preview image of a painitng of cheap guitars

I once painted this for fun. It was a very very long time a go. And it is very silly.

It’s a watercolour, based on various cheap junky guitars that I had cluttering my place. At the time—when I was unable to afford a decent guitar, and had far too much time on my hands—I used to enjoy spending (wasting?) lots of my time taking crappy guitars and customising them and trying to make them playable. It’s a very silly picture to be honest. The stories behind it might be of more interest though…

cheap guitars meshed together in a weird painting
Above: A very silly painting

The Stories

The Russia Connection

Once of them, which I found on a skip, was a classical style guitar made in Russia and was literally in pieces. I mean the top was detached and the neck was wobbly! I knew that it was a crap guitar because coincidentally, it was EXACTLY the same as my first ever guitar that I bought for £3 in a junk shop.

My First Guitar: Self-build project

It really was a remarkable coincidence. As a 15 or 16 year old, I had been attempting to build my first ever guitar from an old plywood door and a neck which I found lying on some wasteland during my walk home from school! There was no fretboard, so I made one from a strip of teak, but I never got around to figuring how to put frets on it.

It wouldn’t have been unreasonable to build a guitar, because after all, Brian May had built his one from an old fireplace and he still uses it! But I had:

  • Zero woodworking experience or skills
  • No decent tools—most of my dad’s tools were blunt and rusty
  • No idea of how to build a guitar

But I wouldn’t let that stop me—in my desperation to have a guitar of my own. One way or another, my self-build-project began to resemble a guitar, but words cannot describe how inadequate it was. It was a guitar shaped box with a neck screwed and glued onto it.

My First ‘Bought’ Guitar

One evening, my mum and dad told me that there was a guitar for sale in a new village junk shop for £3 so I dashed down on the bike and excitedly returned home and started trying to play Black Sabbath tunes on individual strings (there were only 3). I was very excited. It was a piece of crap but it got me going. It was not worth £3. Or anything for that matter. It had the wobbly neck. But I LOVED it. It was my first guitar. It was enough to learn some skills on until I bough my first crap electric guitar, a year or 2 later.

As for the home-made monstrosity, I put a couple of old bass strings on it to make it approximate a fretless bass, and gave it to my friend to learn bass guitar on!

The 2nd Guitar from Russia—via a Rubbish Skip

As for the guitar I found many years later on a skip, that was coincidentally the same type as the piece of garbage that I bought in the junk shop, I glued it back together, fixed the neck, and tried to turn it into a Dobro type resonator guitar! So, I…

  1. Took an old aluminium saucepan lid, and fixed it into a big hole I’d jig-sawed out of the top of the guitar. That was to be the ‘resonator cone.’
  2. Made a wooden ‘biscuit’ from teak, and slotted a bridge saddle into that and attached it to the lid-resonator.
  3. Cut 2 more soundholes into the top and put door-key-lock metal rings onto them for decoration.
  4. Made a crappy tailpiece out of a kippers tin! Yes, a kippers tin! (this was just to test the guitar before getting a proper tailpiece)
  5. Later scavenged a tailpiece and screwed it on.

So how did it sound? Funnily enough, It sounded a bit like a resonator guitar! Remarkable, all things coinsidered. I open-tuned it, and played slide-blues on it. But hardly ever. It was such a junk-heap and so fragile, that it’s just a novelty piece.

The funny thing is, during one of the visits by my late great friend and guitarist extraordinaire from London, Pigmeat Pete Smith, he actually played around with it, on and off for a bit. We thought he was slightly intrigued by it. But only briefly! Pete was used to playing excellent quality instruments.

Sometimes it is fun to see what you can get out of a monstrosity though. Even if you’re a virtuoso like Pete was.

Related Projects

See my better Blues Music-related painted illustrations: Robert Johnson» and Blues Album Cover»

part of a blues album cover designillustration art of bluesman robert johnson