Shane Speal Woodshop Diary: "The Beauty of Rust & Scratches"

Notes from Shane Speal's personal woodshop, York PA

Instrument:  "Nails & Screws" 4-String Electric Cigar Box Guitar

Completed tonight at 8pm.  This will eventually be on sale at  I just need to let the glue dry and spend a couple hours playing it for my own enjoyment. 

My latest guitar, the "Nails & Screws" (named for the words scrawled on the top) came to life as I picked out parts to match the chosen box.  The all-wood Don Sixto box had scratches, dings and scrapes to begin with, so I decided to match it with 'aged' parts.  This means I used a LOT of Rustoleum textured spray paint that looks like rust!

Pickup: I knew I wanted this guitar to be electric with a magnetic pickup because the box top was thick and wouldn't be a good acoustic instrument.  I chose a "ThinBucker" humbucker to be the engine.  These are hand-wound by Dan Sleep of  (I bought ten of these suckers a while ago.  I've been waiting to use them.)  I used the rust-colored spray paint to destroy the look of the beautiful metal cover.

Neck/Fretboard:  I used poplar for the thru-body neck and attached a Lowe's yardstick (just 94 cents!) on top as a fretboard.  I stained the yardstick first and distressed it slightly with steel wool to give it an antique look.  The fret markers are on the side to give the player a cheating advantage.  I also used screws to mark the fret dots on the face of the fretboard. 

One note on the neck:  I reinforced the neck-thru inside the box by gluing a scrap piece of maple to the underside where I notched out the poplar neck to make room for the box lid.  This should stiffen it up and help resist bowing.

Sound Holes:  Although the sound holes are very striking visually, they're actually simple to create.  I started with a pair of C. B. Gitty Mini Humbucker Wood Pickup Rings ($4.99/pair) and added a small section of metal lattice I picked up at Lowes.  (BTW, I painted the lattice with the rust colored paint first, of course).  The lattice was attached to the pickup rings with hot glue. 

I've used these pickup rings before, most notably in my "Peep Show" series of cigar box guitars:

The lattice is sold in the nuts and bolts aisle of Lowe's.  I love how it gives a Catholic confessional look to sound holes.  Here's a guitar I built and sold last year that featured the lattice:

Ok...back to the Nails & Screws guitar:

Bridge & cover:  The bridge is a C. B. Gitty laser-cut maple bridge ($3.49) that I whittled down to fit the build.  The cover is a Black Colonial Box Handle ($4.79/pair) that Gitty sells for cigar box amps.  I painted the handle with rust paint and put it over the bridge like a Dobro bridge cover.  It completes the look. 

Performance:  I've only rocked this baby for a little while tonight, just to test the wiring and setup.  It sings beautifully and plays some serious Muddy Waters slide.  I can't wait to really put it thru its paces in a day or so. 

Well, that's all I have for now.   Let me know what you think.

Stay primal.


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Other details I forgot to mention:

  1. Strings:  A, D, G, B strings from a pack of Shane Speal Signature Cigar Box Guitar Strings.
  2. Tuning:  Open G:  GDGB
  3. Fretboard:  This is a fretless guitar with medium action, intended for slide playing.
  4. Sound holes:  I used a Bic lighter to char the wood a little big, giving it an aged and slightly dirty look.

Most importantly, I have been filling my woodshop with random parts and pieces, such as the ones used on this guitar.  It's so much fun to walk in there and have a wide array of things to choose from when building.  Hit thrift stores, junk shops and the dark corners of the Gitty catalog for unexpected items.

Rustoleum Dark Brown Textured Paint:


That is a really cool look into your process. Like it a lot and you have given me some cool ideas for what ever I do next. Great job on this and the build looks fantastic!

Great look indeed!Cant wait to try out the textured paint idea!!


Look's nice Shane.

Top build Shane! the attention to rustic detail has really paid off.

Looks great:

Shane you are the man. I have to try this on a lpg build .

I thought when I looked at these in York they were made using a big Piezo pickup inside of the housing and not a humbucker style wound pick-up....Huh....

Some really really amazing work right here. #artisan

Thought this was the 'How to play' forum.....
I love the distressed look. You gotta play that one hard to match its look!


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