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: 792

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

Sigh........

Started by James Pobog in Building Secrets, Tips, Advice, Discussion. Last reply by Poorness Studios 6 hours ago. 3 Replies

Sigh........

Started by James Pobog in Building Secrets, Tips, Advice, Discussion. Last reply by James Pobog yesterday. 2 Replies

Nuts

Started by James Pobog in Building Secrets, Tips, Advice, Discussion. Last reply by BrianQ. yesterday. 6 Replies

Another idea...

Started by James Pobog in Building Secrets, Tips, Advice, Discussion. Last reply by Will "KOOL DOG HOOCH" Bonner yesterday. 3 Replies

Yeah, OK,...

Started by James Pobog in Other stuff - off topic, fun stuff, whatever. Last reply by Will "KOOL DOG HOOCH" Bonner yesterday. 9 Replies

Shovel guitar and sizes

Started by Laurence Owen in Building Secrets, Tips, Advice, Discussion. Last reply by Laurence Owen on Tuesday. 5 Replies

Build #2

Started by James Pobog in Building Secrets, Tips, Advice, Discussion. Last reply by Poorness Studios on Tuesday. 3 Replies

Blog Posts

Mailing boxes for CBG's

Posted by Kevin Patrick on September 18, 2019 at 10:02am 4 Comments

So...

Posted by Emer M. on September 16, 2019 at 11:59am 0 Comments

Mama Pearson's Soaporium

Posted by Rick Tish on September 14, 2019 at 8:52pm 0 Comments

Latest Activity

Taffy Evans replied to GARAGE HERMIT's discussion my diy table saw, it's not for the squeamish,
"Hi GH, yep bin there done that. And believe it or not 45 years later my son [who lives interstate]…"
10 minutes ago
GARAGE HERMIT posted a discussion

my diy table saw, it's not for the squeamish,

a few bit's of a kitchen unit, piece of flat bar, bit of MDF board and a circular hand saw plus a…See More
21 minutes ago
Gary W aka Rev. Bluejeans commented on the anonymous pick's photo
Thumbnail

googie swamp witch guitar 3

"Far out, Pick! And... OMG!.... Those ARE frets!!!"
56 minutes ago
Gary W aka Rev. Bluejeans commented on the anonymous pick's photo
Thumbnail

swampcubus noir 01

"Yep. Swampylicious!"
1 hour ago
Gary W aka Rev. Bluejeans commented on the anonymous pick's photo
Thumbnail

swampcubus noir 04

"Eerily stunning, Pick!  Well done!"
1 hour ago
Jeff 'Bones' Reilly commented on the anonymous pick's photo
Thumbnail

swampcubus noir 04

"Nice cabinetry work the effect with the tones in the timber finish really sets it off . =-)"
1 hour ago
Daniel Walter commented on Dave Lynas's video
Thumbnail

Tuesday’s Blues

"Very calming, nice duet Daves. Love the crate."
1 hour ago
Jeff 'Bones' Reilly commented on the anonymous pick's photo
Thumbnail

swampcubus noir 02

"Love the dropped sound hole idea neat touch with the SW engraving blends into the art work but…"
1 hour ago
Jeff 'Bones' Reilly liked the anonymous pick's photo
1 hour ago
Jeff 'Bones' Reilly liked the anonymous pick's photo
1 hour ago
Jeff 'Bones' Reilly liked the anonymous pick's photo
1 hour ago
Jeff 'Bones' Reilly commented on the anonymous pick's photo
Thumbnail

swampcubus noir 01

"Hell of a build Pick neat sound hole idea to have the Witch look very classy. "
1 hour ago

Music

Loading…

© 2019   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 -->