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Handmade Music Factory: The Ultimate Guide to Making Foot-Stompin Good Instruments Paperback – November 1, 2011

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Handmade Music Factory: The Ultimate Guide to Making Foot-Stompin Good Instruments + Cigar Box Guitars: The Ultimate DIY Guide for the Makers and Players of the Handmade Music Revolution + Obsession with Cigar Box Guitars, An: 120 Great Hand-Built Examples
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Editorial Reviews


I was once considered to be a virtuoso of the 'Gut Bucket' over the years so it was with great anticipation that wanted to read and review this book. Mike Orr has brought back old time musical instruments in this classic. You can almost hear these great improvised instruments being played on the streets of New Orleans. Orr calls the instrument a One-String Washtub Bass but the principal is the same, it emanates a true resonating bass sound and he shows you how to build one.. Orr and his collaborators continue with old time instruments with a 'Soup Can Diddley Bow, a Stomp Box and Washboard. In later chapters Orr details four guitars of varying types and then show you how to amplify them. This book is a blast! Not only are there super improvised instruments but Orr has included a great compendium of musicians that played these fabulous musical innovations. Oh, check out the Hub Cap Banjo on page 127.

Handmade Music Clubhouse member Mike Orr has written 'Handmade Music Factory (the ultimate guide to making foot-stompin' good instruments)', a comprehensive how-to book on creating home made instruments. Published by Fox Chapel Publishing, he takes the reader through the step by step processes of building 7 instruments from materials found around most households. Beautifully illustrated with plenty of progress photos, Orr teaches us how to build a: 1 string washtub bass soup can Diddley bow electrified stomp box and washboard 3 string cigar box slide guitar cookie tin guitar fretted 4 string tenor guitar ironing board lap steel guitar Mike also covers basic electronics explaining how to simply electrify your instrument. He even shows us how to make an amplifier from an old cassette player! There are a lot of sidebar snippets describing history, shop tips & tricks and playing advice, as well as bios of several of the high profile performers playing handmade instruments. There are a lot of other instrument photos in the gallery section. An enormous amount of inspiration for any level builder is crammed into these 160 pages. The forward is written by members of the Robert Johnson Blues Foundation, an organization founded by descendants of the legendary bluesman. They are dedicated to keeping his spirit and the music he inspired alive. These instruments are a tribute to the days when factory instruments weren't an option for poor musicians who played what they built from found parts. This book is a must read for anyone considering building their own instrument, as well as experienced builders who want to learn a few new tricks. Orr lists all the materials and tools needed and guides you every step of the way to creating a simple, magical instrument. He even provides full size templates of many of the components you'll build. Your copy will have dog eared pages and notes written in the margins as you go back to Mike's plan of attack as you create your own one of a kind instrument. Handmade Music Factory embraces all the great things here at the Handmade Music Clubhouse. Like many members here, Mike Orr is a creative and talented inventor who loves to share his creations and knowledge to help people to build their own. Bravo Mike! Great job and thanks Fox Chapel Publishing for helping spread the word about what goes on at the Handmade Music Clubhouse every day.

