‘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

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

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

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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

Plank Techno Diddley Bow

These are simple Diddley bows (one-string instruments) that I make out of Cigar molds. No two ones will be identical, but will be all pretty similarly built and decorated.

Techno Diddley Bow

Mold for cigars

Diddley Bows aren't just for playing Blues! I am experimenting with blending these instruments into more modern /technological styles of music – hear the techno experiment below where the diddly bow plays the melody and (most important) the bassline:

 
And here you can watch me and a friend play it live

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Price: 50 euros

Availability: Can make these on-demand (typically within a week). Contact me to order yours!

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Source: builds from PlankGuitars

Cigar box (cookie tin) guitar 'Cellocan' and upcoming builds

I started building electric guitar bodies out of recycled wood while I was in the United States. Anyhow, it wasn't until recently, here in the Netherlands, that I really started looking at the 'lower end' of the instruments world (something I should have probably done earlier, but it's never too late): I discovered a thriving community around 'Cigar box' guitars – enthusiasts have written a manifesto , you can find forums for builders someone has filmed and documentaries about the phenomenon (external sites).

Wikipedia introduces them as follows:

The cigar box guitar is a primitive chordophone that uses an empty cigar box for a resonator. “Guitar” refers to the traditional instrument and to a string bass. The earliest predecessors had one or two strings; the modern model typically uses three or more. Generally speaking, strings are connected between the end of a broomstick or 1″ x 3″ wood slat and to the resonator, the cigar box.

This makes Cigar box guitars perfectly suited for being 100% built off recycled materials (maybe excluding the electronics). Even on this side of the world (Europe) where we have less actual ‘Cigar’ boxes, there are plenty of biscuit tins and wooden boxes out there for reuse as resonators!

There is of course political aspect to this – we live in a society that more and more and more just produces and ‘throws away’ stuff; it’s good if we can make our items live longer, or give things (that would normally be thrown away) new life. This is why – even for ‘regular’ guitars and custom builds/designs – I try to use recycled materials as much as possible.

So, after experimenting with a couple simple diddley bows (single string chordophones), I built also a 3 strings cigar box guitar, and featured that in my guitar site. This is a very crude build, here's how it looks:

Cookie tin guitar 'Cellocan'

This one's theme was to precisely try reuse as much recycled materials as possible and do *minimal* modifications to it: this led to have a broad but thin neck, for example, just because that was the size of the plank of wood I got out of some weird furniture found in a thrift store.
I have to admit that, after the move, I don't have a garage so I have been temporary constrained to my living room, and that's not the most comfy lab to work in 🙂 Anyhow, we have built a shed in my father in law's backyard that I will share to use for guitar building and he will do his other woodwork in:

Nico's creative space

Nico's creative space

He also has some long and straight hard wood poles that he got from his dad back in the days and never put to use: some of those will become guitar necks, I am working on the designs… Stay tuned!

Below you can see part of the process of building the cigar box (really a 'cookie tin') guitar and some other details about this particular guitar.

 
Partially shaped neck being glued to the fretboard
Clamped!

 
Broad and thin neck compromise – that's how the plank was – you can see there would be space for more strings, but the risk is that the wood is too thin. Anyhow, this makes it actually very easy to play with a slide. I left it fretless, but the action is low enough that it can also be played with fingers.

Cookie tin Guitar 'Cellocan'

 
Interestingly enough, albeit the bridge is flat (not an arch like in a violin), the string spacing is enough to allow to play some notes even with a bow – which inspired the name of 'Cellocan'

Cookie tin Guitar 'Cellocan'

Here you can see the string spacing and an aluminum (recycled from another box) string holder I hacked for this headstock (which doesn't have an angle like my future builds will)
Cookie tin Guitar 'Cellocan'

Cookie tin Guitar 'Cellocan'

 
And here you can see/hear me play it

The recording is horrible, but hope it gives an idea.
On SoundCloud I have some more 'sound tests' too.

 

Soon I'll start working on a batch of new cigar box / cookie tin guitars. Probably some 3, some 4 strings, some fretted, some not…

Below you can see some of the boxes/tins I have been collecting and have lined up to be turned into instruments – let me know if you are interested in any particular one!
I'll keep adding boxes to this Flickr photo set – to track individual progress of each 'body'.

