Guitar maker from Wales investigates USA’s Cigar Box Guitar Revolution

Published: 26 Jul 2017

Author: George Parfitt
Guitar maker from Wales investigates USA’s Cigar Box Guitar Revolution

George Parfitt of Dockyard Guitars, a young contemporary guitar maker from South Wales, has recently returned to the UK after travelling in the USA for four weeks researching the nascent Cigar Box Guitar Movement, meeting an extensive community of musicians, makers, and enthusiasts. George’s travels were enabled by a Winston Churchill Memorial Trust Travelling Fellowship Award.

There is a trend that’s growing in the USA for making guitars out of cigar boxes and other salvaged materials. This DIY ethos is said to have grown out of a sense of disenchantment with major guitar companies, who mass produce thousands of identical guitars every year.

Through a background in art and design, George discovered a passion for building musical instruments, and consequently learnt about Cigar Box Guitars. He became interested not only in the process of making such guitars, but also in their surrounding ethos, which combines crafts, music, and arts in an ethical and rewarding manner. The Cigar Box Guitar Movement is far more developed in the USA than in the UK, so George decided to use his Fellowship to get first-hand experience of this revolution.

During his Fellowship, George visited makers and players in Nashville, New Orleans, New York, and Atlanta. He saw how their devotion to spreading the word about Cigar Box Guitars has benefited their local communities by teaching people that they can make their own instrument out of recycled materials.

George was particularly honoured to meet with the incredible musician Justin Johnson in Tennessee, who is renowned for playing handmade instruments, and learn about his research on roots music, which has inspired much of his work. Justin has played a large role in raising awareness internationally of cigar box guitars and similar instruments, and was therefore delighted to help George in his efforts to raise awareness throughout the UK.

“The Fellowship was an incredible opportunity to learn from and understand the ethos of artists and musicians involved with Cigar Box Guitars in the United States. I’ve developed a valuable insight which I will reflect in my current work, allowing me to further spread the ethos more efficiently. I plan to continue devoting my career to this movement in order to inspire younger generations to create music and art.”

Now back in the UK, George has already begun sharing his findings by running guitar making and playing stalls for all ages at music festivals. He has worked specifically with young and disadvantaged people who may have limited access to musical instruments, and can truly benefit from making their own guitar.

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