How do you make these things?
It's a lot of fun, but it takes a lot of time. I start by finding boxes or tins at flea markets, thrift stores, or online. I plan the proportions for the neck and cut it out of rough sawn lumber. I make the joint that will hold the neck to the body. Then I make the fretboard and glue that on, do some carving, sand, attach the frets, sand, drill the tuning peg holes, sand, sand, and then put on the finish. Meanwhile, I'm also fixing up the bodies to make them structurally sound. I build the brides and attach those. Once I put all the pieces together, I carve out the nuts and saddles and make tailpieces for the tins. Finally, I string them up and make adjustments to the nuts and bridges to get the action right. And finally I stretch the strings out so that they'll hold a tune by the time somebody else picks one of them up. It's a long process that I guess takes somewhere from 15 to 20 hours, but I've honestly never kept track.
A picture is worth a 1000 words, right? Follow me on Instagram to see progress on the latest batch as well as a few other projects.
Do they play? How do they sound?
You can enjoy these objects in a lot of ways--on the wall, as a conversation piece, and yes, as a genuine musical instrument. I take special care to make sure that the important proportions are exact, the neck feels good in your hand, and the box or tin is optimized for resonance as much as possible. I have a few audio files and videos up on the site, but the best way to hear them is to try one out yourself.
Do you have a storefront? Can I come play one?
No storefront, but you're welcome to come by my workshop and try one. It's in Brooklyn NY, in part of the Red Hook neighborhood that's not too far from a subway stop. Also, I occasionally sell at craft shows and markets. Just send me an email and ask to set up a visit or get on my mailing list.
I just bought one online. How will it be shipped? How long will it take?
When shipping, I wrap each instrument with bubble wrap, then put it in a cardboard shipping box filled with packing peanuts. I usually ship via USPS or FedEx, and I will provide you with a tracking number. I'm almost always able to ship within a week of online purchase, though please contact me if you have specific needs or want to request speedy delivery.
Do you make custom instruments?
Sure, why not! I've had a few people ask me to make something out of a particular tin or box that was special to them. As long as that tin or box is big enough to make some sound, we can do it. And if it's a little small, there's always technology to help (read: pickups).
I want to plug one of these babies in and crank it to 11. Do you install pickups?
All of my instruments are designed to play acoustically. My tin can ukuleles are also outfitted with piezo pickups, since the bodies look great but can be a little on the quiet side. I can retrofit the banjos with pickups too. But the cigar boxes are permanently sealed. If you talk to me before my next build, I can install a pickup for you before it's all glued together.
Do you do this full time?
Nope. I'm lucky enough to have lots of passions in life, and one of them is teaching kids during the week. But the hours I spend in my workshop are precious to me too.
Do you sell in stores?
Sometimes. But the largest selection is on my website (or, even better, in my workshop).
Do you make cases for them?