Back home, back to my roots (quot. Pino Daniele)

2015 was a year of awakening and of choosing a different path – we "escaped" from the United States and we moved to the Netherlands (a friendlier environment, where we could count on support from my wife's family), in order to recover from the stressful situations we had been through and to start recovering our physical and mental health. It was the start of a journey to get closer to our real selves. Folks kept asking if this was a 'final' move – and, to be honest, we didn't know what to answer at the time. What is 'final' anyway? It felt more like a stepping stone, a purgatory of sort, where we learned new things and we started sharpening our claws for a new adventure. We have been increasingly aware of how nothing in life is ever 'static' nor 'final', and the only constant in life is that everything changes, all the times.

It wasn't until 2016 that circumstances were ready for us to really explore and get started on new paths. This was a year when many famous people died, old patterns really fell apart, great restlessness drove changes in ourselves and throughout the world and society. Some people considered this a 'bad' year, but at the end of the day, it has just been a year of ending a cycle which had started in 2008 and of preparing for a new one: myself and Jyothi started the Sanctuary of Joy initiative, and we have been healing ourselves and spreading words of hope and light to try to illuminate the darkness that lingers out there in many people's lives. We had to fight our own – and other's – daemons fiercely; visions and nightmares were intense; we learned to follow our hearts in the midst of criticism and doubts from society, to tell our egos and fears to shut the fuck up and to ignore every temptation to fall back in the old ways, trusting that the universe would lead us onto our new path, all in divine timing.

Spring was a timid start but when Summer came, it gave us more confidence. Jyothi made great progess on her naturopathy studies, she stepped up her Reiki skills, we published a book on Tarot and I kept improving my wood-working and luthiery skills at the Dutch School of Guitar Making. This had the side effect to confront me with how hard had I been with myself in the past, when dealing with 'standard' daily jobs and workplaces where I unconsciously picked up everyone else's emotions and stress, suppressing my own emotions. I didn't just learn about wood and guitars but about what it takes to stay centered when you are a psychic.

In fall things became clearer: we got guided to find a piece of land and a country house in Italy that will become the Sanctuary of Joy's headquarter. Things have just started in this sense – there is a lot of work to do to clean up and prepare the place, but at every step the signs have been clear that we made a good choice: doors and opportunities kept opening to us in miraculous ways, and 2017 is going to be the 'real' start of a new life that is off the grid, close to nature, and dedicated to light up the way for others who are also starting to realize how much human beings actually need a lot less 'things', a lot more air, plenty of silence and space to meditate and think outside of the box, to connect with each other in meaningful ways and to think with their own heads rather than living up to all the same cliche's they get brainwashed with by corporations and they hear in the news.

PS – The activities of Plank Guitars are on hold until I'll have a new workshop setup.

Canjo’s

This is a funny little instrument – ideal for taking on holiday and not worrying about it fitting in the car or getting ruined on the beach – worries that come with those other expensive and delicate instruments that 'normal' people play…

Canjo's in the make

Canjo's

Valentina built and decoated her own Canjo at a festival

Price: 33 Euro’s.

Availability: Available (can make on demand).

Contact Me if you are interested in one.

The post Canjo's appeared first on 'Plank' Guitars and accessories.

Source: builds from PlankGuitars

How music changed my life, Part 3: Climbing up

When you are down, negative, depressed, burned out, or even just tired from everyday routine, having some form of creative outlet is a wonderful thing. It doesn't matter *what* you do – it can be writing or painting or really anything you like – but it does matter that you do something. For me, that is largely music.
This is a story of how, over the first 38 years of my life, I grew out of touch with myself and my values, got into a depression, and almost ruined my family. Reconnecting to music was a key element to understand where I was at, in life.
This post is the third in a series. If you have not read the first two parts, please do, starting at the link below:

How music changed my life, Part 1: Falling down

How music changed my life, Part 2: Recognizing and acknowledging the issue

Continuing the story from where we left it in the second post, I had come to the realization that I had to change track. My soul needed that. My family needed me to be my better self. The world needed me to be my better self. We all need to be, if we want to do something about the planet, and our health. Eat organic, eat more veggies, plant trees, make love, talk about your emotions, make music, play with your children.

