What Is This Mystery One-String Guitar (and is it even a guitar)?


This antique piece might be a one-string guitar, but perhaps it's not. It was purchased from an antique dealer over a decade ago and no history was ever given. Let's dig in, get all the details and see if you can help me find its true identity.


The instrument is carved from a single piece of wood that was 19.5" long, 4" wide and 3" deep. The neck and body are all one piece of wood. Leaf patterns are carved into the sides of the body and the inside was hollowed out. The butt end of the instrument has no holes or traces of markings left behind from any kind of tailpiece that would anchor a string.

A piece of tin serves as the instrument's soundboard, possibly made to approximate a banjo head. There are no wear marks where a bridge would have been placed.


A soundhole qas made by hammering holes with a sharp object, possibly a nail.

The neck was carved to have a 1.5" width and a thickness of 1.75. There are no frets and no marks from a nut. It has an angled headstock and a single hole for a string. No tuning peg remains. A second, smaller hole just above has a piece of faux leather for hanging. The leather does not look as old as the instrument and was probably added later.


I don't know where this was built or when. The lack of a tailpiece (or even holes left from a tailpiece) adds a just a sprinkle of doubt on what this antique truly is. However, there are no other clues on it that show it could have been used as something else. Or perhaps it was just never finished by the builder.


What do you think it is? Post your answers in the comments below. Maybe we can find out its true history.


-Shane Speal

May 23, 2022

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