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How to Build a Found Object Electric Guitar


This strange instrument was built in an hour using an antique bellows handle and several modern cigar box guitar parts.

The story of this freak instrument started with a bad purchase I made on eBay. The seller listed this strange wooden piece as the body of an Appalachian banjo from the 1800’s. As a collector of antique DIY instruments, I couldn’t pass up the $30 “buy it now” listing. Unfortunately after inspecting it in person, the piece turned out to be the handle & half the body of a set of bellows for stoking a fire. Instead of sending it back, I turned it into this insane rat rod “Electric Bellows” three string guitar. It only took me an hour to build it. The shape of the bellows had the appearance of a solidbody musical instrument. I simply added tuners, a pickup, fretboard and bridge. Demo video:


These are the parts I used:



  1. Gittybucker Pickup – an ultra-thin, hand wound pickup created especially for cigar box guitar builders. This pickup required no routing. I simply hardwired it to the jack.

  2. Three Guitar Tuners

  3. Three-Saddle Hard Tail Bridge, a Strat type of bridge made for cigar box guitars

  4. Strat-style jack plate – I mounted it upside-down, allowing minimal routing of the bellows body.

  5. Neutrik ¼” jack

  6. C. B. Gitty Acrylic Fretboard – 25” Scale for Cigar Box Guitar – These are fretless fingerboards, similar to ones used on lap steels. They’re great for slide-style instruments.

  7. Shane Speal Signature Electric Cigar Box Guitar Strings

  8. The nut is a section of a bolt

  9. String Retainer


Because the antique bellows had a time-worn “neck,” there was zero sanding needed. The only woodworking done to it was the three holes drilled for the tuners and a small amount of routing under the jack plate. The hard tail bridge, Wickedbucker pickup and fretboard were all designed for top-mounting. An electric screwdriver was all I needed to put them in.


A simple yardstick was used to measure the 25” scale and line up the Hard Tail bridge with the neck. All other parts were eyeballed in place and screwed down! There was very little planning and almost zero preparation. When you become a parts hoarder and have a huge stash of fun things to choose from, instruments like this just seem to jump into existence.

If you want to build an Electric Bellows, but don’t have an antique bellows laying around, you could cut out a similar shape on a plank of oak or poplar purchased at any big box hardware store.

For those who are asking the question, “why would you build this in the first place,” I simply say, why not! You never know what songs you’ll find hiding within an instrument you’ve built yourself. Demo video #2:



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Jim Stanley
Jim Stanley
Feb 13, 2022

As a kid I guess in the late 50s, I remember making a gitar out of a stovepipe and a slab of wood off my grandfather's woodpile. Of course I didn't know what I was doing and it didn't sound very good, but with a little knowledge gained from these articles, maybe I will take another whack at it!

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Philip Taylor
Philip Taylor
Feb 13, 2022
Replying to

I did just that myself in 1959. Still doing it after 63 years.

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Rick Post
Rick Post
Feb 13, 2022

"There was very little planning and almost zero preparation."


Brilliant!!


I need to get some parts from C. B. Gitty so I can go with inspiration when it hits me in the face!

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Ken Lindahl
Ken Lindahl
Jan 15, 2022

I built a 3 string out of a salad bowl and a hockey stick

in fact 2 of them I gave one to the dude (other than Shane Spleal ) that helped me in the beginning

the other is my favorite one to play around the house

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Mark
Mark
Jan 15, 2022
Replying to

I think most of us would love to see some pictures of it. It sound very unique.

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Philip Taylor
Philip Taylor
Jan 15, 2022

I wonder how that pickup responds to the strings with a metal plate over it? Have yet to build a solid body ECBG. This is real inspiration to do it.

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Poorness Studios
Poorness Studios
Jan 14, 2022

I love this design. I remember seeing this quite some time ago. It was actually this instrument that inspired me to build my pizza paddle bass which you can see being used here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5fFwpJ4vbOk


Great inspiration!

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