My wife also wrote a very compassionate post about my depression, our relationship, and how she helped me tackle it. I invite you to read it as well, before I continue on rambling just about music…

My partner's depression was a growth opportunity for our family

Making guitars made me remember and gave me courage to say again that sometimes old versions work just as well. A piece of wood with strings is a piece of wood with strings, and it still plays.

Real human relationships need to be nurtured and shared time is what makes you happy, not all the stuff you fill your house with or the apps you have on your phone, or how many 'likes' or 'friends' you have on Facebook.
You don't need the fake plastic guitar with colored buttons in the same shape of the one a certain famous singer is using… the one you use while watching yourself in the game console mirror and pretend you are that chosen rock idol, while you live in fear you have not made it, unlike he did. He or she (your idol) is just a guy or girl like you and me. He might have something wonderful to sing and to say, but so do you!
As a society, we have largely become just consumers of music, not producers. Besides the very few who actually become rock stars, I know a lot of people who used to have bands but dropped them as they became 'mature' and went to grey workplaces that dimmed their light. We listen to selected famous singers but we don't play as much anymore. And a lot of those who play always try to replicate what those idols do, buying the same iconic instruments from the same three large corporations which are doing very little innovation and just selling large volumes.

We need to compose, CREATE original music. Simple music – doesn't have to be complex – but we need to be in touch with our creative side. We are CREATORS. We need that sparkle. That light. It is only dimmed – it never really dies, but it will kill you if you don't let it shine – but you need to have courage to dig really deep and go beyond your fears to find it back.

And it will hurt, but then it will liberate you.

You need to step in your power and BE your idol. Be the example you want to see in the world, not just blindly follow the largely unquestioned (but very questionable) way of life that someone else has chosen for you.

While wars are being perpetrated around who owns the oil, 'charitable' donations are being used to fuel even more the pharmaceuticals, our food is being genetically modified, Mother Earth is not being respected and invasive technologies are turning us into cyborgs… we need to be the change we want to see. If we don't like the way the world is going, we need to change it. And changing it means standing up for our values and not buying, supporting or producing 'progress' we don't believe in. We don’t have to always compromise.

Building guitars, during meditative hours of sandpaper work, made me go thru all this.

And I decided I was tired of complying, that I needed to stand up for my values. To be a better husband, a better father, a better citizen of this world, a better man. It was time to re-prioritize my life and what I was contributing to.

My wife had helped me, with her patience and her talks, to figure things out, but by now she was sick, I was in an un-diagnosed (and un-noticed at work), but real, depression and I still had a ton of stuff in flight for the project I was working on…

The first thing to reduce our level of fear and start moving forward was moving back to Europe, where we could have extended family around us to help, to at least help relieve the pressure on my wife, to start with. With miraculous help I managed to maintain my job even from abroad, so we had some time to buy a house and settle.
In the Netherlands, the family started coming back to life. Especially my wife and the kids started slowly getting rid of their fear (see article about my daughter's experience in American public school linked from the first post in this series). We could send the kids to a Waldorf school, now, which in the Netherlands is affordable to all, not just by very rich people, and they started coming down from their stress too. They reconnected with their manual abilities and bodies. They finally had cousins and new friends and grandparents close by. They started having the freedom to wander around the neighborhood on their own without social services threatening to take them away. My son started talking to me again and we did things together. He stopped being obsessed with Darth Vader.
Things did look better, and I started making some time for my kids and my family, i.e. now I could bring the kids to school – and talk to them – and then do grocery shopping in the morning, because I had no office to go to at standard 'office times'. My in law's also could give some attention to the kids – we were not alone anymore! – and gradually my wife got a little better with her tummy problems, she got some color back, she finally had some mental space and started studying.

