“This might actually be my craziest idea yet”: Crazy? No, turning 50lbs of copper wire into a bronze electric guitar that sounds incredible is all in a day’s work for YouTube’s most adventurous luthier

Burls Art Copper Bronze Guitar, glinting in the sunlight
(Image credit: Burls Art/YouTube)

Most luthiers have their favourite materials to work with, the tone woods that get them going, the hardware, finishes. Others will make a guitar out of anything. 

Newspapers, colour pencils, aluminium cans, these are some of things YouTube luthier Burls Art makes his electric guitars out of, ut for his latest build he has went further, smelting down 50lbs of copper wire to make a bronze custom electric that he says is his most difficult project yet.

“This project is not simple and it is not safe,” said Burls Art in 2023, when he made a baritone guitar out of epoxy and copper. We could say the same about this one, too.

So, just how do you make a guitar out of 50lbs of copper wire? Well, it starts with the neck, on account of it being a little easier to cast than the body. 

“Considering I have never cast copper before I figured this would be the right thing to start out with and experiment if needed,” he says, making the mould for the neck. The neck will have a similar profile to his aluminium guitar – which, finished in January 2023, was the best use for 1,000 drinks cans we have ever seen. At this stage, however, Burls Art has a caveat about this build; copper weighs three and a half times as much as aluminium. This is going to be heavy. 

He estimates the neck is going to weight 12lbs. “If you think that’s heavy, just wait to see what the body’s gonna weigh,” he says.

How many luthiers can say their process is brought to a halt by heavy weather? These are the sorts of issues you have to deal with when making a guitar like this. 

The final result, a T-style with a pair of Custom Lace Horsepower humbuckers, is beyond impressive. The aesthetic is reminiscent of the aluminium Veleno guitar that Kurt Cobain used on In Utero, or perhaps a kissing cousin of Kevin Burkett’s work at the Buzz Osborne-approved Electrical Guitar Company. The sound is exceptional, particularly that clean tone.

The only drawback [certainly for MusicRadar’s guitars editor who draws the line at 8lbs, no exceptions] is the weight. This is a monster, weighing in at just under 40lbs – so heavy that Burls Art decided against putting strap buttons on it for fear that it would fall off the guitar strap and do him an injury.

Honestly, playing it, it feels like it starts to cut the circulation on my leg after a couple of minutes.

“It’s kind of a shock to the mind because visually it is such a small guitar,” he says. “And, honestly, playing it, it feels like it starts to cut the circulation on my leg after a couple of minutes. Although it does function like a normal guitar – and if it weren’t for the weight I’d actually say it plays pretty well – it’s probably the first and last of its kind. But it does look cool so I’ll give it that.”

And maybe next time, someone will give him that Honduran mahogany, the figured maple, the rosewood, just to see what he can come up with. But that’s not really his style. You can subscribe to Burls Art on YouTube, and you can actually buy some of the guitars he has made, including this one. Asking price for the Steampunk Bronze is $7,000. Head over to Burls Art for more.

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.