When you’ve got a shed full of ‘stuff’, it is a place where paradigm shifts can take place. Where something meant for one use, which somebody, somewhere, put a lot of thought into, can become part of something else, which is completely unrelated to its original use. Following me so far?
You’ll see that the featured picture for this bloggette contains a number of things. They have all been placed there as either offerings to the gods of speed or just arranged artistically, and provide memories of the day that they last featured in my life. The white, very early 1970s Cromwell helmet is now a shelf queen, and whilst it was the first British full face helmet ever available to buy, the visor has to be the worst fitting thing on the planet. The interior isn’t much better either, being basically the interior from one of the Cromwell’s pudding basin helmets. I suppose it was better than nothing though. I remember a friend had one of these back in the day, and he compromised its safety guarantee dramatically, by drilling a hole in the chin piece so he could smoke a cigarette through it, and whilst wearing it. This was never an issue with his previous open faced helmet, so he felt the need to adapt it.
The other thing that sits on the shelf is the Yamaha Fizzy (FS1E) fuel tank. The black and white and red colour scheme hails from the fabulous Steve Baker racing colours from the late 1970s. That speed block design along the side of tank is iconic. The tank came off a late model of the classic 50cc screamer and is now rusted beyond normal use inside. The outside is a bit battered as well, but it is a great shape, which would have been hugged by its young riders thighs during epic thrashing. I’ve been wondering what to do with it. something? or nothing? It does get an occasional dust when I spring clean the shed, but thats about it.
The paradigm I mention above started a few years ago, when one of our sons got into playing guitar and anything remotely like one. He made a 3 stringed, electric guitar from a length of 2×4 wood and an old cigar box. It sounded great and he thrashed the thing with a steel slide to the point of eventual destruction.
We moved on from the novelty of the cigar box and decided that a jerry can might make a good noise, and it would follow the same shed built principle as the cigar box guitar. This one though, would have proper guitar neck on it.
Attempting to make a precision instrument out of an old guitar neck and a jerry can has its challenges, but it is possible. We debated a 10 litre jerry can or the usual 20 litre can. We chose the bigger one because we reckoned on it being more ‘resonant’. We also had to consider that the thing might feedback so much when it was near the amplifier that everything on a shelf in the shed or the room it was played in, would be vibrated off and onto the floor immediately. Not good for the ear drums either. Long-story-short, after much engineering (bodging), the thing lived and sang like an angel, albeit an angel that shrieked a bit. We focussed on the cosmetic side of it as well by adding an 1960s Mini car wheel trim to cover the sound hole and to thread the strings through. Apart from being a bit challenging to get your arms around the body of it, it played and sounded great, and just as long as there wasn’t too much distortion dialled in.
As with everything, success drives confidence, and with confidence comes the boundary pushing desire to do push the boundaries. Enter the toilet seat guitar. I think the toilet seat was in a charity shop and was new, cheap and the right guitar type of finish. Being a new toilet seat was a critical criteria for the build. A used toilet seat was out of the question, and for obvious reasons. Using a guitar neck was now the best way to get a proper guitar sound, and the toilet seat and neck are both made of wood, so there wouldn’t be the engineering challenges of the jerry can, which had to have a whole wooden frame built inside it to keep the neck straight. After the experience of the cigar box and jerry can guitars, this toilet seat version was a piece of cake to make. It looked good, sounded like a real guitar and you could get your arms around it, unlike the jerry can. We were so pleased and proud with the finish, the sound and the style, we sold it. I wonder where it is now?
Now we’ve gone through the chronological journey of our shed-built instruments, my mind comes back to that Fizzy tank up on the shelf. It has a natural sound hole where the filler cap once went, and it has a nice space to bolt a guitar neck into where the frame of the bike once lived. It also has a nice flat-ish top to it where a pick-up and bridge could be located. All of the ingredients of a Moto-inspired musical instrument that could feature heavily and loudly in the next shed night party. Anyway, these thoughts of another shed guitar special are distracting me from more pressing shed things, like fixing that occasional and annoying oil leak on my Italian Guilietta 50cc cafe racer. Fortunately, the shape of the fuel tank on this little bike wouldn’t make a guitar, so it’s safe. The Fizzy tank will stay where it is, for now anyway.