- Associated Press - Friday, October 31, 2014

SEDALIA, Mo. (AP) - What do soup pot lids, old car transmissions, wooden salad bowls and cigar boxes have in common? Well if Jack Herndon, formerly of Sedalia, has anything to do with it, they will come together in perfect harmony and play beautiful music.

On a recent trip back to Sedalia to visit his mother, Mary Frances Herndon, he brought along three of his handmade, folk art, acoustic guitars - all made from thrift store trinkets and re-purposed materials. Herndon, who lives in Golden, Colorado, calls himself a “junkyard luthier,” and hopes to someday retire from his computer graphics job and make and sell the instruments full time.

Herndon, a 1966 Smith-Cotton High School graduate and former marching band member, is a harmonica player in two Colorado bands, Once Removed Blues Band and Ajax Blues Band. The concept for creating musical instruments with re-purposed material came to him almost two years ago because of some wheel covers he’d saved.

“I saved four hubcaps off of my old pickup truck,” he said. “. I wanted that as a memento. And for years I’d been thinking about making a lap-steel guitar from a hubcap. I thought this is a brilliant and original idea. And then I got online and did research and there’s a whole community of people making handmade instruments.”

He was inspired by the website handmademusicclubhouse.com, with 26,000 photos uploaded by members, the Sedalia Democrat (https://bit.ly/1rFS02s ) reported.

“And so it wasn’t such an original idea,” he added laughing. “I’d never heard of a cigar box guitar until I got on that web page. They have a little bit of history behind it. It began around the 1880s. It was people who couldn’t afford instruments who would just make their own out of stuff laying around. So that appeals to me. I like re-purposing things, fixing things up and restoring things.”

After he built the hubcap guitar he decided to try his hand at building a wooden cigar box instrument. On his recent visit he brought a handmade three-string guitar to give to his mother, created with a wooden Arturo Fuente cigar box. He used a laser cutter to create precise musical notes on the front and gave it a handcrafted oak neck. For scale, Hernodon uses a 25.5-inch Fender Guitar Series scale for fret spacing on the neck.

No stranger to woodworking, Herndon crafts all the guitar necks mostly from oak. He learned woodworking from his father, also named Jack, in the work shed in the family’s backyard.

“He was an excellent craftsman, he knew a little bit about everything,” Herndon said. “I grew up making things out of wood.”

To give the instrument a folk-art feel, he uses a laser to cut designs in the wood.

“And since I operate a laser, anything I can draw on the computer I can cut out with a laser,” he said. “So it’s like a traditional folk instrument, kind of brought forward into this century using modern tools.”

Herndon said his wife Kay is as excited as he is about his creations and provides encouragement. Each instrument created is one-of-a-kind.

“Every time I finish something and bring it up, I have no idea what it’s going to sound like,” he said. “They’re all different. So, to me I get excited when I go to string it up for the first time and play it - it’s like giving birth and spanking the baby.”

Herndon has made 41 re-purposed instruments and likes to play them on his lap as slide guitars. He uses a small glass vodka bottle sans the vodka to slide over the strings.

“Traditionally they were three-stringed and tuned in an octave with a fifth in the middle,” he said. “The fret spacing, it’s a real high action. You don’t fret it, you play it with a slide, and I happen to like a glass bottle. And I play it with finger picks.”

Herndon also brought along a guitar/banjo he’d made with a wooden salad bowl, a stainless steel soup pot lid and an inverted dog bowl. With his laser he created a Celtic knot on the back of the instrument and an inscribed his name, date and instrument number.

His other hand-built four-string guitar, was a full sized instrument called “Monster.”

“I like the Steampunk art movement,” he said. “It’s a mixture, it’s a blend of old and new.”

Created with a barbecue tool kit body, he added many thrift store trinkets, plus automotive pieces and typewriter pieces.

“I found this transmission part in the thrift store,” he added. “And all the stuff either comes from a tobacco shop or a thrift store or Goodwill.”

The instrument also has car blinkers, an antique shell shaped soap dish, a small calculator, wires and tubes, plus many more novelty items.

“So, I say in the creation of this an automatic transmission and a typewriter had to die,” he added smiling. “I enjoy industrial looking things.”

None of the novelty additions on the guitars are usable.

“This is all for fun,” he said. “If I find myself putting a piece on and looking at it, and if I laugh about what I just did, then it gets to stay. It’s just visual fun.”

Although it may be a meditative folk art instrument, in another vein, Herndon hopes to sell them to rock singers.

“I want to retire completely and I want to go out and build these things, and sell them to rock stars and make a million dollars,” he added smiling.

___

Information from: The Sedalia Democrat, https://www.sedaliademocrat.com


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