Craftsman turns trash into musical treasure

Tin can guitars, David Blanchard with his work
Tin can guitars, David Blanchard with his work

They say one man’s trash is another man’s treasure, and it certainly rings true for one Derbyshire man who makes ‘upcycled’ instruments out of old tins.

Using everything from cigar boxes to decades-old biscuit tins, David Blanchard creates playable guitars, violins and other string instruments by hand at his home and studio in Cromford.

The craftmanship behind cigar box guitars struck a chord with David – an architectural technician – when he bought one for his youngest son last Christmas.

“I thought it was great and wanted to have a go at making one myself” he said. “I looked at how they were made and read about them online and then just went for it.

“I made my first one in February this year, and it has just grown from that.

“I have always done houses up over the years and have taught myself wood work, so I was just drawing on my experience with that.”

Since then David has fine-tuned the skill, using alternative components such as copper nails for fret dots and stainless steel egg cups for sound-hole trims.

But while he may be an artisan, David, 58, is missing the musical gene.

“I can’t actually play the instruments” he laughed. “I really need to learn. I like music, I listen to a lot of blues but as of yet I can’t play anything.”

He added: “I get my friend to try them out, and all the instruments sound different, depending on the size of the tin and how deep it is.

“They are made to be played with a slide and I make recycled glass slides which gives it a bluesy sound.”

As well as using tins salvaged from car boots and auctions, David recycles everything from brass light fittings to wardrobe rail brackets to make sure every instrument is unique.

“I have also made an experimental upright bass, which has a coloured 10-inch vinyl record for a sound board and strimmer cord of varying thicknesses for strings” he added.

“I also want to have a go at making a banjo and a mandolin.”

Through his company, Split Tin Guitars, David takes commissions and sells his creations, with prices starting at £65, or £5 for a handmade bottleneck slide.

To find out more visit or call David on 07570 583918.

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