Part of my days were 'free' because my job position was still with the American team. This also meant that I had to still be online and at work during part of my evenings and do nightly conference calls to match the timezone of my coworkers, or I would not get anything done.

Good luck sleeping after having been in a 'morning' status meeting at 10pm. My insomnia – and nightmares – became worse, and more frequent.

So, while I was starting to take some time to be a better dad and husband, I was still really in need of some time to heal myself too, and to completely detach from what I knew was the core issue: I had never felt aligned with 'scientific' and 'innovation' values pushed by the industry. I was still compromising with them. I was still doing 'poker face' with the world, to get my salary. We had changed country, but I was still not following my heart.

One of my recurring nightmares was that of my daughter having been replaced by a robot, 'for you cannot stop progress'. I kept waking up in cold sweat and with a cramped tummy. Another particularly vivid one was about Bill Gates telling me I didn't stand a chance on my own, that I could not go away since he owned me, and he was closing with 'where the heck did I think I would be going?' before I woke up feeling awful. Bill, don't take it personal, please – it's just a dream after all, and I don't control those. In my psyche, you were a symbol of the technocratic culture and this world that you helped creating, which has never felt my own, but which I infiltrated for a few years while wearing a mask, because that's what everybody else was doing with their lives – or so it seemed to me at the time – and because I really liked to understand how machines and systems work, so that I could control them, and not be controlled by them. It was a fear-based choice, and those are never good. Don't worry – the mistake was mine to join it in the first place but, like every mistake, it provided great learning. So, thanks for all that I have learned in that industry.
It's noteworthy to point out that, somehow, the mask I was wearing – or rather the restlessness that wearing it caused me! – got confused with 'drive' by that culture, and made me 'successful'.

Anyway, it was time for me to cut that cord. And to be done with fear.

So, I finished off all the last pieces of work I had agreed/promised to finish – because I like to maintain my words – but after that I was really done with 'innovating'.
By now we were in a relatively safe harbor, we had drastically scaled back our needs and monthly budget and had some savings set aside – it was time to really unplug, own my shit, change path and fix myself and my family emotionally and completely. So, in October 2015 I finally quit the corporation

Three quarters of 2015, my IT career and various ramblings

Now I was free to start going after my dreams and reinvent a career (or two) for myself that would be compatible with my values.

Now I was without a job but with some savings. A great weight had finally dropped off my chest, I had a good roof on my head, and plenty of time.

A week later, my sister in law stumbled across the FabLab in Alkmaar, which just at that time had set up a workshop on 'cigar box guitars'. I had never heard of them before, but once I saw what it was about, I got completely jazzed! It was *exactly* the type of idea I was searching for: not 'full blown' guitars, but simpler ones, that can be built inexpensively using recycled materials such as old cookie tins, cigar boxes, wine boxes, broom sticks, old screws, etc… and with this 'recycling' theme in mind I launched Plank Guitars.

With Plank, I therefore make custom, one of a kind guitars that are also pieces of art, for musicians who want to play blues, rock or other kinds of music (even techno!) on very special and unique instruments. Besides, my guitars have zero environmental impact for their production (excluding that I use some electricity for my power tools), since I reuse old 'junk' I collect at the local thrift stores such as cookie tins, cigar box guitars, pieces of old hardwood floors, etc.

I don't claim to be an 'expert' luthier (just like I never claimed to be an engineer in IT!) – I am still learning a lot, in fact I am also going to school at the Dutch School of Guitar making by Frank de Haan to improve my skills, and I am learning some cool tricks there!

