I recently purchased this Beatle bass and mahogany lap steel guitar from two different sources. I got them because I have a fascination with homemade instruments, cigar box and otherwise. These two are prime examples of a person wanting a very specific instrument to play and then taking it upon themselves to build their own.
The tragedy of this story is that neither builder signed their work.
The steel guitar is a magnificent slab of mahogany, lovingly cut and beveled to snuggle on the builder’s lap. He cobbled together old parts such as a Kay “Speedbump” guitar pickup, Kluson mandolin tuners and a bridge from an unknown Japanese electric guitar. In addition, he spent the time to craft an aluminum pickguard with hand cut/painted fret markers and a matching flame-inspired pickguard. The builder had a magnificent vision.
Unfortunately, we don’t know his/her name or story.
At first glance, this Beatle Bass seems to be just a bad refinish job on a cheapo 1960’s Hofner bass copy. However, closer inspection reveals a hand-carved neck and other homemade saw marks. The the builder was meticulous (in his own primitive way) of getting the look and feel of the bass he desired and then he played this instrument a lot!
But again, we don’t know who that builder was or what music was played on this bass.
With every instrument we build, we create a legacy. Whether those cigar box guitar ever leave our own living rooms or not, they will most likely be around long after we’re gone.
…And then someone else will discover it.
Therein lies the key: To build with wood is good. To make it sing is magic.
What we are creating is more than just instruments. We’re making magic with these pieces. So please, sign your guitars somewhere. Every artist should sign his or her work. Put your hometown on there if you can, too. Let your name live on with each instrument you create.
I’m guilty as much as the next guy. There have been many instruments I’ve created that don’t have my name. After acquiring the bass and lap steel above, I vow to not let that happen again.
-Shane Speal, York PA