Once George has all the materials, he lays them out in his woodshop, selects the appropriate pick-up system to amplify the instrument, installs the frets, and, finally, adds design flourishes. Like the music they play, themes vary: some instruments reflect art nouveau or art deco influences, others are more modern. “The boxes and tins really dictate which direction and which style I take,” George says. “The fun is creating a story from the materials.”
String Tinkers has built 20 meticulously crafted instruments exclusively for Vintage & Modern. The one-of-a-kind items are works of art, and they’re also functioning instruments for serious musicians. “They all play well, they all sound good,” says Don. So good that String Tinkers’ instruments have been featured in Bluegrass Today magazine and on the website Guitarnoize.com. They were even played in a spontaneous jam at the Brimfield Antiques Festival.
ot too long after moving to Northeast Connecticut, George Brin met Don Spaeth and Anthony Foronda at a café where they play in a band. George, a furniture designer and luthier, enjoyed discussing music with Don, a ukulele and acoustic guitar player, and design with Anthony, a graphic designer and professor. After seeing George’s work at a local gallery, Don (who is also a private investor) asked George to build him a guitar. Soon, they were talking about other possibilities: making repurposed stringed instruments for jug bands, how old skateboards might be used. Eventually, they decided to use cigar and vintage tin boxes, and last spring they started selling their unique guitars, banjos and ukuleles.
The process, a complex composition, starts with the search for perfect cigar cartons and tin boxes. “Finding good quality can be difficult,” explains George, who has found cedar and mahogany boxes in New York and Providence, where he teaches at RISD. They hunt for a solid wood box that they can ‘tap’ and hear a tone or note. “We get really geeky about tin cans,” says George. “The thicker, sturdier cookie tins are the best, particularly if the lid is formed or vaulted in the center. They tend to have more volume and ‘cluck.’” Reclaimed flooring is used to make the fret boards and necks.