A detailed guide for those interested in building string instruments from recycled materials. The book includes highly detailed instructions and many photographs of beautifully completed projects by the author, Mike Orr, and by many other enthusiasts. Step-by-step instructions are clear, detailed and attractive. Depending on how elegant you want the final result to be, these projects are both simple and inexpensive ways to get playing. Six years ago, when Mike Orr made his first cigar box guitar, he wasn't thinking about beginning a second career. He came across cigar box guitars while surfing the Internet one day, and decided to make one as a Christmas gift for his son. He studied the design and made it his own. Then, he made more and brought them to an annual camp-out where they were a hit. Gradually, he began building a wide range of other string instruments, from a soup can diddley bow to an ironing board lap steel guitar, and started selling them on eBay and at music festivals on the weekends. Even professional musicians have come to him for these homemade, unique instruments. Now, with his day job as a flooring installer slowing down with the economy, Orr hopes to make and sell even more guitars and kits. Plus, he's come out with the book Handmade Music Factory: the Ultimate Guide to Making Foot-Stomping-Good Instruments, a detailed guide for those interested in building string instruments from recycled materials. "I hope everyone has fun trying to build something," says Orr, 42, explaining his motivation for writing the book. "That's really what it's all about. There are a lot of plans out there, and it's great to get complicated with it, but cigar box guitars are supposed to be a simple thing." He recommends beginners start with an easy project, like a three-string cigar box guitar. "It has no frets," he says. "That's really how it began-the original cigar box guitars didn't have frets. They just had a stick and were built more like a lap steel guitar, where you play it with a slide." He recommends a double shot glass for the slide, or you can fashion a slide from a bottleneck or piece of pipe. The history of cigar box guitars dates back to the roots of the blues, when African Americans created their own ad hoc instruments. For example, one story, recounted by Robert Johnson's childhood friends, tells how a young Johnson took three strings of baling wire and nailed them to the side of his sharecropping shack, making a diddley bow. Slide-guitarist Blind Willie Johnson began on a one-string cigar box guitar. Here are some tips from Mike Orr's Handmade Music Factory. The length of the box determines the fretboard length. A shorter box means a longer fretboard. You can find supplies just about anywhere-home improvement stores, eBay, yard sales, even the dump. For a resonator, you can use cigar boxes of any shape and wood, cookie tins, oil or gas cans, hubcaps, or whatever else comes to mind. For the neck, look for straight one-by-two-inch pieces of hardwood (cherry, oak, maple, etc.) at a lumberyard, or ask a cabinet shop about scraps. Bridges can be made of hardwood or Corian countertop scraps. You can use a block of wood under the bolt or rod to more easily achieve the correct string height. Then, you won't have to deal with string spacing or cutting grooves for the strings. You can use either new or used tuning pegs. You will need left side pegs for right-handed guitars, and right side pegs for left-handed guitars. Grommets are a great way to hide tattered edges, especially on cigar boxes that are covered with paper. If you end up with a box that doesn't sound that good acoustically, you can electrify it for a couple dollars and make it sound great

If you want really to make your own music, this book is for you. Although there are a few guides devoted to the construction of instruments with found items, this title is much more detailed. Professional carpenter Orr eases readers in with the construction of a washtub bass, with clear, step-by-step illustrations. The more sophisticated stringed instruments require a lot more tool use and special materials; unfortunately, the resources list does not provide adequate coverage. Still, solid instructions and templates make this attractive book quite usable. Recommended for high school and public libraries.

Have you ever wanted to play a music instrument? How about make one? "Handmade Music Factory: The Ultimate Guide to Making Foot-Stompin'-Good Instruments" gives you all the knowledge you need to go out and build your own stringed instruments from scratch using household and junkyard materials. Build a one stringed washtub bass, a cookie tin guitar, or even a lap steel from an ironing board. Packed with enough projects to put together an old time string band, it's a lot more fun than that weekend birdhouse you promised to build for your family.

What a treat! What a wealth of home made information to inspire the budding musician who also loves to work with his/her hands! Handmade Music Factory: The Ultimate Guide to Making Foot~Stompin'~Good Instruments by Mike Orr gives instructions for making real, usable instruments out of cookie tins, making an electrified stomp box and washboard, one string washtub bass, an ironing board lap steel guitar and a soup can diddley bow. What I really loved about this book was the detailed pictorial instructions for making instruments using tins, cans and boxes and the chapters on electrifying the instruments. You will find detailed pictorial instructions for the electrical wiring. One "electrifying" picture shows the usage of an empty Altoid tin to encase electrical parts. You can even make a home made amplifier out of an old radio. The Gallery holds page after page of inspiring creations, including a guitar made from an old license plate, a hubcap banjo, and other lovely boxes (I could have done well without the toilet seat guitars, but to each his own). My budding musician flipped for this book found in our local library. Click here for more information and the opportunity to see inside. What a treat!

As a maker of cigar box guitars, Handmade Music Factory is a book I've been waiting for for a long time. It's written by Mike Orr, a professional carpenter and the owner of Built2Last Guitars. This beautifully produced, full-color book shows you how to make your own musical instruments. Projects include a washtub bass, a soup can diddley bow, an electrified stomp box and washboard, a variety of cigar box guitars, an ironing board lap steel guitar, and an upcycled tape deck amplifier. Besides including these detailed step-by-step instructions, Orr's book includes profiles of cigar box guitar builders and a large photo gallery of beautiful instruments made by cigar box guitar aficionados. One of my favorites is a banjo made from the hubcap of a Volkswagen. If you're interested in getting started in building your own musical instruments, or you have built them but would like to learn additional tips and tricks and find out how others have created their own musical instruments, this is a great book.

