Split-tin guitars made in Cromford

If you have any pretty vintage sweet or biscuit tins lurking in your attic then David Blanchard may very well be interested.

He admits to being a bit obsessed about them these days, since he started using them to create bespoke musical instruments.

His tiny home at Scarthin in Cromford, where banjos, guitars and ukuleles seem to have taken over, is the hub of his thriving cottage industry.

It was four years ago that David first considered making a split-tin guitar and since then, what was intended as a hobby has snowballed into a fully-fledged business.

“I bought my son a cigar-box guitar for Christmas off the internet and when it arrived I was a bit disappointed. It was a bit crude and to be honest I thought I could do better myself,” he said.

“For a bit of fun I had a go. I have always enjoyed making things and I found I really loved creating the guitar.

“After that I found a book about Appalachian music and decided I would try making a guitar out of a tin.”

Appalachian music – which includes bluegrass, old-time, folk and more – is one of West Virginia’s most unique features.

Its roots go back to the early 19th century farming communities who played their passed-down tunes from Ireland, Scotland and England in the remote mountains with simple instruments improvised out of existing tools and objects of rural life; cigar box guitars, tin can banjos, gourd dulcimers and mandolins made from old cheese boxes.

“I have taken inspiration from their work to create my own unique instruments. At first I was doing it for my own pleasure but one day I was hunting around an antique shop in Wirksworth for tins when the owner asked me if I was a collector.

“When I explained that actually I was using them to make guitars she became really interested and suggested I should take part in the Wirksworth Festival.

“I thought it sounded like a good idea and so in the September of 2013 I had my first proper attempt at selling them and I was amazed at the response I got.”

David, who used to work as an architectural designer for HSBC, has a guitar-playing friend check each one of his creations and is now taking lessons from Derbyshire singer-songwriter John Gill.

“I thought it would be an idea if I actually knew more than just the basics when it came to playing so I am having lessons with John,” he said with a smile as he strummed a few chords.

David has now started taking his instruments to a few festivals – FolkEast in Suffolk and the Hebridian Celtic Music Festival on Stornaway – and plans to add a few more to his itinerary this year and says he is also challenging himself to make a fiddle and maybe even a double bass.

“A few years ago I would never have imagined I would be here doing this but I am enjoying it and people like what I am doing so for now I am going to carry on,” he said.

For more information about the instruments go to http://www.split-tinguitars.co.uk

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