar is a simple stringed instrument that uses an empty cigar box as a resonator. The first models appeared in the 1800s with only one or two strings, while more modern versions usually feature three or more.
But many of Speal’s DIY builds have never been near an actual cigar box. As he explains in an Instagram video – in which a user writes: “Bro, I swear you could build a guitar out of anything” – some of the materials he’s used for his guitars include a boat oar, a 2x4 plank of wood, copper pipes, a shovel, plastic from an old Mountain Dew bottle, an actual exit sign, and matchsticks.
The latter, he concedes, is a little too delicate to play, but you can check out how each of the bizarre instruments sounds in the clip above.
In Speal’s latest Instagram video, he showcases some riffs – including Metallica’s Master of Puppets – on a 2-string guitar made from scrap iron. “When I play it I get a back ache,” he says.
Dedicated to the world of DIY guitars, Speal owns Speal’s Tavern, a permanent cigar box guitar museum in New Alexandria, Pennsylvania, and fronts the Snake Oil Band, the members of which all play on homemade instruments. To hear more from the intrepid guitar builder, head to his official YouTube channel (opens in new tab).