Rope Along: Unique Beer Cans to Handmade Guitars by the Man of Modesto

MODESTO – It’s pretty cool to google your calling and find your name at the top of the search engine heap. It’s even cooler when a big company does it and uses it as a benchmark to teach you America how to build a guitar out of a beer can.

Logan Elliott builds cigar box guitars in his shop in the small community of Macoupin County in Modesto as Logan’s Homegrown Cigar Box Guitars.

What started as a curiosity turned into a serious pursuit and most recently an online gig with Busch Light in which he teaches others how to build their own guitar out of a beer can. A beer can guitar made by Elliott signed by country musician Jordan Davis is a prize in the promotion.

It’s been quite a trip since 2015, when Elliott saw the Ghost Town Blues Band in Springfield – and saw his first cigar box guitar. The band members had made their own guitars.

He saw the band again in Springfield and encountered the instruments again during a visit to a museum in Mississippi. The Diddley Bow, a single-stringed instrument popular among blues singers in the early 20th century, caught his eye and he decided to build his own.

“It’s a whole different style of play,” Elliott said. “You play it by strumming it.”

Guitars are meant to be played with a slide, which can be anything from a brass tube to a glass bottleneck or socket.

Most guitars made by Elliott have three strings, but one, two, or three strings all work for making open-chord music. Open chords, which must include at least one unfretted open string, are also called “cowboy chords” because they are among the simplest to play and the easiest to learn.

“Someone who really knows how to play guitar can make them sound like they have six strings,” Elliott said.

Curiously, Elliott claims not to be a musician.

“I can’t sing or play, but I’ve taken a few lessons so I can strum a few chords,” Elliott said. “I know when something sounds good, or if it’s in key. If you put a wire between two bolts, you can play a chord.”

His cigar box guitars are what initially caught the attention of Elliott’s audience, although he also made guitars from gourds, cheese boxes, and casings, among other things. He is now working beyond his 600th cigar box guitar, but branched out to make canjos – guitars made from aluminum cans – around 2017.

“I saw a few people punch a hole in a tin can and put it on a piece of wood,” Elliott said. “If you can build a guitar out of a cigar box, why not out of a can? Just take the top off the box, put it on a piece of wood, attach the volume and tone knobs to it. and pass them through the box.”

Elliott bought a collection of vintage cans, which are easier to use because they have a more studious construction. Today’s lightweight aluminum beverage cans are more difficult to use.

“Right now I’m working on three of them. I’m spending 200 on my canjo build,” he said.

His reputation as a canjo builder was cemented a year ago in Murphysboro, when guitarist Steve Arvey played one of Elliott’s Pabst Blue Ribbon canjos. Arvey improvised a song on PBR with his band. As the crowd made its way to the stage, it was filmed and uploaded to YouTube, which can be seen at bit.ly/3C202kw.

“From that video, it just grew,” Elliott said.

And that’s why when Busch Light was looking for someone to teach his customers how to recycle cans into building guitars, he found Elliott by Google, “beer can guitar”, which is another way of saying canjo .

Elliott used to build guitars in his spare time, but made it more of a full-time gig after his recent retirement.

It takes at least 8-10 hours to make a canjo with all the soldering and gluing, but he works on three or four at a time to make it more efficient.

“I was earning a few a week,” Elliott said. “When I do the canjos, I do about six at a time because it’s more of a process. I do more now because of some upcoming festivals.”

Elliott uses regular guitar strings, which he purchases along with tuning knobs and pickups from MGB Guitar Parts and Supply. He also occasionally buys the handles from them, but Elliot says he was lucky to have access to some old wood.

“I have a planer and a router to make my own handles. I usually use oak, hickory, walnut and cherry. I don’t have to buy them, which helps the bottom line,” said he declared.

Elliott donates a portion of the profits from guitar manufacturing to charity.

“I participated in an honor flight in 2014 with my father. Since then I wanted to raise funds for honor flights, so I made a guitar with an ammo box and we organized a raffle said Elliott, who has raised more than $12,000 for Land of Lincoln Honor Flights and a host of other charities.

The fifth annual Logan’s Home Grown Cigar Box Day will take place from 1 to 5 p.m. on September 11 at Vixen Hill Winery, just west of Palmyra. His instruments will be featured in performances by Steve Arvey, Stumpy Joe and Trene, as well as Unspecific Railroad.

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