Today in crazy electric guitar builds, Burls Art, the YouTuber who has brought us guitars made out of colour pencils, old skateboards and coffee beans, has once more eschewed tonewood orthodoxy to make a guitar out of 700 sheets of newspaper.
It is a very exact number, and one that makes us suspect that he is not one to take the recycling out every week. But as ever, there is method behind the madness, and no shortage of craft.
The guitars made by Burls might have the all-important WTF? quality necessary to make it worth watching on YouTube, but he often will sell these builds, and they are made to play well and sound serious.
On the face of it, building a guitar out of newspaper is radical. He begins by taking each sheet, coating it with epoxy and layering it, much as you would in the laminating process.
Seven hundred sheets is what it takes to put together a solid-body electric, and he admits that it was the most time-intensive process of any of his projects to date, with 20 hours devoted solely to glueing the individual sheets of paper together.
“I built a guitar out of card stock paper a few years back, which is similar in a way to what I’m doing here,” he says. “But newspaper is around five times thinner than that card stock, so the end material is a bit different. I also wanted to compress the newspaper with a vacuum bag and a bleeder cloth this time, so that it would suck as much resin out as possible from the material, hopefully making it a little less heavy.”
Covering his newspaper laminate in a bleeder cloth and sandwiched in MDF, he then places this material in a vacuum bag and processes it to turn it into a viable composite material – an approach similar to that used to make the high-pressure laminate (HPL) you might find on, say, a Martin X Series acoustic guitar.
Burls then takes his composite material, cuts it into strips, then glues and clamps it to make the body. Making a guitar like this involves some different approaches. It has a bolt-on neck, but in order to attach the neck to the body, Burls uses plastic inserts to stop the composite material splitting down the grain.
Burls equips the composite build with a pair of P-90 electric guitar pickups and a six-saddle hardtail bridge. The video even shows him making his own fret-wire. Laborious, but it sounds great, and the grain effect on the body, looks exceptional.