I am Honored That You Have Chosen to View My Website (even if you got here my mistake)…

Some Pretty Cool Cats Like This Site… (At Least That’s What They Said)… So Check it Out!

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This site is dedicated to my interest in making, repairing, and restoring stringed musical instruments.  Personally, I don’t believe that we ever really “own” our instruments.  We simply have the privilege of being around them for a while.

As such, I feel fortunate to be a builder of some – and a caretaker of others.

                                                            Your GoodWorksInstruments Host:

IMG_8954                                                                                               Will Travnikar

I don’t build or repair instruments with the intent of making  a lot of money (I’ve yet to see how that could happen). Breaking even would be nice once once in a while… but even that isn’t really the point.

What I do is simply a way to express myself through the instruments I build.  

As such, I don’t wish to view it as a job. Nor do I wish to be under pressure to “meet” others standards for what I build… because that’s not fun.  

Companies such as Martin, Gibson, Taylor, Kamaka charge hundreds / thousands of dollars for their instruments. Cost is always a “relative” term, but in many ways I believe some instruments truly are worth many times more than other, seemingly similar ones. I understand why people pay many thousands of dollars for high end guitars (among other things).  I get that – I really do.

Expecting the same level of quality from one of my instruments will, however, certainly be a recipe for disappointment. First, for the buyer. And then in-turn one of frustration for me as the builder.  To be sure, however, I do strive to make quality instruments that look, sound, and play well.  That includes proper fret work and bridge placement for correct (as I can get it) intonation. Overall, the idea is quite simple, and it can be summed up in one word:  Enjoy!

That’s not meant to sound overly self-centered… really it’s not.  But, I make no apology for the fact that I intend to present my work as it is… and leave it at that.

Simply put, I make instruments that I like, and that includes making them the way I like them. Which in many cases means using an actual cigar box as the body of the instrument. I have made numerous versions of “commonly known” instruments in that manner. Such as: 3 & 4 string guitars; 4 string bass guitars; numerous ukuleles of various sizes; Appalachian lap dulcimers; Kalimbas, AEolian Harps –  and a few other “creations” of my own.  Some I leave acoustic – others I amplify.  If I happen to make something that someone else also likes, well then that’s pretty cool – but never the main focus. 

This pretty much says it all: 

So for me, my instruments become something to share:

A Very Musical Wall-With a Random Selection of Instruments I’ve Made 

Be Sure To Check Out The “What’s New” Page! 

What’s New?

The instrument shown below is my latest work – and possibly my overall best. It is a 3 string, short scale, resophonic Cigar Box Guitar. Equipped with a “foil type” humbucker pickup, with volume and tone controls, and a standard 1/4″ jack.  Mandolin style tailpiece with string ground.

The top is a piece of cleanly jointed Douglas Fir – that I thinned to instrument grade.  The box itself is made of very special wood – well seasoned and very old popular with sapwood, with a center strip of Bloodwood.  The fretboard is also a piece of well seasoned – yet very green in color – popular.  Most of the wood came from the actual elementary school that my wife attended! That being the old Webster Elementary School Located in Pontiac, Michigan. I’m not going to say how long ago that was, but did I mention that the wood is “well seasoned”?

The neck is one piece, made from multi layers of popular, mahogany, and oak. What may look like a “scarf joint” style headstock is actually angle cut from the same neck block.  I took layered pieces from the neck cuttings and made them a veneer thickness, and then inset along both sides of the headstock edges. Finished with WATCO Danish Oil, and then paste waxed after the oil finish had cured.

EVO fretwire hand filed and leveled. Side and fretboard dot markers. Bone saddle on maple biscuit bridge. Hand spun copper cone from Charles Atchison – with all machine screws “double nutted”.   Hand made nut from 80 year old (extremely) hard Michigan Maple. Many details from green colored pieces of wood, such as  vertical box edge strips, and a hand made pickup ring.

The instrument is rock solid. The action is currently on the low side – more for fingerstyle than slide. That can be adjusted to suit individual preferences.

My decision on whether or not to sell it would depend a great deal on the level of appreciation its’ new “caretaker” would have for it.  

More info about this on this here: What’s New?

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3 String Reso CBG !

Comments about this one from someone I greatly admire:

“Great looking build Will!
You’re really knocking them out of the park these days.
Keep up the good work.”

