We meet local craftsman David Hill to find out more about his passion for creating cigar box guitars.
Q: What’s your background?
I have been a musician for most of my life since I picked up and started playing the guitar at 16. I particularly love writing songs and in 2006 won the prestigious UK national song writing competition for my song ‘Where All the Seeds Are Sown.’ A little while ago the BBC also did a short documentary on me and my music whilst touring and gigging in New York.
Q: How long have you been doing this for and how did you get started?
Having been a craftsman and guitar builder for many years it wasn’t until ten years ago that I found my love for Cigar Box Guitars. I set out to be among the best in building these guitars in the UK, with value for money. Before starting to build cigar box guitars I did a lot of research in the States and also here in the UK. It was quite simple, I wanted to build Cigar Box Guitars that not only sounded great but would also last a lifetime.
Q: Can you tell us more about the history behind, and the origins of, cigar box guitars?
They can be dated back to the American civil war through etchings of soldiers playing homemade cigar box violins and guitars. These were very crude but they did the job, made from very thin fence wire. They were usually one string instruments in the beginning.
Q: Where do you get hold of your cigar boxes?
I source them from antique fairs, markets, antique shops and friends who keep a keen eye out. The internet is a great tool to help find them these days and many of the boxes are sourced online, mainly from overseas.
Q: How long does an average guitar take to make from start to finish and what’s the biggest challenge when building them?
A completed cigar box guitar can take approximately 2-3 days to build and finish. The biggest challenge in building is the set up and ensuring the intonation is as perfect as possible. I spend a lot of time in this area.
Q: They look amazing, but how do they sound?
My cigar box guitars sound pretty brilliant, but I am slightly biased in this area! Last year my band Windslide represented Australia in the 2015 Rugby World Cup and I played one of my cigar box guitars on stage with several hundred watts of power. The sound was so smooth and beautiful.
Q: Which has been your favourite guitar that you’ve made to date and why?
I have built and sold 350 cigar box guitars to date. They have been shipped to many countries across the world, even to Japan and Russia! My favourite though has to be the fourth guitar I built which I still play live today.
Q: You’ve had some high profile customers over the years, including Ronnie Wood of Rolling Stones fame! How did that come about?
Ronnie Wood is definitely my biggest customer to date. I had designed and created a guitar for a customer in Spain who turned out to be a very close friend of Mr Wood. She runs a small restaurant very close to his apartment. He would play the guitar that I built most days when he and his new wife ate there and liked it so much that he asked to keep it.
Q: Are you aware of any of these types of guitars being used on any famous recordings?
The artist Seasick Steve is probably the most famous player. All of his recordings feature heavy doses of cigar box guitar.
Q: Where can our readers see more of your work?
You can see more of my work online at www.facebook.com/hillbillyguitars