Handmade guitars: Playboy meets the Tin Guitar
One of the best nights of The Blues Blogger’s life was seeing Bo Diddley play his trademark oblong guitar at The Jazz Cafe. What hair he has rose as the unique jungle beat took hold of the audience.
Both Diddley and Brian May are famous for their guitars made from odd, handy objects. Today Seasick Steve has his three-string-trance wonder and Andy Twyman his one-string based on a plank of wood.
Another wonder of the guitar craft has lately appeared in darkest Kent, England. DT teacher Mark Smith has created tin guitars, made from biscuit tins, available via his website. Having seen (and heard) and been very impressed by these guitars, The Blues Blogger asked Mark to write about his craft, and the following is the result.
“The tins are real biscuit tins sourced from anywhere from supermarkets and charity shops through to the gift shops of country houses. I select designs that would look striking behind a row of guitar strings. Designs vary from the retro glamour of the Arnott’s parrot, the vintage glamour of the Playboy tin; through to cartoon characters such as Dennis the Menace! I have a number of tins commemorating the Queen’s coronation ready to make guitars for this year’s jubilee.”
“The guitars themselves are built around a “through” neck that passes all the way from the head to the bridge to give them impressive strength. The top of the tin “floats” above this, allowing it to resonate, giving the guitar its own unique voice. Pickups are conventional magnetic pickups, and the fact that they magnetise the tin top around themselves creates a sound that is much bigger than the compact size of the guitar would suggest.” “The necks are generally made of maple or mahogany, and where possible use reclaimed timber. The “Arnotts” parrot guitar, the first I made, is built around a beautifully figured piece of Australian marri, formerly a fence post (and still showing stains from rusting nails), about to be turned into wood chips. I like timber that could tell a story.”
“My guitars are completely hand made. Some, like the Playboy guitars are built as a series. Some are totally unique. I can build a guitar to meet a customer’s demands, or to suit a specific tin. Electrics and hardware can be selected to suit the instrument and the player’s requirements.” “So what are they like to play? I originally designed them for slide work (which I’ve still yet to teach myself!) so they thrive on open tunings, and with a neck like an electric playability is top notch. The sound is unique – the tin resonates and that sound is picked up as well as the strings, so they sound a little like a National resonator on steroids. The sound is raw and gritty, great for earthy blues and Stones-style rock riffing. A unique voice, but very useable!”
“The guitars have been described as blending art with function. They look as good hung on a wall as hung on a guitarist!”
Website: www.theguitarsmith.com Facebook: The-Guitarsmith