Making music with cigar box guitars

Peter Thorne demonstrates a simple tune while Evan Kalmokoff watches with his handmade cigar box guitar. (Patrick Davies photo- 100 Mile Free Press)
Earl Topnik (from left) Peter Thorne, Max Kalmokoff, Evan Kalmokoff and Gord Robinson pose with their handmade cigar box guitars in Thorne’s backyard. (Patrick Davies photo- 100 Mile Free Press)

It’s a wrap for Peter Thorne and his class of cigar box guitar makers at 108 Mile.

Thorne put a call out for people at the beginning of summer to sign up for a multi-week workshop in his backyard, where students would build and learn how to play their own cigar box guitars. This simple three-stringed instrument, which uses an empty cigar box as a resonator, was first made at the turn of the century and has been popularized in recent years.

Thorne is particularly interested in the instrument. As he and his four students met for their final session on Saturday, Sept. 12, strumming their guitars and chatting amongst themselves. Thorne was visibly enthusiastic about how things had turned out.

“I’d say the summer flew by. It was a lot of fun and these guys, I assume, learned a fair amount here and just picking and grinning at home,” Thorne said.

It was such a success that Thorne is considering doing it again next year, maybe with a bigger group and a final show where his students can perform at a coffee shop or something. The workshop was also a learning experience for him, he said, especially when it came to recognizing how long it takes people to put together the cigar box guitar kit he developed for the workshop.

He’s proud of how everyone customized their guitars to suit themselves – from the stocks to the holes in the body of the instrument – with each member making their own design. From shaping the neck of the guitar to modifying the nuts and sanding, the four worked to make a quartet of quality instruments.

One of the students, Earl Topnik, said getting an understanding of how the guitar is made has given him more respect for the instrument. In recent years he’s developed an interest in three-stringed guitars so when he heard about Thorne’s course, he figured should get in on it.

“I have a lot of respect for the instrument, how to fine-tune it, and it’s enjoyable to play. You have to experience it,” Topnik said, noting he joined the workshop because he loves music and playing the guitar. “I find myself sitting around in the evening plunking on it and time just goes like that.

“Music is a stress release, you can pick up a guitar and just get lost in it, it’s awesome. Peter was an awesome instructor and made things very easy.”

READ MORE: Peter Thorne hosting Cigar Box Workshop this summer

Gord Robinson, who had played guitar years ago and has been taking lessons with Thorne over the past year or two, agreed he also has a deeper appreciation for the instrument, knowing how much work went into making it. He too has found the cigar box guitar a lot easier to pick up around the house.

“I have more opportunity to play now, I find I do, instead of playing the six strings and think about it I pick it up, three strings, and away we go. I enjoy it more,” Robinson said.

Max Kalmokoff, who joined the workshop on a whim after his mother asked if he wanted to “go build a guitar over the summer,” had never heard of a three-stringed guitar before he attended the class with his older brother Evan.

“My favourite part was probably when we put it all together, plugged it in and actually played it. That was just awesome, I loved that part,” Kalmokoff said. “The sound is amazing with all the pickups and stuff, I’ve really enjoyed the summer.”

Kalmakoff intends to continue to learn how to play his instrument and is currently taking guitar lessons with Thorne for the six-stringed guitar. A pianist, saxophone player and now guitarist, he said playing music is fun once you find the instrument you really like.

“If Pete does this (workshop) again give it a try because it was really fun,” he said.

Thorne is hopeful that cigar box guitars will take off in the area and hopes they’ll help foster the live music scene.

“What I enjoy personally is to know that they are other people who enjoy these instruments as much as I do.”

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

100 Mile HouseMusic

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

North District RCMP are urging the public’s assistance in locating Prince George resident Amber Weutz, 25, last seen Oct. 18 in the Canim Mahood Lake area east of 100 Mile House. (Photo submitted)
RCMP release more information on missing Prince George woman

Amber Weutz, 25, was last seen in the Canim and Mahood Lake area on Oct. 18

Courtney Driver is the new president of the 100 Mile Performing Arts Society. (Photo submitted)
100 Mile Performing Arts Society elects new president

Courtney Driver wants to provide more diverse events

Erica Henderson the supervisor of early year services and programs at South Cariboo Early Years Centre and others were giving out Halloween Family Activity Kits the week leading up to Halloween. (Patrick Davies photo - 100 Mile Free Press)
Halloween activity kits offered to kids at home

South Cariboo Early Years Centre is finding ways to bring activities into children’s homes.

Juliette Leclair enjoys a day of skiing with the 100 Mile Nordics.
Nordic skiers practice skills in early snowfall

Thirteen young skiers got out on their skis at 100 Mile Junior.

Over the years, Janice Blackie-Goodine’s home in Summerland has featured elaborate Halloween displays and decorations each October. (File photo)
QUIZ: How much do you really know about Halloween?

Oct. 31 is a night of frights. How much do you know about Halloween customs and traditions?

FILE - In this Jan. 23, 1987 file photo, actor Sean Connery holds a rose in his hand as he talks about his new movie “The Name of the Rose” at a news conference in London. Scottish actor Sean Connery, considered by many to have been the best James Bond, has died aged 90, according to an announcement from his family. (AP Photo/Gerald Penny, File)
Actor Sean Connery, the ‘original’ James Bond, dies at 90

Oscar-winner was knighted by Queen Elizabeth II in 2000

This house at 414 Royal Ave. became notorious for its residents’ and visitors’ penchant for attracting police. It was also the site of a gruesome torture in August 2018. It was demolished in 2019. KTW
6-year sentence for Kamloops man who helped carve ‘rat’ into flesh of fellow gang member

Ricky Dennis was one of three men involved in the August 2018 attack

Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good

Pay it Forward program supports local businesses in their community giving

Cpl. Nathan Berze, media officer for the Mission RCMP, giving an update on the investigation at 11:30 a.m., Oct. 30. Patrick Penner photo.
VIDEO: Prisoner convicted of first-degree murder still at large from Mission Institution

When 10 p.m. count was conducted, staff discovered Roderick Muchikekwanape had disappeared

Among the pumpkin carvings created this year by Rick Chong of Abbotsford is this tribute to fallen officer Cont. Allan Young.
Abbotsford pumpkin carver’s creations include fallen police officer

Rick Chong carves and displays 30 pumpkins every year

An online fundraising campaign in support of the six-year-old boy, Edgar Colby, who was hit by a car on Range Road Oct. 25 has raised more than $62,000 in a day. (Submitted)
$62K raised in 1 day for boy in coma at BC Children’s after being hit by vehicle in Yukon

The boy’s aunt says the family is “very grateful” for the support they’ve received from the community

Most Read