A Meaford business is breathing new life into some old materials and they are making music in the process.
"Fine Fret" owner Jeff Allen says that the idea to manufacture guitars from old cigar boxes came to him after seeing a news story about an Alabama-based surgeon who was making similar guitars in his spare time.
“I have always enjoyed a good cigar and appreciate the quality in how they are packaged and the boxes they come in have a wonderful aroma and sound good too. Being a drummer I've been known to tap out a beat or two on a good old cigar box,” says Allen.
Allen says that he began manufacturing the guitars in his home workshop, and he has been creative in sourcing materials for each piece.
“Reclaimed wood from furniture and barn boards are used for the necks and inlay, I use cinnamon sticks, unused chopsticks and old bolts for bridges. Tuning pegs are new and old. I go into every used music equipment shop and dig through the boxes looking for tuning pegs and volume knobs that are reusable. They don't all need to be the same so long as they work,” explains Allen.
As for the cigar boxes themselves, Allen says that there are plenty available and waiting to be re-purposed.
“Reclaimed cigar boxes can be found everywhere. I noticed a friend was using them for kindling to light his evening fire - soon he'll be playing one in front of that fireplace instead of burning them. I get the boxes from many sources the only thing I ask is that they are discarded. I don't plan on mass producing,” offers Allen.
His cigar box guitars aren't just acoustic instruments. Allen has developed amplified versions of his unique guitars.
“On the models that are amplified, I use a style of pickup called 'piezo' these little baby's can be found everywhere. I get most of them from discarded kids electronic drum toys. Take them out and mount them right into a cigar box guitar.”
Allen sees his creations not as a toy or curiosity but as a form of useable art. And while he doesn't want to move into full-scale mass manufacturing, he is hoping that there will be enough interest in his guitars to build a successful business.
“I make these from my home workshop in Meaford. It's small but I plan on renovating a discarded shipping container into a workshop/studio. These are fairly inexpensive and can be made to look and work anyway you like,” says Allen, “It's a love of work deal. I was a chef for 25 years and loved it - but as with everything there comes a time to change or reinvent your surroundings. I look at old wood and cigar boxes with the same love I had looking at a plate of food. I hope the people that do come in contact with this product appreciate the thought process of not only the build, but also take into consideration the environmental and social effect they have on us.”
“All this considered, they won't be mass produced but made generally on demand,” offers Allen, “I try to do as much by hand as possible. The neck lines are hand crafted, I am using a hand powered drill for the most part, and I use small sanders for rough sanding and hand sanding for fine tuning. I preserve the wood with food grade mineral oil.”
Now that he has mastered the art of building guitars from cigar boxes and other reclaimed parts, Allen has his eye on producing cigar box amplifiers.
Fine Fret's cigar box guitars can be ordered by visiting thier website: www.finefret.com. The guitars cost approximately $200 and a two to four week lead time is required for most orders.
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