Thursday, May 05, 2011

Dogman Guitars

Cigar box guitars can be traced back to the mid 1800' s as the small boxes used to store cigars familiar to most today were not made prior to this. The earliest illustrated evidence of a cigar box instrument known is an etching of two Civil War Soldiers from 1876. They are depicted at a campsite with one playing a cigar box fiddle. Cigar box guitars and homemade instruments were popular during the great depression and due to an interest in DIY music, enjoying a modern day revival.

I recently spoke to Dio Quaid of Dogman Guitars in Ireland who handcrafts cigar box guitars, diddley bows and ukuleles.

Who/What is Dogman?

The "Dogman" notion came about after a three year culmination of art works around the idea of mans best friend. By studying the behavior and body language between the two species, it became clear that there are similarities, although many people I spoke with had clear disgust for the idea. It was in this that i found the basic idea for my work; that as a dog he would not be accepted as a man and as a man he wouldn't be accepted as a dog.

Tell me a bit about yourself

Diarmauid (Dio) Quaid grew up in the best of backgrounds, a good honest dysfunctional family and went through school hating every minute of it. Spent another eight years in what i like to call voluntary education getting a Bachelors in Fine Art and then later (you would think i have had enough!) a Bachelors of Design in Industrial Design. All I want to do is make things.

How did you become aware of cigar box guitars & Why did you start making them??

I have always had an interest in peculiar music, maybe it all started with 'The Pale', a once popular Irish band from early 1990's. I have recently developed a keen interest in blues and bluegrass, in many cases played on home made instruments. One of these was a cigar box guitar built from a scrap of wood and a box because buying a real instrument was just not an option.

I started making them for two reason's: I wanted one and I was taking the piss (note: Irish term for making fun of someone) out of a friend who had just set up a mobile home in a field with built on a porch. So in typical redneck fashion we would find him a rocking chair for the porch where he would while away the hours eating jerky, drinkin' beer and plucking on his cigar box guitar.

What materials do you use?

The original guitar i built had an ash neck, but the newer one all have cherry necks, mahogany fretboards with three variations (fretless or with wooden or metal frets) and of course with authentic used cigar boxes.

Do you accept commissions?

I will be building a series of guitars over the summer but I'm more than willing to do commissions. That's what suits me best, to be able to build a guitar to meet a players needs.

With each guitar that you've built, what have you learnt about the process?

Well the first guitar i built turn out to be a big experiment: adding things, taking stuff away, using different woods and processes. For example i had to build an external truss rod in the original because i used ash which is quite springy and with the tension of the strings it only kept in tune for about two hours. Pickups were another problem- drowning out the body noise like scratching sounds on the neck or body, which i have since solved.

Why do you think cigar box guitars have regained popularity in the past few years?

Personally i think its because of all the auto-tune bullshit on the radio. People are sick of it and have started to look to the past to find good music coupled with musicians like Seasick Steve and the work of people like Shane Speal of Cigar Box Nation. The best thing is there are no rules, you can make them, tune them and play them anyway you want to.

For more information:

Dio can be contacted via email (dogmanguitars {AT} gmail {DOT} com.

Full Disclosure: I am not in any way affiliated with Dogman Guitars nor have i received any compensation to write this piece.
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