YouTube luthier Burls Art redefines Charcoal Burst as he scorches maple with fire and uses epoxy and copper to make a unique baritone guitar

Burls Art Fire, Epoxy and Copper Guitar Build
(Image credit: Burls Art / YouTube)

“This project is not simple and it is not safe,” admits Burls Art, whose latest project involves taking flame to a maple blank, using epoxy and copper to make an electric guitar, but then the YouTube artist-cum-luthier doesn’t do simple. 

This sort of thing shouldn’t work but this is the brain behind some of the weirdest – and most wonderful – builds we’ve seen in recent years, the builder who turned coloured pencils into a guitar, and took 700 sheets of newspaper and made a guitar from them, a thousand aluminium cans, Radio Shack dollar coins… 

The list goes on. Somehow, they always turn out looking cool, and furthermore they sound cool, too.

Flame-roasting a maple blank was not even the most ambitious part of this latest build. There was the question of the copper top and what to do with it. There is a lot of cool things you can do with metal and guitars, he says. In this case, he was going to cut it into a sort of aerial view of a river system. That, again, required applying an inventive treatment to the materials.

Burls Art Fire, Epoxy and Copper Guitar Build

(Image credit: Burls Art / YouTube)

“I wasn’t sure whether this was going to come out looking like a river or just kind of like an artistic blob on the face of the guitar. One thing that’s going to help with that, though, is that I can patina the copper to turn it blue-ish green, kind of like the Statue of Liberty, so I am hoping once I have got the copper inlaid into the body and patina’d blue, it’ll look somewhat like a river.”

At this stage, with just a copper blank and a sketch, it’s hard to see how this will turn out. Things soon take shape. Burls Art conducts a few experiments to see how best to age the copper.

He has a bottle of lemon scent ammonia, a bottle distilled white vinegar, saltwater, everything you need for a cocktail bar at the hour of the apocalypse. With some freezer bags and copper scraps as guinea pigs, he has his mise en place sorted.

The copper is left overnight, then soaked in water, et voila, there’s some distressed blue on the metal. But getting it to be a lasting effect was not easy. More fine-tuning of the ammonia fuming method is needed.

Is this the sort of thing that goes on in R&D departments of Fender and Gibson custom shops after dark? It’s hard to say, hard to predict whether these off-menu builds could be refined into commercial production, whether anyone would be crazy enough to try. But Burls Art gets results, and by the end he has an incredible baritone guitar by the end of it. And viewed in profile, that indeed looks like a river. 

This was Burls Art's 30th guitar build and you can check it and others out at the Burls Art YouTube channel.

Jonathan Horsley

Jonathan Horsley has been writing about guitars and guitar culture since 2005, playing them since 1990, and regularly contributes to MusicRadar, Total Guitar and Guitar World. He uses Jazz III nylon picks, 10s during the week, 9s at the weekend, and shamefully still struggles with rhythm figure one of Van Halen’s Panama.