Turning junk into funk: Guitars made from things found around the home
In our neverending search for novel guitars, we've come across some very odd creations indeed – from six-string beauties made from thousands of matchsticks to upcycled carve monsters built using skateboard decks to a playable Stratocaster fashioned from packaging material. Such fine examples inspired us to look around for more crazy stringed instrument creations, with a focus on guitars made using stuff you might find in the kitchen, the garage or the garden shed. Here, in no particular order, are our top picks.
Come on in my kitchen
The focal point of many family homes, the kitchen, seems a good place to kick off this collection of weird and wonderful guitar creations. First up we have a cooking little number from guitarist Victor Kucher that should be perfect for covers of TV Dinners or American Pie.
The body of the instrument is a genuine microwave oven, to which guitar hardware and electronics have been added. A hole was drilled in the top of the oven to accommodate a P90 pickup, what looks like a custom 19-fret wooden neck has been secured to the right side and there's an output jack popping out of the left side, next to the tailpiece. The bulky build also sports a smartphone mounted to the pickguard, though it's not made clear exactly what this is for.
You can see how it was put together, and hear how it sounds, in the short video below.
If you're not up for nuking your dinner music with the Microwave Oven Guitar, then why not grab a bag of chips and a mighty big pot of spicy dip?
This Tortilla Chip Guitar was designed, cooked and put together by Scott Feldman and his team at Atlanta Props as an advertising concept for a Mexican food chain's give away promotion. The crunchy triangular body had two humbucking pickups and a simple tremolo bridge, with the circuitry hidden away behind the chip. The non-tortilla neck was also made by Feldman and bolted onto the chip before stringing and tuning up.
Sadly, this one-of-a-kind guitar is no more. In true Pete Townshend fashion, its creator smashed it over an amp after playing just one quick riff – as you can see in the video below.
Stealing the family silver
The Erin from three-string slide guitar builder Bill Turner is a thing of beauty that would easily find pride of place amid antique living room furniture or as a work of art hanging on a hallway wall. Turner told us that the 34-inch long instrument was built for a charitable event aimed at raising money for school art programs, and has a main body of stacked and glued plywood layers with wood panels from an old desk used to cap the front and back.
The focal point of the guitar, however, is its unusual resonator. This is made from a silver serving bowl, a brass candle plate and some brass lighting components. The signal from a piezo rod pickup underneath the resonator is fed through to a strap button output jack and onto an amp.
A tailpiece that started life as a drawer pull completes the re-used furniture vibe, and there's a half inch oak neck topped by a quarter inch oak fretboard, with a carbon fiber rod running through it.
All work and no play
Many modern homes today will have a powerful family computer in one shape or another – which could be a dedicated desktop, a laptop that can also be a tablet or just a bunch of smartphones – but spin back to the early days of personal computing and the landscape looked a lot more limited. One of the 1980s best sellers was the Commodore 64, something that accomplished electronics tinkerer Jeri Ellsworth transformed into a four-string synth hybrid called, appropriately enough, the C64 Bass.
The Commodore computer-in-a-keyboard that Ellsworth sacrificed for the good of bottom end sonics had seen better days, in fact it was no longer functional. She purchased a cheap bass guitar and removed the wings from the body to leave a central block and neck. The computer's inards were gutted and the bass block mounted in the area above the keyboard.
She made four pickups from piezo sensors, wrapped them in tape and placed one under each string at the bridge. The signal from each pickup was then amplified, routed through low pass filters and sent through a field-programmable gate array before hitting the original C64 6581 SID sound chip. The whole shebang is powered by 18 AA-sized batteries.
Interestingly, the top row of the mechanical keyboard has been wired to produce synth sounds through the computer's sound chip, giving both synth bass and keytar opportunities. You can watch Ellsworth introduce the instrument in the video below.
Moving to the games room, but sticking with 8-bit processing magic, we come face to face with the excellent NES Paul. Unlike the recently-released NES Classic Edition console, this custom guitar from Doni Guitars (maker of the arguably even more impressive Solo Guitar and Rebel Bass) is built around the housing of an original Nintendo Entertainment System console.
Handcarved basswood can be found lurking under the console skin, it rocks bridge and neck high gain humbuckers, and is rounded off with a 22-fret maple neck with double-action truss rod which ends in a headstock that can be decorated with a favorite 8-bit character, or left blank.