C. (Charles Atchison – see below)

 

I believe in giving credit where it’s due… The fine hand-spun copper resophonic cone used for this instrument was made by Charles Atchison. In many ways, Charles has been a true mentor to me when it comes to building cigar box instruments. He is “Folk Artisan” in the truest sense of the word.  He is a very talented instrument builder, restorer, material fabricator, author and musician. Many thanks to you my good friend! I highly recommend you check him out:  https://www.facebook.com/CharlesAtchisonFolkArtisan/            http://www.charlesatchison.com

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KALIMBA !

Cigar Box Kalimba
Cigar Box Kalimba

 

 

 

 

 

 

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AEolian Wind Harp

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jPDK3OVICkA&t=2s

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An Extremely Simple Version of a Beautiful Song (With Apologies to my Friends that are Actual Musicians)- Done in Classic “Low-Tech” Recording Style by Using a Small “Wine Box” Amp That I Made (see link below) – But it’s Fitting for This Time of Year – Merry Christmas!

Silent Night

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A Brand New & Very Special One-of-a-Kind Instrument Has Just Been Finished.  This is the Most Challenging Instrument I Have Made This Far. To get Proper String Spacing of the Four Individual Pairs: – in Relation to Each Pair; the Distance Between the Pairs; and Following the Fretboard as it Widens From the Nut to the Saddle; was a Unique Task!    

                                                     This one had the Little Grey Cells Working Overtime 

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This is an 8 – String Cigar Box Ukulele. The Body Was Constructed of Two All Wood Cigar Boxes That Were Joined Together to Make One Large Open Box. The Bottom Piece is From One of the Boxes. Here’s Where it Gets Interesting. The Soundboard, Headstock, Fretboard, Neck, & Bridge Were All Constructed From Wood That Came From the Actual Elementary School That My Wife Attended! That Being the old Webster Elementary School Located in Pontiac, Michigan.

It Should be Noted That a Renovation of That Beautiful Old Building is Now Underway by a Ministry Known as “Micah 6”. The Intention Being to Create a (Much Needed) Community Center. That is a Great Endeavor and Certainly Worthy of any / all Support it Can be Given!

Please Take a Moment to Check Out Their Website: http://www.micah6community.com/

I Was Able to Obtain Some Beautiful Old Boards That Came From Shelving Units From the old School.  When I Ran One Through my Drum Sander I was Completely Surprised by What I Saw. The Pictures Below Show the Before and After Shots Taken of the Same Board.   

 

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What Appeared to be Something Like a Walnut / Maple Combination Was Anything But That! The Lighter Wood is Hard Maple.  The (Very) Green Wood is Definitely Not. I’ve Been Told it’s Popular with “Sapwood”.  Anyway, What a Great Surprise.

I Did Use Several Different Pieces of Power Equipment in the Build Process, as I Often Times Start With Dimensional Lumber That Needs to be “Built-Up” or Joined Together.  But, I Also do a Lot of Hand Shaping. Nothing is Done via a Production CNC Machine.

Here’s a Few Specifications of the Instrument Itself:

True Tenor Size

Double Box (for Extra Sound Projection)

Good Tuners With Very Cool Buttons

Nice, Clean Fret Work

Very Playable Neck Profile

Low (fast) Even String Action

Hand Filed 80 Year Old (very) Hard Maple Nut

Hand Filed Bone Saddle

Hand Shaped Bridge

Brass Corner Protectors

Authentic “Drain Strainer” Soundhole Cover

The Instrument is Strung in Four Pairs: G, C, E, & A  The G & C Strings Are Two Strings That Each Have a Different Gauge Size and Are Tuned One Octave Apart. The E & A Strings Are Also Two Stings But Are the Same Gauge Size and Are Tuned in Unison With Each Other. There is a Strong Push From the G & C Pair – while the E & A Pair act as Drone or Melody Strings (Similar to a Dulcimer).  The Effect is Similar to a Natural “Chorus Sound”.  

A Considerable Amount of Planning Went Into This One. The Proper Spacing Between Each String in the Four Paired Sets Had to be Determined, As Well As the Distance Apart From One Pair to the Next. Added to That is the Fact That the FretBoard Widens Out From the Nut (Just Below the Headstock / Tuners) to the Bridge (2/3 of the Way Down the Body). 