While at the school more complex guitars are made, some of the instruments I make on my own are left intentionally extremely simple and 'down to basics' so that they can be played by kids or people who have never played any instrument before. For example some have three strings and a diatonic fret board (for the un-initiated, it means you can only play 'full' notes A-B-C-D-E-F-G but not sharps or flats – it's like a piano without black keys) which makes it really difficult to play 'bad' notes. See the 'Gnome's Dulcimer cookie tin guitar' here as an example

Gnome’s Dulcimer cookie tin guitar

There is a freshness and a power in making something simple – not 'over the top' – which actually gives joy to others!

A charismatic – but modest – singer, Seasick Steve, also uses very simple and beaten up instruments in his songs, and I love a quote from his song 'Diddley bow' (which is the name of the simplest ever 1-string instrument used to play it) that says it all:

"With only one string you can't go wrong. Go and make yourself a song." – Seasick Steve

That's the spirit: just sing and don't worry. Don't try to be perfect, just be yourself and enjoy!
Other famous people said that too

"Express yourself don't repress yourself" – Madonna

And there I got that my mission and differentiator was not about selling guitars by the pound and build the next cool label with a big factory, but make simple artifacts that give joy to people.

Earlier this year, with my wife, we also launched the Sanctuary of Joy, a holistic healing organization. We aim to help people to (re)discover who they really are: discover their passions, be true to themselves, improve their relationships and life in flow and abundance.

Sanctuary of Joy is operational

At the Sanctuary we do energy healing, we read Tarot and Oracle cards, and we counsel couples and individuals about their lives, their relationships, their work and their health. Our emphatic and intuitive abilities and our life experiences taught us to see the world – and people – from a unique perspective: over the years we traveled and studied with Indian and Western spiritual teachers; we lived in three different countries while raising our 3 children; we dealt with autoimmune diseases, miscarriages, burnouts, discrimination, bullying, corporate management jobs, and more. We gained deep understanding of cultural patterns and how they can block us from finding our true selves, and how communicating from a place of Love is an art that can be learned.

We think that music fits wonderfully into this picture, therefore we are going to cross-over the Plank Guitars brand and theme with the activities of Sanctuary of Joy, where we think that other people dealing with stress, depression, and all those people who 'locked up' in their emotions – like I had done – can also benefit from using music as a way to express themselves.

Practically this means that we offer:

To give you some Joy right now, in the photo below you can see an extremely simple instrument that my 6 years old daughter was able to build all by herself with a shoebox and some elastics:

Sara with her shoebox guitar

Find out more about our activities under 'Music Healing' at the Sanctuary of Joy's website

Music Healing

We are at the end of the tale. I described how music, and a number of other tools such as Tarot and Oracle cards for self-analysis (We are currently writing a book on this topic – stay tuned), with the help of my wife by my side and copious blessings from above, helped me get in touch with my real locked up self, and start a new journey. I hope the reading was informative and maybe helpful to some people who might be navigating similar times of fear and doubt like those that I went thru, or maybe now they are awakening as well.

Music is not the only thing that I do. I am quite busy with the counseling work of the Sanctuary, I am writing, I spend time with my kids, I cook. I take pictures. I paint. I occasionally do some IT to help small shops or individuals get visible, but not the big scale stuff. As someone else already wrote, I make guitars, but I am not a "guitar maker".

We are all composite people, and the jobs we do to make a living are just things we do, they don't define who we are. We are more that those.

And you don't need a lot of 'things' to be happy either, you just need to have enough, and bring out your light into the world.

All good things are wild and free - Henry David Thoreau
[Image previously shared on Sanctuary of Joy's Facebook page]

Karel I ‘Regalia’ antique Cigar box guitar

This guitar is made from an old cigar box from the Karel factory in Eindhoven, the Netherlands. Not sure about the age of the box itself, but I guess it's from the '30's. 

Karel I 'Regalia' cigar box guitar

Karel I 'Regalia'

Karel I 'Regalia'

Price: 400 Euros

Availability: Coming soon (almost ready). Contact me to preorder!

