Fine-tuning trash to treasure

  • Article by: SHANNON PRATHER , Star Tribune
  • Updated: December 31, 2013 - 9:18 AM

Give this man a cigar box, and he’ll give you a guitar — an electric one at that.


Roger Wold worked on a guitar that he made from his father’s license plate in his garage in Anoka. He makes guitars from cigar-boxes, toilet seats, clocks and tin cans. The flea market vendor fished old cigar boxes out of the trash because they looked neat, deciding a year later to turn them into instruments.

Photo: Elizabth Flores, Star Tribune

CameraStar Tribune photo galleries

Cameraview larger

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

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.

Humble beginnings

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.

  • related content

  • Roger Wold

  • get related content delivered to your inbox

  • manage my email subscriptions


Connect with twitterConnect with facebookConnect with Google+Connect with PinterestConnect with PinterestConnect with RssfeedConnect with email newsletters