I Didn’t Have a Set of Plans to Work From.  I Used a Picture and Then Scaled the Dimensions From It. Those Calculations Alone Took Several Days (and Attempts) to Get Correct… And Only Then Could I Actually Start to Build the Instrument!  I Typically Have 30 to 40 Hours in One of My Instruments. Adding the Initial Planning Required, I Have Considerable More Time Invested in This One, to be Sure.

I am Being Very Honest When I Say I Don’t Know if I Could Make Another One Like It… That’s Part of the Beauty of Hand Made Instruments! This is a Very Solid, Stable Instrument.  As Such, I Seriously Doubt That I would Sell It. But, I Did Want to Share a Quick “Look & Listen” With my Instrument Loving Friends. 

The Video Below Is a Brief Demo of the Actual Instrument Described Above

This is what keeps me out of trouble… and keeps my mind working. Both of which – according to my wonderful wife – are very good things!  I should point out that it really was made from a cigar box – two of them actually, that were joined together for extra depth.

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And Now for Something Completely Different:

A Little Guitar Music

“Full of Empty Space”

For your listening pleasure while checking out my site, please click on the link above to hear a song I recently recorded –Full of Empty Space“.  I should note that it was was not recorded on the Uke shown above – but I like it anyway!

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Image-1-1July 2016 ~ A Very Nice Pair of Recently Built Tenor Cigar Box Ukulele’s ~ The Work Evolves With Time 

SOLD AND SHIPPED TO FLORIDA! I HOPE THE NEW OWNERS ARE AS PLEASED WITH THE TRANSACTION AS I AM… THEY ARE SUCH WONDERFUL PEOPLE TO BUILD INSTRUMENTS FOR!

Click on Pic for Larger Image

MORE VIDEOS HERE

Clink on the Following Links to See a Short YouTube Video of Each Instrument Shown Above – NOTE: Please don’t judge the quality of the instrument(s) by the quality of my playing. I’m not much of a uke player. I’m really a guitarist at heart… (and even that would be considered quite questionable by some ) 😉    

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Bassvl7kjjk

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yCCvbM_93Xo

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There are also pages on my site that contain information on the history behind certain instruments and / or the artists that have used them.

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I have done repair work on a variety of stringed instruments, such as: acoustic & electric guitars; violins; ukuleles; banjos… 

And a little restoration work also:

Normally guitars are always best left in their original condition - a fact that I completely respect. This 1967 Gibson SG Jr., however, had been left in a barn for years. The finish was completely shot, half the parts were missing, and the other half were not correct (to the instrument). I did a refinish, re-fret, and found numerous period correct replacement parts (from the USA and Europe), and installed a Lollar "over-wound" P-90. It rocks. a restored “barn find” – a ’67 SG Jr that was in very bad shape

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I’ve built a few “regular size” instruments as well:

The "Ben-Castor", a "tele" style electric guitar. The top is made from 80 year old Michigan Red Maple that was felled and milled at my Grandfather Ben's farm.

The "BenSteel" Lap Steel Guitar. This One Sings Like an Angel!

my personal 6 string lap steel guitar made with some very special wood…>

 

<…my personal tele style guitar also made with some very special wood

 

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Maybe someday I will actually have some shop space to call my own. For now, I work out of my garage – or better said, one half of the garage:

This is the "Repair / Build" Area
This is the “Repair / Build” Area – A little bit of my “CDO” showing up here…

cleanliness is next to… well, where my wife parks her car

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I use mainly hand tools, but I have been blessed with some power tools recently, and I am fortunate to have them. Some were old and needed a lot of “TLC” – others brand new:

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these two were a great gift from a very special person. you know who you are  – and you really blessed me greatly! besides being wonderful tools, they carry a lot of personal meaning for me as well…>


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i was also very fortunate to acquire this way cool old 1950’s planner / jointer that belonged to a friend’s father – which i have since restored – and I dare say it now works better than new!…> 

 

 

 

 

The New Line-up of The Usual Suspects!
The New Line-up of The Usual Suspects!

I have been truly blessed to receive some wonderful power tools. I still do a lot of “hand work” but these allow me to create usable working stock out of larger pieces that would be hard to handle otherwise. I rarely buy “new” wood anymore.

Wood Storage - Keep Looking Up!
Wood Storage – Keep Looking Up!

I would much prefer to find older, interesting pieces of wood that I can re-purpose. Especially ones with some “history” to them…  Kinda’ like me, come to think of it!