Cigar box Dutch cookie tin Dutch cookie tin Cookie tin
Cookie tin Cookie tin Cookie tin Tea box
Cake tin Cookie tin Wooden ANWB box Wooden box

Then after having done some more of these 'simpler' builds, maybe I'll also do one or two full size, 6 strings, neck thru guitars. We'll see. Stay tuned in the next few months.

I walked all this road (Song)

I have been composing this since February or so… The music has actually been almost ready for a while – in April – , but then things got busy at work (we launched System Center Advisor – Limited Public Preview, I have been responding to feedback, and Contributed some hopefully helpful troubleshooting article), I have not had an occasion to record myself singing and finish the song up.

This is also the first complete song that features both my custom-built guitars: the Plank Telecaster is the one you can hear play the rhythm/chords, while I played the Plank #2 for the melody.

I walked all this road – 2014

DYI Telecaster (Pinecaster) Project

After restoring a guitar around the Christmas holidays, in the early spring I also built one (almost) from scratch!

I started from a plank, hence the name seemed appropriate:

Headstock logo

Here is what it was before the “transformation”:

Can you see a Guitar in this picture?

and this is how it turned out to be:

Almost Ready

If you look at this set on Flickr you can see the whole process I went thru.

It’s quite satisfying to produce something like this. It sounds beautifully. I might do a few more: would you like one?

Restoring an Electric Guitar

I have not posted in a while. New year resolutions? Big plans? Nothing special, really – other than Service Pack 1 of System Center 2012 has finally shipped (this is, in case you are one of my IT-related readers) and I got featured in a video about some of the great things that are in it.

For the rest of the folks who are not working in IT and stumbled here as friends or simply curious, then the rest of this post is for you. During the Christmas holidays I really spent some time on a fun personal project: I bought a cheap Stratocaster copy in a thrift store, and tried to bring it back to life (and was fairly successful in doing so). When I got it, it was full of stickers, scratches, dirt… basically, had been used to play Punk, I assume. Nothing wrong with punk, of course (heck, I have even had a mohawk hairstyle at one point in my teen years!), but it's just that I like to care for instruments better (I never even understood the whole guitar-smashing thing either, for that matter… regardless if Jimi Hendrix did it, it is still a cruelty and a nonsense).

So here is how this guitar looked when I got it:
Guitar Restoration Project - Before

The body was scratched and mistreated (no, don't mention people who "relic" their expensive guitars – I don't get it):
Guitar Restoration Project - Before

The frets were kind of OK (no major dent etc), just horribly dirty:
Guitar Restoration Project - Before

The scratchplate was… well, scratched 🙂
Guitar Restoration Project - Before

And yeah, I had understood that the model of guitar ("Slammer by Hamer") was a cheap mass-production guitar series, but I figured that since I had never done any restoration, it would be worth to try on something cheap, first, before ruining something expensive. In the end it turned out a lot better than even I expected in the beginning.
So I started by unscrewing everything and collected all the pieces, screws, electrical pieces in plastic boxes (a lot of those cleaned separately with a variety of cleaning liquids, canned air, contact sprays, etc – but I didn't take pictures of that phase). So, with the "naked" body I started removing the stickers.
Guitar Restoration Project - Step 2

Then I used a chemical paint stripper. No matter how much I put on and how long I waited, and scrubbed… it really only helped removing the glossy varnish, not the paint itself, after 2 days. Still it made the paint a lot thinner.
Guitar Restoration Project - Step 3

After cleaning up the glossy varnish and the stripper, I attacked the body with sandpaper. Almost 4 hours of sanding with elbow grease (I didn't have a sanding machine – I just did it by hand with a sanding block) to get it back to clean wood…
Guitar Restoration Project - Step 4
Guitar Restoration Project - Step 4
Guitar Restoration Project - Step 4

Then I started filling up some dents in the body and some holes in the headstock: the headstock is actually in pretty decent condition so I didn't do anything to its wood, but a few screws that were supposed to hold the tuning pegs were loose, and dirt was accumulated inside the tuning pegs, so I removed those, cleaned them up, lubricated them, etc.
Guitar Restoration Project - Step 5

Then I started applying multiple coat of stain to the body, with a sponge.
Guitar Restoration Project - Step 8

While waiting for the first paint to dry, I cleaned up the electrical pieces.