This book is different from the usual fare reviewed here, but its premise is instantly intriguing. Handmade Music Factory offers step-by-step directions for making a wide variety of musical instruments from ordinary and quirky components-including a license plate, an antique metal cigar box, or a hubcap. Most of the instruments discussed are either plucked-string instruments or percussive instruments (as wind and bowed-string instruments are less forgiving of imprecise components). The directions are detailed and well-illustrated. For any handmade instruments which require or have an option for electronic amplification, detailed directions are given, accompanied by well-photographed examples. An appendix gives detailed illustrations and patterns for proper fretboard spacing. One note for Kindle readers: Every page of the book is illustrated, with text overlaying the graphics. Since the book would be of little value without the graphics, the Kindle edition offers each page in graphic format. Since this would result in impossibly tiny text in portrait mode, the pages are flipped 90 into landscape mode, and split into two sections. This can make following text on two-column pages complicated, requiring flipping forward, back, then forward again to complete the page. Also, many can comfortably hold a six-inch Kindle in a single hand in the normal (portrait) orientation; Kindles are surprisingly awkward when held sideways (landscape!) One final Kindle-specific note. This is likely not an issue on the larger 9-inch Kindle, but on the standard 6-inch model, even in landscape mode, the text is uncomfortably small. All factors considered, if this is a book you plan to purchase, skip the ebook version and go with a physical copy. This book has much of value to a Christian homeschooling audience, but would require several edits. Two handmade guitars involving bedpans as resonators are given names playing off of words not used in polite company. Each name is mentioned two or three times. There is also a (positive) reference to "mojo," and a reference to those who make their own instruments as "subversive." With those caveats duly noted, the remainder of the book would provide a homeschooler who is both musically inclined and has decent craftsmanship skills with hours of fascinating and invigorating challenges. This book came so close to a perfect Biblical Bookshelf rating, but ultimately fell a few words short. It receives three stars.

In The Handmade Music Factory, handyman Mike Orr guides you through the construction of eight unique and imaginative instruments-from a one-string guitar made from a soup can to a hubcap banjo to a stand-up lap steel guitar made from a vintage ironing board. There's no shortage of inspiration to draw upon to create an arsenal of instruments that look good, sound great and deliver some foot-scampin' fun!

From the Back Cover

Are you ready to make eight of the most creative, unique-sounding, handmade instruments you'll find anywhere? In Handmade Music Factory, musician and handyman Mike Orr shows you how to turn ordinary objects like soup cans, cigar boxes, cookie tins, and ironing boards into instruments that are as much fun to make as they are to play. Orr shares his tips and tricks for building ingenious instruments ranging from a one-string washtub bass to a three-string cigar box slide guitar using simple tools and materials. You'll also learn how to build slide, fretted, and steel guitars, electrify your instruments, and assemble an amp using inexpensive parts from the local electronics store. An amazing photo gallery, tidbits of handmade music history, and an overview of some musicians and bands paving the way in this increasingly popular music trend provide a wealth of inspiration for creating your own music-maker. So jump on the bandwagon and get your creative juices flowing. There's no right or wrong when it comes to making your own instruments, just the desire to create music and have fun doing it!

