I built two dulcimers from scratch in the early 90s. No instructions, just a borrowed dulcimer to use as a pattern. I bought used tuners and frets from a shop in Omaha, Nebraska. My dulcimers came out pretty okay.
Then I built a travel guitar somewhat modeled after a Martin travel guitar. It had tuners salvaged from an Ebay purchased guitar that was pretty much a wreck. My home made travel guitar had a poorly tapered neck, a too thick top and a poor fret job. It was crap, but the building process was fun.
Then approx 2006 or 2007, I saw a video on CBGs. I made one, a fretless with a piezo pickup salvaged from a door bell! THAT WAS FUN. But I got that 3 string done and pretty much did not know what to do with it. The few how-to play-videos did not click for me.
In 2008, I built a shop to work in. I busted the crappy travel guitar on the concrete floor and used the tuners and frets to make a fretted cigar box banjo. It was pretty good and I kind of knew how to play it. Four strings tuned DGBD.
In about 2009 I found CBN and lurked here off and on and joined in (I think) 2010. Those were my fave days of the CBG world. I don't recall for sure if Gitty was going then. I think so. I remember being pretty excited about the availability of economy tuners, piezos and jacks.
Those were thumping days. We thumped boxes for tone. We hot melt glued piezos in boxes and then in a moment of great anticipation, we hooked up to an amp and thumped the box to see if the piezo worked.
Those were the days of found objects that we could use in our CBGs. We went through thrift stores, dollar stores and hardware stores looking for parts and inspiration. Sink drainer sound hole covers. Tarp grommet sound holes covers. We peeked into dumpsters for CBG parts. We salvaged wood from construction sites. We lost sleep thinking about the next step on our builds.
Knotlenny's CBG 101 was the playing video that worked for me. Then Keni Lee Burgess lessons helped and through him, I learned about DGB and ADF#. I felt like I was off and flying. I learned to make a video. It was poorly lit, kind of crudely done and I did not know how to edit the start and stop.
Other folks had other teachers that clicked for them: Shane Speal, John McNair and others. Those were great days for me and lots of others.
Wes Carl and others started making amps. That was a whole new thing. And a good one.
And then along came festivals. I was in the hinterlands and far from fests. In 2011, I got to go to a KC fest. It was in a great blues and BBQ venue. I got up the nerve to do the open mic. :D
I've made a lot of friends on CBN and in the CBG world. Some have come and gone. I've probably made an enemy or two or more. I don't know of any, but written communication and my smart ass nature surely fosters people taking me in the wrong way. I apologize for any feelings I have hurt.
Of the friends and personalities that have come and gone.... Where did they go? Some or many have moved to Face Book or just moved on to other things. I hope they still have a CBG to pick up now and then or maybe even build. A few have died. Dan Sleep comes to mind as I say that. A great guy and innovator in our world. Oh, and Jamie Mac Blues. He was funny and talented... And others...
MONEY MAKING! I once thought I had found a hobby that paid for itself or maybe even MADE money! That never worked out to be true for me. Some folks make a little money on CBGs, but the vast majority of us make nothing or a pittance of profit. But we do it for fun.
I wish now that I had never sold a CBG. I would rather gift them. My builds seldom cost much to make. I am picky about who I gift to. I want my babies to be appreciated. And if the build is a good player, I want it to go to a player.
Those early CBG days seem long past. Now you can buy ready made or even FACTORY MADE CBGs! We can buy pre-made necks, fret boards, boxes with the sound holes cut, boxes with cutouts for pick-ups. We can buy fancy boxes and designer fret boards. We can buy a vast selection of pick ups. We can buy CBG and uke kits. Those parts allow us to build more easily and with better instruments. But to me, they don't seem as sincere and honest.
These are good times, but I am an old fart and I liked the old times better.
I must say Dave, reading your post here I got a lump in my throat. I posted my journey to here, but I gotta tell you, I left something out. Music has been a big part of my life since I heard Glenn Millar records on my Dad's radiogram. I had hundreds of records, cd's, 90 gigabites of music on my laptop etc. However a few years ago I got into politics and social media, joined a political party I won't mention and campaigned door to door, online on Twitter etc. I got heavily involved. Let me tell you politics with social media is the biggest blight on the human race in my view. After quite some time one day I realised I had become a different person, depressed, constantly angry at the planet & totally miserable.
I happened to randomly watch a YouTube video of Justin Johnson playing a CBG. Up next on the auto watch was a Shane Speal Video. It was like a flash of lightning through the window. What the hell was I doing? This is where my heart always was but here was another way to submerge myself in it other than just listening. I dug my old '82 Vintage Strat out of the case & played a bit having left it alone for quite a while. I decided there & then I'd had enough, resigned from politics & shut down my social media accounts. Through Shane I came across CBN & the rest is history. Almost all the names you've mentioned I've interacted with one way or another & you all inspire me. You, UJ & the others stand out as some of the most friendly folk on the planet regardless of distance, origin, nationality etc., and I thank you all for dragging this particular old fart out of the dumpster. This is my social media, it's all I need. :D
Just ran into your story UJ, thanks for sharing. I have to agree with the "It is better to build and give, than to build and sit in the corner," philosophy. A few weeks ago I thought that I had better start keeping track of the guitars I have made and given away, so I got three maps. One of Iowa, the United States and one of Europe that I could put on the bulletin board in my workroom and stick pins in to show where my guitars are.
I have home made Guitars, Mandolins, Violins and Ukuleles that I have made and given away from right down the street to Northern Italy, Southern Texas to Minneapolis. Twenty Six in all and I've never made a dime on a single one.
I build when I am inspired, and the only way that happens now is when someone shows an interest in getting one. Right now my work bench is empty and waiting for the next project. The real joy (as you stated) is giving to someone who will enjoy it and have some fun.
I can't say that I have not been rewarded for some of my gifts. If anyone asks, I tell them that if they feel they must, keep an eye out at garage sales and junk stores for cigar boxes or old yard sticks but don't spend too much. I have an 87 year old grandma (not mine) who promised me a batch of Chocolate Chip Cookies next time she bakes. You can't put a price on that kind of appreciation.
Love your story about the folks on the maps, Kevin.