Bluesboy Jag explores the secrets of Ed Stilley's guitars

Report and photos by Bill Jagitsch, aka Bluesboy Jag.  Learn more about Jag athttp://www.jagshouse.com/cigarboxguitars.html

The photos in this article showcase the current exhibit of Ed Stilley instruments at Old Statehouse Museum .... There are 28 instruments in the exhibit as well as other Stilley artifacts.

Guest curators of the exhibit are Kelly and Donna Mulhollan, musicians and educators from Fayetteville, Arkansas who perform as the folk duo Still on the Hill. The Mulhollans have known Ed Stilley for nearly twenty years. Kelly is the author of True Faith, True Light: The Devotional Art of Ed Stilley, recently published by the University of Arkansas Press.

Ed Stilley had a vision that changed his life and left us with a collection of very unique stringed instruments. Ed thought he was having a heart attack and while he was looking up at the sky he heard God tell him to make musical instruments in his Hogscald Hollow Arkansas barn and give them to children. So he did. For 25 years.

Even though he had no training as a luthier, Stilley made them by sheer trial an error. And they are unique. He didn't know how traditional guitars were made so he started cutting out huge chunks of wood for the headstocks and he used the wrong type of wood for the bodies. When he bent the wood in the shape of a guitar, the wood cracked, he left them cracked, creating oddly shaped 'horns' and off kilter designs that raise and eyebrow. Or two. The words 'true faith true light have faith in God' were crudely etched into each instrument with a hand router.

As he continued over the years he gradually learned how to make guitars a little at a time.

He put a rusty door hinge, a steak bone, a stack of dimes, springs, saw blades, pot lids, metal pipes, glass bottles and aerosol cans inside to create reverberation, thinking that's what made the guitars louder. In reality, his designs were not technically appropriate to create natural guitar overtones but he wasn't aware of this at the time, he just plowed forward, making it up as he went.

He even went so far as to create a 'jingler' as he called it, designed to increase the volume of his guitars which was woefully inadequate for playing due to his inexperience in using the proper wood and luthier techniques. The 'jingler' was a piece of steel placed inside the guitar neck which in turn was connected to a metal prong at the headstock. The idea was to  'jingle' the strings down the neck which in turn rattled the springs and saw blades inside the guitar. It worked. Little did Stilley know that he was actually making his own African thumb piano also known as the mbira.

In the early days the frets were not even and there was no measurements to determine where the frets, nut and bridge would be to ensure adequate tuning and intonation. He just put the parts anywhere he saw fit. Because of this his early creations were not playable. However, over time, he learned how all of this worked and he ended up making instruments that could be tuned and played properly. Stilley made over 200 instruments before old age got in the way.

There are two books that document Stilley's instruments:

Gifted: The Instruments of Ed Stilley by Tim Hawley


True Faith, True Light, the Devotional Art of Ed Stilley by Kelly Mulhollan.

Both titles are available on Amazon.

"True Faith, True Light" will be on display at the Old State House Museum through early 2018. 

Views: 846

Reply to This

Replies to This Discussion

Cool story and some great instruments! Lots of ideas for some future builds too.

good stuff.,.,

What a great story.

So much to think about - genuine, no rules creativity, perseverance, "for the love of it" and more.

Thanks for the great story. I love his work!

This looks like a show not to be missed! Thanks Bill and CigarBoxNation in bringing this to my attention! I've always loved the story and the folk art that goes into each of Ed's guitars!

Wow

RSS

The Essential Pages

New to Cigar Box Nation? How to Play Cigar Box GuitarsFree Plans & How to Build Cigar Box GuitarsCigar Box Guitar Building BasicsCigar Box Guitar Parts Store

Site Sponsor

Recommended Links & Resources

Forum

Kool tool find!

