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DIY Instruments – Making Poor Man’s Guitars, Including the Electric Washtub Bass (AKA Soul Bucket)

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DIY Instruments… Nothing says ‘Americana’ more than a cigar box guitar, and this new book includes the Electric Washtub Bass (AKA the Soul Bucket).

This primitive instrument, cobbled together from discarded wood, guitar strings, and an empty cigar box—was the poor man’s guitar of the early nineteenth and twentieth centuries. For decades, it was a forgotten instrument though; that is, until Shane Speal (“King of the Cigar Box Guitar” and leader of his DIY-instrument band Shane Speal and the Snakes) brought this DIY guitar back to life and created a cult following.

In a new book Making Poor Man’s Guitar: Cigar Box Guitars & Other DIY Instruments (Fox Chapel Publishing, October 2018), Speal brings the making of music and musical instruments back to its roots.

The book presents authentic stories that’ll give readers chills and insight into the untold story of America’s poverty-stricken DIY music communities—some stories date back to the beginning days New Orleans’ jazz. It even shows how to recreate some of the guitars.

With each story, readers will discover the magic of the DIY music movement.

A book like this comes at a time when many people are experiencing technology fatigue, want to unplug, and make something meaningful with their hands. Speal describes the experience best. “Anyone can buy a guitar at a chain store. Mass produced instruments litter the landscapes,” he says. “However, there’s a certain magic that happens when you struggle to build your own instrument. You put your own creativity, your soul, and even your own beautiful mistakes into it. Each one is uniquely your own.”

Making Poor Man’s Guitar: Cigar Box Guitars & Other DIY Instruments is available at

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