I had roughly tested those earlier (with a screwdriver) and they appear to be functioning (at least, electricity is running thru them – but I am not sure of the quality). Anybody knows what kind/model of GFS pickups these are? They have black/dark blue wiring on the coil… probably some of those on this page guitarfetish.com/Neovin-White-Pickups_c_143.html but not sure which ones.

Anyway, this was a pleasant surprise, and I think they had been replaced earlier – and, albeit the way I found them mounted on the plastic board/cover was horrible (some of the screws were longer than they were supposed to be, which lifted the plastic of the cover and deformed it), it at least meant that the thing would not have sounded too badly (there are reports all over the internet about how bad/noisy the stock pickups in this guitar series is sounding).

Anyway, I planned on using what was there at first, hear how it sounds, and then if I am not satisfied I can always replace those later on.  They turned out to be not bad, in the end, but I only found out several days later. At the time, during the restoration, I just gave everything a good clean and used a contact cleaner spray in abundant dosage, and re-assembled the scratchplate.
Guitar Restoration Project - Step 9

Then, as the paint was getting more dry, I started wondering why this body was completely hollow, having the chamber of the pickups directly open towards the chamber on the back, which holds the tremolo system and springs – I imagine they would interfere with each other a lot and cause background noise. Therefore I have carved a small piece of scrapwood and glued it to the body to close and separate those cavities again. I will also be electrically shielding the chamber with the pickups later on.
Guitar Restoration Project - Step 10
Guitar Restoration Project - Step 10

In between the various coats of stain, I did a lot of gentle wet sanding with sand paper (600) to make it smooth and even.
Guitar Restoration Project - Step 11

After many coats of stain+wet sanding, I then passed many coats of laquer/finish and did even more more wet sanding! I have been busy with this process for several days. And man, this thing stinks – do it outdoor if you don’t want to die by intoxication:
Guitar Restoration Project - Step 12

Then, after a lot of coats of finish and a lot of wet sanding, I have used this product (which is used for cars!) that helps bring out the shine of the paint. After three passes of this product, the day after I wiped the surface and then applied wax to protect the wood.
Guitar Restoration Project - Step 13

Time to start assembling the pieces back together! First, I screwed the neck back in place and adjusted the truss rod position (not exactly, yet, but roughly – more adjustment later when strings need to go in place, as part of intonation…).
Guitar Restoration Project - Step 14

Time to screw the bridge back in place. I used wax on the screws before putting them back in place. At this point they are not tight.
Guitar Restoration Project - Step 15

Then you flip the guitar on its back and block the weight in place with a piece of scrap wood, to allow easier installation of the springs.
Guitar Restoration Project - Step 15

Installed the springs and the whole tremolo system. The guitar had no cover for this but I bought a replacement one. Once the ground cable was also passed in and soldiered (later on), this cavity has been closed.
Guitar Restoration Project - Step 15

Soldered the cables for the ground and the jack, and installed the electrical parts back in. I will be eventually be taking all these off again, at some point in the future, because I am planning to electrically shield/isolate the pickups cavity/room – but since the copper foil that I have ordered has not arrived yet, I'll give it a first try without shielding – to see if and how much noise these pickups make. So I will be able to compare later on the "before" and "after" the shielding. And this is how it looks, completely assembled (just missing strings at this point):
Guitar Restoration Project - Step 16
Quite a difference from how I found it! It almost looks like it’s worth something, now Smile

So then I put new strings on, and adjust the bridge/truss rod/string height and intonation.
Guitar Restoration Project - Step 17
Guitar Restoration Project - Step 17
And there you have it, standing next to my other guitar, a Yamaha RGX
Guitar Restoration Project - Step 18
What a difference!

And you know what? After I have been playing it for a couple of weeks, I also like the way it sounds – those GFS pickups aren't bad at all, with a lot of different tone variety, and not noisy as I was expecting them to be. All in all, I was very pleased with the result of this project!

Now, onto the next challenge – I want to build one from scratch! That will be another post, if I actually get to do it Smile

Songs

This page features some of my songs. Sore are hosted on SoundCloud, some from this server.
Most of the songs are played with the guitars I build and/or restore.

