On December 11, 2013, the FJ and Emerald City Music presented an evening with Kurt Schoen, the fascinating mastermind behind Schoen Guitars. Schoen’s love affair with the cigar box guitar started in 2001 with a simple musical instrument project he created for his daughters. From that simple cigar box guitar build, he’s evolved to create some of the most artful, unique electric guitars available. Using reclaimed crate woods (typically from boxes that contained things that are “bad for you,” he explained with a laugh) and high-end pickups, his instruments are somehow both professional grade and folk art.
To learn more about Schoen Guitars, visit his site.
Some of the raw materials that Schoen works with. He scours the country for old dynamite and liquor boxes, old maple floors (which can make excellent necks) and even skeleton keys that he’ll turn into tuning pegs.
Two Schoen electrics. Schoen leans towards Lollar pickups on all of his instruments, though he’s also made guitars with Seymour Duncans, TV Jones pickups and other configurations.
The luthier shows off the back of a hollow body electric he’s built, using reclaimed wood from an old Harley Davidson motor. This guitar also sported a sound port. Even unplugged, it sounded good.
Two of Schoen’s most recent creations are a limited run of single pickup Les Paul Jr-style guitars. These solidbody guitars are made by laminating wood crate panels together to achieve the proper depth for a guitar. These guitars, which are slightly smaller in shape than a Les Paul Jr., cost around $2,000.
No two Schoen instruments are alike and each starts out with a simple sketch. This drawing shows one of the instruments he built for ZZ Top’s Billy Gibbons.
A sketch of an instrument he was commissioned to build for Johnny Depp. Schoen splits his time between custom orders such as this and spec guitars that he builds to his own liking.
Emerald City Guitars’ proprietor Jay Boone checks out one of the new single pickup Schoens. It sounded fantastic.
Schoen started building simple cigar box guitars (his first creations used simple fishing line for strings). His resonator plates originate from old air conditioner parts, which he hand-hammers into shape.