Roger Wold can make music out of the most meager of objects.
He collects old cigar boxes, discarded license plates, broken-down clocks, Ouija boards, even bedpans.
Wold holes up in his Anoka garage and transforms those lowly objects, often rescued from the trash, into treasured guitars.
The entire instrument is an exercise in ingenuity.
Dice are used as volume knobs, an antique skeleton key is the bridge and a bent spoon is fashioned into a whammy bar. It’s as much art for the eyes as it is music to the ears.
If an item intrigues him, Wold finds a way to build it into one of his guitars.
“The best junk is usually in the garbage” or a found item, he says, pointing to a metal detector.
After taking up the avocation, Wold learned that humble guitars of this kind, fashioned out of everyday objects, played an instrumental role in America’s blues and rock-n-roll history. Depression-era African-American musicians, unable to afford a “real” instrument, used these guitars — sometimes called jitterbugs and diddly bows down South — along with the washtub bass, jugs, washboards, and harmonicas to shape America’s musical legacy. The cigar box guitar is enjoying a resurgence in popularity with the rise of websites such as www.cigarboxnation.com.
Fascinated by their provenance and their construction, Wold has made more than 100 of them.
He sells them in several downtown Anoka shops and flea markets for anywhere from $85 to $250. He prefers rock and metal music so he makes them electric, building the circuit boards himself.
Tinkering in his garage workshop, Wold said it all started a few years back when he plucked two neat old cigar boxes he from his neighbor’s garbage. He’d made bona fide guitars before, but decided to fashion new ones out of the cigar boxes.
They’re almost all made entirely of scrap and found items — scrap wood, old board game pieces, discarded toys and old bits.
Wold, 42, a warehouse manager, is a quiet type, casual in jeans and a T-shirt.
The Thief River Falls native said shyness is what drew him to music. His grandfather played accordion. He taught himself how to play bass guitar at age 14, and he was part of a band for a few years.
“I thought it would be a great way to meet women,” he said.
His parents weren’t musical, but his mother is an artist and she passed on that creativity, Wold said.
His customers range from collectors, who like the look of the instruments, to musicians, his favorite clientele.
“They can pick up the guitar and riff on them and I am thinking, ‘I didn’t even know it could do that,’” Wold said.
Five hours in the making
Each piece takes about five hours of construction time, but he said he’s always thinking about his next design, often while driving for his job.
His newest obsession: bedpan guitars.
“People love them. They have a unique sound. They have a very tinny sound, which is good for blues,” Wold said.
Fiancée Deborah Parke said he’s always working — noodling a new design in his head or out in his workshop at odd hours.
“He always has something going,” Parke said. “There are a million ideas in his head.”