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The eccentric world of home-made guitars

By Lena Vazifdar for CNN
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Canadian Lorne Collie's hobby is transforming found objects into electric guitars
  • Trashed rakes, frying pans and moose antlers have all had the treatment
  • Yuri Landman crafts avant-garde, many-stringed instruments for bands like Sonic Youth
  • Queen guitarist, Brian May, made his guitar, The Red Special, out of an old fireplace

(CNN) -- Trashed rakes, old frying pans and moose antlers might be junk to some, but not Canadian Lorne Collie who has made all of these things into guitars at one time or another.

Collie is a "luthier," or guitar maker, and his hobby is transforming the scrap he stumbles across at the ranch his lives on with wife, Helen, into electric guitars.

"The first guitar I made was out of a shovel," the 73-year-old former machinist told CNN over the phone from the rural town of Hilbre, Manitoba.

Collie regularly gets offers from guitar enthusiasts to buy eccentric instruments but he says they are not for sale. "I don't want to get into making things to sell," he said. "I'm retired now." He simply does it for pleasure.

For now, Collie is retaining his treasure trove of created obscurities until a Beatle comes along. He says, "When Paul McCartney toured I thought, he's the kind of a guy I wouldn't mind selling a guitar to."

For others, like Yuri Landman, handcrafting esoteric guitars is more than just an offbeat hobby -- it's a profession. Working out of the attic of his house in Veenendaal in The Netherlands, Landman has made one-off instruments for musicians including Sonic Youth and Kate Nash.

It makes you individual. My guitar, which has a bass string, sounds like a five piece band.
--Laura-Mary Carter, guitarist, Blood Red Shoes
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"I am trying to broaden the boundaries of what is possible with a guitar by adapting the instrument," Landman told CNN.

The 37-year-old who made his first guitar 10 years ago out of a table leg, now builds instruments with three to 18 strings, giving them a distinctive pitch and tone compared with traditional six-stringed variety.

Landman says that, for him, making guitars is about a love of the avant-garde and despite the work that goes into his instruments, he doesn't charge a lot -- around $1,150 (€900).

A factory-made electric guitar from one of the major manufacturers, like a Gibson, can cost from $400 for a low-end fixture to $15,000 or more for the custom models, according the the Gibson website.

Landman mainly makes his living from touring workshops where he teaches amateurs how to build their own guitars.

He puts the popularity of his instruments among professional musicians down to wanting to sound original.

Notable acolytes include Queen guitarist, Brian May, who famously built his trademark guitar, The Red Special, out of wood from an old fireplace and the late American rock 'n' roller Bo Diddley who is well-known for the rectangular wooden guitars he built from scratch.

"When you want to do something new with a guitar you have to be unique and special. When new things are being created, then it's easy to make more art and better music," Landman said.

Landman agrees that it's not the material that matters -- he uses the cheapest wood possible -- but the construction.

Guitarist Laura-Mary Carter, 26, of UK-based two-man band Blood Red Shoes, owns one of Landman's guitars and is a fan of home-made instruments. "It makes you individual. My guitar, which has a bass string, sounds like a five piece band," Carter told CNN.

 
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