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Ormond Beach Observer Tuesday, May 7, 2013 6 years ago

Come to the park for the art, stay for the handmade cigar-box guitars


The city's 41st-annual Art in the Park featured all kinds of characters — such as Hal Somerville, who makes cigar-box guitars out of his Ormond Beach home.


Hal Somerville sat on a stool in Rockefeller Gardens, strumming a one-string electric guitar made from a pool cue, a cigar box and a beer tap.

The guitar is one of about 15 Somerville made and brought to the 41st annual Art in the Park May 4 and 5, which were on sale for between $100 and about $225. He started making them two years ago, in his retirement, after watching a video on YouTube.

“I’m an old, antique car guy, and so I was on YouTube one day looking at antique cars,” Somerville said. “And there’s a guy up in Connecticut that was building banjos out of two-gallon gas cans.”

Somerville admitted to not being much into banjos, but he soon found a variation on the instrument — a guitar made out of a cigar box.

“And the lightbulb went off,” he said. “I thought, ‘That is cool. And I can do that.’”

Although he'd never played a guitar before, he taught himself how to use the instrument as he taught himself how to make them.

Now, he works out of a small, converted laundry room attached to his Ormond Beach home. The space isn’t even big enough for Somerville and all his tools: a six-foot work bench, a table saw, band saw, drum sander and other instruments. When he wants to work with the table saw, he has to move the drum sander out to make room.

Building a one- or three-string guitar can take a day. For a four-string, it can take about a week. His next big project will be a guitar with two pool cue necks, so a musician can play a regular and bass guitar simultaneously.

Somerville moved to Ormond Beach, from Lansing, Mich., for his retirement. Up north, he owned an auto-body shop. But the work he's doing now with his hands is all new, he says.

“This is all wood working, and that was all metal work,” he said. “So it’s totally diametrically opposed. Maybe that was the attraction — I needed to do something completely different.”

Somerville makes most of his guitars out of cigar boxes, but he’s also used roasting pans in the past, for four- and six-string guitars. He sold the latter at a Volusia County flea market, where he buys most of the material for his instruments.

He’s used a beer tap, the top of a trophy and even a deer antler at the top of his guitar's necks. He says he likes repurposing items that were never meant to make music.

“And that’s the challenge of it,” he said. “You’re making this piece work perfectly with something else. ... To make a roasting pan work as a guitar body, to make a waterbed frame work as a diddley bow, to make a deer antler work as a headstock. ... That’s the fun of it.”


Interested in getting your hands on one of Hal Somerville's nontraditional guitars? Call 517-719-2190, or email [email protected].

International flavor

Titane Laurent won Best of Show at the Art in the Park for her mixed media figurative abstract paintings.

Laurent, who was born in Belgium and is New Zealand citizen, recently moved to the Ormond Beach area. She says she thanks God for giving her talent and inspiration.

"I always pray before I paint," Laurent added, "and I feel like He gives me the ideas for my paintings."

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