The post Karel I 'Regalia' antique Cigar box guitar appeared first on 'Plank' Guitars and accessories.

Source: builds from PlankGuitars

‘Old Dutch Mill’ cookie tin guitar

A beautiful aluminum tin (probably for cookies) with a white and blue dutch style painting of a windmill.
The fretboard is made from a recycled piece of mahogany (floor).

The result is very classy. Bright sound.

'Old dutch mill' cookie tin guitar

'Old dutch mill' cookie tin guitar strung for the first time

'Old dutch mill' cookie tin guitar almost ready for assembly

'Old dutch mill' cookie tin guitar strung for the first time

'Old dutch mill' cookie tin guitar strung for the first time

Price: 300 Euros.

Availability: Available now. If you want to buy this, contact me

The post 'Old Dutch Mill' cookie tin guitar appeared first on 'Plank' Guitars and accessories.

Source: builds from PlankGuitars

Can you see? (Song)

This is a blues-y song I wrote recently, performed with the recently built 'Santa Muerte' cigar box guitar (just in time before it gets picked up by its new owner, I thought I'd test drive it properly…) as well as my Plank "#01" Telecaster.

Pump up the volume, and I hope you like it.

Besides composing, I have been to Italy for the Christmas holidays – for the last couple of weeks; production of 'Plank' guitars is about to resume next week, as kids start school again.

In the meantime I moved the website to a 'better' domain name www.plankguitars.com (but all previous links will redirect) and have prepared 'labels' for serial numbers of my builds:

Plank guitars labels

‘Cellocan’ cookie tin 3-strings guitar

The following is a Cookie tin guitar I built almost completely out of recycled materials (only the tuning pegs are new) – it looks beautiful and it's a pleasure to play.

You can read more about it at my blog.

Recycled 'Cellocan' Cookie Tin Guitar

Screw bridge on cookie tin body

Recycled Headstock

 

Here a friend plays it

Price: 150 Euros

Availability: Available. Contact me if you want to buy this.

The post 'Cellocan' cookie tin 3-strings guitar appeared first on 'Plank' Guitars and accessories.

Source: builds from PlankGuitars

One-String Diddley Bow in a box

Cigar Box Diddley Bow

Simple one-string headstock on broomstick neck

Below you can hear how the one above sounds, in a short recording where I am playing a couple of chords on a guitar and my son accompanies me with an arrangement –

Luca playing the diddley bow

Price: 50 euro's (unless non-standard build, electrified, etc)

Availability: I can make these upon request pretty quickly. Contact Me.

The post One-String Diddley Bow in a box appeared first on 'Plank' Guitars and accessories.

Source: builds from PlankGuitars

‘Santa Muerte’ Cigar Box Guitar

Not really a 'cigar box' guitar – this was made out of a wooden Tea box that whose original paint has been sanded down and then the box has been cut, re-painted and a 'Santa Muerte' image has been applied with decoupage technique.

'Santa Muerte' cigar box guitar

but it all started from this 'harmless' tea box

Voodoo Tea box 'Santa Muerte'

The fretboard goes above the box and it's crazy long. The first 20 frets have been installed, the rest is fretless.

'Santa Muerte' cigar box guitar (detail)

'Santa Muerte' cigar box guitar (detail)

Here an acoustic video, for demo of how it sounds

Here another demo, this time the guitar was plugged in an amp with a little reverb

And this is the happy new owner of this guitar while he's playing it for the first time

Lastly, here's a blues-y song I wrote recently, performed with the 'Santa Muerte' cigar box guitar – just in time before it gets picked up by its new owner, I thought I'd test drive it properly… as well as my Plank "#01" Telecaster.

Price: 300 Euro's.

Availability: SOLD.

Contact Me if you are interested in some similar design, it can be done again :-)

The post 'Santa Muerte' Cigar Box Guitar appeared first on 'Plank' Guitars and accessories.

Source: builds from PlankGuitars