The NES Paul is available to order for £650 (about US$800), or £850 with an LED neck. Hopefully the chops generated from this unusual six-string will be slightly more tuneful than the chirpy music accompanying gaming legends like Mario and Luigi.
"I'm currently in the process of fine-tuning the fusion of a NES Paul and a Game Boy too which will allow the owner to not only play the guitar live as they would any other guitar, but it'll also give the capacity for adding the concept of 8-bit music to proceedings as well," the luthier known as The Mad Scientist told us.
All you need is ... Lego
The body of this colorful six-string is all Lego, with glue used to strengthen the guitar at the bridge and where the maple bolt-on neck with an ebony fingerboard meets the body. "You can see in the back of the guitar that I used the biggest Lego brick in the middle to counteract the string tension," Pavan told us.
There's a humbucker installed at the bridge position and a single coil pickup at the neck. The neck ends in a headstock that's had a Lego panel cut to shape and glued into place, and all in the Lego Guitar tips the scales at 2.3 kg (5 lb).
You can see and here Pavan's colorful plastic creation in the video below.
Can you dig it?
Who doesn't love pottering about in the garden? And if you're lucky enough to have slide wizard Justin Johnson helping you out, a good time is all-but guaranteed. But rather than turning over the topsoil, he'll more likely be belting out piping hot Delta blues on a three string, single humbucker shovel guitar made for him by Mississippi Blues Guitars.
Probably more suited to covering country blues classic Digging my potatoes than Clay Walker's Bury the Shovel or Ace of Spades by Motorhead, you can watch Johnson giving the instrument an entertaining workout in the video below.
Roots Music School is now offering an individually numbered version of the shovel guitar for sale, which features a hand-wound Flatpup pickup, chrome hardware and fret markers burnt into the spade's handle. A ticket price of $460 includes Johnson's signature slide and an instructional DVD.
The makings of a garage band
Serial guitar maker Terry Johnson from the blues/rock band The Swamp Drivers was inspired to create this six-string after being given a box of old Harley parts by a friend. The wonderfully-named Hog-o-Caster features a large sprocket for the body, which is fronted by a clutch cover that's home to the adjustable bridge.
Volume and tone adjustment comes courtesy of some gears. And there's a brake lever tailpiece with an air cleaner cover in front of it, which is where the input jack is plugged in. Throw in a couple of exhaust pieces behind the bridge and a single coil pickup at the base of a neck reclaimed from an old guitar, and you end up with one mean-looking hog.
The Hog-o-Caster doesn't just look the business, it sounds pretty good too, as you can see and hear in the video below.
Four-wheeled people movers of the 1950s and 60s may not be able to compete with today's automobiles in terms of fuel efficiency and safety, but there's no denying that many cars of yesteryear just ooze gorgeousness. Ex-Brit Dave Gartland has transferred classic car stylings to the world of custom guitar making with a range of aluminum axes inspired by – and often including parts from – iconic period vehicles.
The first guitar out of the Ali Kat stable was based on a 1957 Chevy Belair, and included some original car parts. Crafted from aluminum and hand-painted to order, Gartland continues to produce and sell versions of the Black Kat to this day.
One of our favorite builds is the shocking pink 59 Katillac, based on a 1959 Cadillac Coupe Deville. The guitar that includes original 1960 Cadillac tail light housing, a Caddy emblem on the front of the body and shark airbrush work on the rear.
Another stand-out model is the Hub Kat, which is built around a 1953 Ford Fairline hub cap. Described as having a Delta Blues kind of sound, the guitar has a resonator behind the cap and still shows the welding scars on the shiny stainless steel.
Game, set and match
And finally, if strutting your funky stuff in front of the bedroom mirror with a tennis racket clenched in your fists is your idea of a good time, then you don't have to settle for pretend playing. Following the steps on Tom Fox's Instructables guide should get you serving up aces and volleys with a kicking three-string tournament slider.
The shopping list for parts would need to include an old tennis racket, a piezo transducer to embed beneath the bridge, a mono instrument jack chassis, some tuning pegs, a few bits of scrap wood and some brackets and bolts. But what you'd end up with is a playable Tennis Racketar to rock the center court crowds at Wimbledon.
So there you have it. Our selection of the coolest guitars made from stuff you might find around the home. Do you have any other suggestions? Let us know in the comments.