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    What do you get when you cross a guitar with a pie pan? You get a confused musician. The picture on the left is just such a contraption. If you're desperate enough for something to do, you just might try making one of these for yourself. Make sure you don't use that Elvis original you've got stored away. That and your pink Cadillac are a inseparable team you know. What good would your blue sued shoes be without them?


Commodiane thm COMMODIANE
    What is it that everyone needs, but there's never one around when you need it? Of course, it's a Commodiane. Here's an idea that might get you off and running (or trotting as the case maybe) on the road to constructing your own Commodiane. If nothing else, it makes a wonderful conversation piece.



    This is one of three so far that I've scalloped the fret board. You don't know what a scalloped fret board is? Check out the main page and you'll find out.





    It's a bird, it's a plane, no, it's a Whiffenstick.

    What, pray tell, is a Whiffenstick? 

    My first venture into the land of luthery, that's what they call people who make the things musicians make their music on, was this simple contraption. I used some dulcimer tuners, the which II have in abundance, as tuners. Why I have so many I don't know, but I do, and I try to figure out what to do with them.

    The Whiffenstick, which I planned on calling a Strumstick but someone beat me to the name, is made up of a short length of 1x2 with a couple half-round wood dowels at each end pretending like they're a nut and a bridge. I suspended some nylon fishing wire across them, and tuned them to some odd open tuning. The stick itself makes no sound to speak of, but if you rest it on a table or a door, or any other object like a cardboard box or oatmeal can, it produces a rather interesting sound. You can either lay the Whiffenstick flat on the surface, or you can rest one end against another object and the vibration will be transmitted to that object.

    Make some up for the kids, they won't like them after the first five minutes of trying to play something, but you can say to them "now don't say I never gave you nothin'."




    I like vibrato, and when playing the harmonica or the flute, I can produce a reasonable facsimile of vibrato. In case you're wondering what vibrato is, and how it differs from tremolo (which I did when I began this project), vibrato is the alternating between two notes, while tremolo, like yodeling, is alternating between two octaves. The experts will tell you I'm wrong on this, and that tremolo is like playing two strings relative to one another, but what do they know?

    Back to the box. I wanted to add vibrato to my steel guitar, but I'm not skilled at trembling my hand holding the bar. (It trembles easily enough when I try to write or draw, but not when I want it to.) So I bought some cheap effect peddles and put together this contraption. Actually the thing works rather well, and causes my lousy playing to sound almost decent, if you only listen to the vibrato and echo, and ignore the attempts at melody and harmony. Whatever, I set out to do something, in this case something worthwhile, and it came out like I hoped it would. That is a rarity, and something I have to make sure everyone knows about. It's hard when all you have to talk about is your failures. And it's even worse when everyone you know reminds you of the failures you're trying to forget.




    All these scallops, and no potatoes to go with them.

    For some reason scalloping a guitar is not only rewarding, but it's fun. I can take a cheap instrument and do to it what no sane person would even consider doing, and produce something that everyone would like done to their instrument. The old saw "if it ain't broke, don't fix it" doesn't seem to apply to scalloping a guitar.

    The scalloped guitar to your left is one I didn't like until I took a wood rasp to the fret board. Now it's one of my favorite instruments. I have a Martin that I play on occasion, but this cheap Hohner guitar, and another given to me by a friend, are what I like playing the best. I practice on a 19 inch scale First Act child's guitar, the body coming from a baritone ukulele, because it's easy to keep by my bedside. But when I want to do some serious playing, or serious playing at playing the guitar, I use my once-detested Hohner.




    Now why would anyone in their right mind want to cut the head off a perfectly good guitar? Just for the fun of having done it. As a child my mother would never let me bite the head off a chicken, now I cut the heads off guitars. What impact a mother has on a child's destiny.

    The truth is, I just wanted to see if I could do it, and what a headless guitar felt like. To tell you the truth, I don't find any particular value in having the head removed from a guitar. It changes the balance considerably and causes the thing to become unwieldy.



    A view from the back.

    Here again I found use for the many dulcimer tuning pins I have stashed around the place.

    Notice the neck. Yeah, I know, the head's missing. But notice the neck. More scallops and still no potatoes.

    Are you interested in trivia? Here's some. You old timers, do you remember the Clarence Clearwater Revival and their first recording of Looking Out My Back Door? Have you ever wondered who Clarance Clearwater was, and how he got his name? I thought it was the name of the band leader. In fact Clarence Clearwater is a place in Appalachia (Kentucky if I recall correctly) where in 1800 a revival meeting was held. The revival was called, yep, you got it, the "Clarance Clearwater Revival." Now you have something to add to your already bulging bank of useless knowledge.                    



    I hope you like scallops, because I've got plenty to spare.
   Your eyes do not deceive you, the frets on this guitar are in fact at an angle. I wanted to see what a guitar plays like when the frets are conformed more to, as I supposed, a natural angle for the hand. For your information, I didn't find it to be any advantage having the frets angled. But you can be sure such an instrument draws attention, and a lot of sideways glances besides as people wonder what kind of nut would do such a thing to a perfectly good guitar.



   What do you do with a dulcimer body when you don't want a dulcimer? Why, you turn it into a miniature steel guitar, of course.
   I built these dulcimers with the intent of learning to play the instrument. I decided I don't particularly care for playing the dulcimer, but I do like the steel guitar. One of these days I hope to see if I can put my hands to what I imagine in my brain. When I do I'll present the outcome here on these pages. In the meantime I'm working on 30 flutes and the boxes to hold some of them, as well as some cigar box guitars and cookie can banjos. I've had the makings of these for several years, but life seems to get in the way of accomplishing what I want to do. These I'll post also when they're done.

    If you're a glutton for punishment, check out page number two of this gallery. There may not be much there as yet, but then again I might have more to show than I think. Two things I have in mind for the near future are a steel guitar made from a crutch, and a banjo that now serves as a tennis racket. Did you get that? It was subtle.



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