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 160 pages
  • Publisher: Fox Chapel Publishing (November 1, 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1565235592
  • ISBN-13: 978-1565235595
  • Product Dimensions: 8.5 x 0.6 x 10.9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.5 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (46 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #142,266 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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20 of 20 people found the following review helpful By DanG on October 27, 2011
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Mike Orr and company have assembled an invaluable how-to guide that should be required reading for DIY musicians and budding luthiers alike. I started building cigar box instruments and joined Cigar Box Nation just a couple years ago, and even though you can find a lot of information on the web, I would have loved to have this physical, step-by-step instruction manual back then to help demystify the art & craft of instrument building. It would have provided me with some much-needed knowledge and saved me some time, money and frustration. Even after building a handful of my own instruments, it's still a thrill to flip through this book. It's beautifully photographed, the layout is logical and eye-appealing, and seeing all of the the gallery shots of the unique instruments in this book is wonderful, both as pure art appreciation and as inspiration for my next builds. This book is a welcome addition to the "proper" lutherie books by Irving Sloane and Dan Erlewine sitting on my shelf, and I highly recommend it to anyone even remotely interested in building their own handmade instruments.
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12 of 12 people found the following review helpful By R. Keil on May 3, 2012
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I received this book for Christmas. Prior to this I had built some ukulele kits from Grizzly (lots of fun at first but then the challenge goes away and you need to move forward)Grizzly H3125 Ukulele Kit but had never built anything 'totally from scratch'. The book is full of great pictures, has some great advice, and shows you all the simple steps to get you started. I built a couple cigar box guitars and had great fun.
My 14 year old daughter liked what she was seeing and so together we designed and built a banjo ukulele based on ideas from the book. We used a tambourine acquired at a thrift shop as the body, some left over flooring material from a kitchen remodel for the neck, and basically followed the directions in this book. Now we have a ukulele all hand-made that sounds suprisingly good for less than $10. It was a great experience. Awesome.
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful By Stephen A. Mathews on May 3, 2012
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Mike Orr has put together a great book for building cigar box guitars, diddley bows, stompboxes and washtub basses and other homemade instruments. This book is extremely layman friendly, you only need a few simple tools (which Mr Orr lists for each project)and not an extensive workshop to build these instruments. Many items used in the construction can be obtained for free or for minimal cost. You don't need to be an experienced woodworker (I am not!) to handle any of these projects. Having assembled a dozen or so cigar box guitars, a dozen or so cigar box ukes, and a half dozen didley bows I can attest that this book will save you a lot of trial and error. It also has a number of great suggestions for personalizing your finished project. If you have never heard any of these instruments played, you will be surprised at the quality of sound. The best reward of all is being able to play an instrument that you've manufactured with your own two hands. Great color illustrations and patterns to assist you. If you want to improve your stock or if you wish to embark on building your first instrument, THIS IS THE RESOURCE!
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Dave on December 23, 2011
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This great book inspired me to get building. I've made 3 homemade instruments since reading the book. The easy to follow instructions inspire creativity and fun. I learned how to install a pickup and wiring for electric guitar building. I love that anyone can build a successful instrument. Now I'm building from scratch without a cigar box to start with. I'm using luthier grade hardwoods and now have a band saw to help with the neck shaping. I'm having fun and getting some nice strum sticks, sliders, and tenor guitars built. I'll keep building with a little help from the "Handmade Music Factory". Thanks for the great book. ... Dave, Birdhouse Ukulele
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Kindle Customer on January 14, 2012
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Excellent book, I highly recommend for anyone interested in making their own instruments. The clear, easy to follow instructions are all accompanied by really nice color photographs. Great layout and design throughout. I also enjoy the occasional inset with info on all kinds of cool local bands, cigar box guitar makers and players. It is clear that Mike Orr wants you to make your own instrument(s)--you're never left in the dark, everything is made explicit with loads of helpful hints. The spirit of the book matches the spirit of the homemade instrument movement and the for that matter, the spirit of jamming, hanging out with other musicians and sharing information and ideas. Mike manages to be a kick ass builder(from what I can see), share his ideas, while also promoting other builders and players. He seems like a cool guy, somebody you'd want to hang out with.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By D. DeBruler on April 9, 2012
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I actually pre-ordered Handmade Music Factory: The Ultimate Guide to Making Foot-Stompin'-Good Instruments after reading about it on the Cigar Box Nation website.

If you're looking for how-to information, visit the website. Better yet, visit "Handmade Music Clubhouse". Those sites are frequented by builders, players, and fans of handmade musical instruments. You'll find photos, how-to sections, and enjoy genuine community with others who share your interest.

The book, however, is a great coffee table item. It provides you some good ideas, interesting applications, and excellent photos. It serves to validate my hobby when a guest spots it, and reminds me I am not alone in my quest to make music from nearly anything.
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