Note that some of these files (at least the ones not offloaded to SoundCloud) take quite a bit of bandwidth off my server. While I share all my songs for free (and will continue to do so), if you like them and enjoyed listening to them, you might consider sharing/donating some change. Namaste.





2016

2015

2014

. Catullus' Carmen #51

. Old Friend

. Spider (instrumental)

. With Luca N.3 (instrumental)

2013

(re-edition of a song from 1996 – Lyrics and concept by Tommaso Cancellieri)


with Kymberlee della Luce

. New Year's Blues

. Where are the days?

. Introspective

. Ambient

2012

with Max Shehovstov

. Seemingly Dark

. Ballad

. Il Sole

This is a picture of my music corner (actually, the one in a old house in Kirkland once we had just moved to America – I changed and added a few guitars since then…):

My Music Corner

lately I have reconfigured to a more portable setup, to be able to also enjoy making my music in smaller spaces:

Portable music studio

Older songs

The songs below were made with some older software I don't use anymore and the quality is way worse than all the newer ones. In any case, in 2008 was when I started composing again, after many years of all work and no fun.

2009

. Impatience

2008

. Waiting

 

 
I have been making music since I can remember – played Piano as a kid, and had various bands in the '90s, whose memory – and recordings – are fading.

About Me

I am a husband and a father of three kids, and I have three cats. Me and my family have lived in 3 different countries so far. I compose music and I build guitars out of recycled materials. I take photographs and empowering portraits. In fact, someone once told me that he thought I could not take a bad photo even if I tried. I am also a Spiritual Life Coach and an Intuitive, and I read Tarot cards with my wife at the Sanctuary of Joy.

I also like Anthropology, Sociology, Psychology, Astrology, as well as all sorts of Music, Theater, Arts, Literature. I read a lot. I write a lot.

Most of all I am interested in the power of language, of sharing ideas, of telling stories.

I also have 18 years of experience in the IT world and a former successful career in that space: I've got extensive knowledge of design, project and product management, community engagement, operations and security management for Internet software systems and cloud services, and I have learned to navigate and drive the business aspects of IT, DevOps and Development teams working for many famous corporations: Microsoft, Symantec (and their respective large customers), and more. I have worked at Microsoft as a Senior Manager on enterprise/cloud products and services, till I resigned in 2015. I am not an engineer. I didn't follow any particular school or college to get into the IT world. I had actually started the first year of Sociology at the university, but quickly decided to drop out: it was 1997, everybody in Europe was getting onto the internet, and I seized the opportunity to start working in IT, starting from a very humble role that gave me economic independence from my parents, and eventually made my way up in the IT business by continuing to work hard in that field for over 18 years and gaining real experience of real companies and real projects from the 'bottom up' (my favorite way of learning: experience is better than theory).

I do like technology, but most of all I like the potential of interconnecting people and sharing information. I am also painfully aware of issues the over-use and pervasiveness of technology is creating – damages we are doing to the environment, psychological and physiological issues to individuals/societies, issues related to privacy and security, etc.
I think technology should be the mean to achieve something useful, but 'innovation' for the sake of it (and just for making more money) should not be the purpose driving it all.

The future of our planet and our children should be the most important driver for society, but we know there are issues: over-production (and waste) while poverty exists elsewhere, wars, inequality, pollution, global warming, extinction of flora and fauna while we get fed genetically modified food and get all sort of new 'diseases' due to stress and the insane speed we are trying to live at… these are hardly ever taken into account in the 'cost' of capitalist 'growth' that often screams 'innovation' for the sake of it, while making a desert of our home earth and emptying our souls. I am tired of that, and that's why I left the big corporate world.

I am currently running my own company that produces musical instruments (mainly guitars at the moment) out of recycled materials and I also read Tarot cards and take empowering portrait photos at Sanctuary of Joy, a holistic healing organization I run with my wife. I also like to lend my more 'modern' skills and work part time or consult for organizations or individuals who contribute to a good cause and want make the world a better place; I am not interested in the 'next cool thing' built just for making more money.

My thoughts and opinions often change. This weblog is intended to provide a semi-permanent point in time snapshot but you should not consider out of date posts to necessarily reflect my current thoughts and opinions (nor those of my former employers).