Started by KOOL DOG HOOCH in Other stuff - off topic, fun stuff, whatever. Last reply by KOOL DOG HOOCH 7 hours ago. 5 Replies

Necks

Started by James Pobog in Building Secrets, Tips, Advice, Discussion. Last reply by Southpaw yesterday. 16 Replies

Amp kit

Started by Tim Ahlberg in Performances, How to Play, Lessons, Concerts. Last reply by Tim Ahlberg yesterday. 5 Replies

Ukulele question

Started by James Pobog in Building Secrets, Tips, Advice, Discussion. Last reply by Titch the Clown yesterday. 1 Reply

Blog Posts

New Member need a little advice.

Posted by Don Paul on January 26, 2020 at 10:29am 0 Comments

Neck bowing

Posted by Mike Kinzie on January 24, 2020 at 5:38pm 2 Comments

Dual lap steel

Posted by Ron Lutz on January 9, 2020 at 2:42pm 4 Comments

My 3 Gitty Kits

Posted by Poorness Studios on January 8, 2020 at 9:20am 2 Comments

My CBG details

Posted by Paul scofield on January 1, 2020 at 9:22am 2 Comments

Latest Activity

Tim Ahlberg replied to James Pobog's discussion fret (and fret marking) experiments
"For fret lines and markers I cut lines across the neck about 16th inch deep and filled them with 2…"
28 minutes ago
Metal hic commented on Zulu Guitars's photo
Thumbnail

01

"Changing mind too :)"
44 minutes ago
Don Paul posted a blog post

New Member need a little advice.

I just got my first 3 string CBG and I love the musical versatility. Has a harp player it be…See More
1 hour ago
Uncle John commented on Daniel Walter's photo
Thumbnail

idea

"Good one, Denbo."
1 hour ago
Uncle John commented on Bob Johnston's photo
Thumbnail

Tenor Guitar

"Wow, you made a winner there.  Glad is sounds do good.  That nut placement has to be a…"
1 hour ago
Derek Rose commented on Poorness Studios's video
Thumbnail

Doesn't Remind Me

"Great cover Poorness. That bass sounds super! Such a shame about Chris, still hurts."
1 hour ago
Uncle John commented on Bob Johnston's photo
Thumbnail

20191231_111209 (1)

"Those kind of lack depth, but are still really good boxes. Pretty too. Not you, Bob. The boxes."
1 hour ago
Derek Rose liked Poorness Studios's video
1 hour ago
Uncle John commented on Downtown Vinnie's video
Thumbnail

Splendor of Candor

"A very nice mood you set here.   Nice music.   Peace giving.   Get…"
1 hour ago
Derek Rose liked Downtown Vinnie's video
1 hour ago
Derek Rose commented on Downtown Vinnie's video
Thumbnail

Splendor of Candor

"Refined gas fueled tuneage Vin."
1 hour ago
Uncle John commented on Poorness Studios's video
Thumbnail

Doesn't Remind Me

"Probably your best, Kale.  Good on yer."
1 hour ago

Music

Loading…

© 2020   Created by Ben "C. B. Gitty" Baker.   Powered by

Badges  |  Report an Issue  |  Terms of Service

\uastyle>\ud/** Scrollup **/\ud.scrollup {\ud background: url("https://storage.ning.com/topology/rest/1.0/file/get/963882636?profile=original") no-repeat scroll 0 0 transparent;\ud bottom: 25px;\ud display: inline !important;\ud height: 40px;\ud opacity: 0.3 !important;\ud position: fixed;\ud right: 30px;\ud text-indent: -9999px;\ud width: 40px;\ud z-index: 999;\ud}\ud.scrollup:hover {\ud opacity:0.99!important;\ud}\ud \uascript type="text/javascript">\ud x$(document).ready(function(){\ud x$(window).scroll(function(){\ud if (x$(this).scrollTop() > 100) {\ud x$('.scrollup').fadeIn();\ud } else {\ud x$('.scrollup').fadeOut();\ud }\ud });\ud x$('.scrollup').click(function(){\ud x$("html, body").animate({ scrollTop: 0 }, 600);\ud return false;\ud });\ud });\ud \ua!-- End Scroll Up -->