CORONAVIRUS - we are continuing to work as normal. We have reduced our number of carrier collections and Post Office drops to 2 per week,  so please note that deliveries may be little a slower than usual.



A few thoughts about why I don't post on internet forums too often.... 0

The internet is a wonderful thing, but it's also fraught with many perils too. There are website forums (fora?) and Facebook groups for cigar box guitar, resonator guitar, slide guitar...just about anything music related that you can think of, and they can be a wonderful resource for information. However, on occasion, they can also be the source of frustration, misinformation, boasting in public, the cause of arguments, the  breaking up of friendships, and an arena for the hurling of the vilest and most base insults.


These days I find myself dropping in less and less often at some of the internet haunts that I used to frequent, partly because I'm too busy to get involved, but more often because expressing any opinion or proffering advice is met with a tirade of negativity and snide comments. I find this rather depressing, so these days, in the main, I prefer to stay away from these sources of irritation.


One huge problem is that the internet has created thousands, if not millions, of "overnight experts" who are willing to share their views with everyone, and in the worst cases, someone asking for advice on a subject will be presented with an answer that is quite obviously incorrect, based on no personal experience, and then hawked around and defended as the Gospel Truth. It often comes from reading something on the interweb that is already wrong, or misinterpreting it, and then presenting this as the only possible view on the subject. I now find myself keeping a low profile on this sort of discussion, because it just becomes a point-scoring excercise for some folk. I hate to see bad advice being given out on something that I'm passionate about, and sometimes I feel I have to step in, simply to tell someone what the easiest way of doing something is, based on my own experience. This often attracts the accusation of being elitist,  because I'm a professional (by which I mean that I earn my living as a guitar maker, teacher and musician) and of being a "know-it'all" because I have some years of experience and some useful practical advice which I can to offer. It's not pleasant to offer a few words of guidance or to try and gently correct someones error and then get a whole load of nastiness thrown about online, but sometimes, despite the egregious nature of the errors and misinformation being peddled, I keep well out of it. It's not worth the ill-feeling and negativity that it generates. 


Some forums have gone from being a real internet community to the stomping ground of a few noisy individuals, and I try and follow the words of the Desiderata, "Avoid loud and aggressive persons, they are vexations to the spirit". Some sites have gone from a position where people want to share their creations and ideas, to a place where folk only want to show off and promote the sale of their products. Often these are wannabe guitar makers, which is fine, but these people don't bother to get themselves a website or internet shop and sell to the wide, wide world: they clutter up discussion forums with pseudo-commercial advertising. It's great that the whole cigar box guitar thing has continued to grow, but the default position for many small hobby guitar makers seems to be that they are trying to sell it their wares through forums aimed at other smalltime hobby guitar makers....there are quite a few big fish in little ponds. The better forums have strict posting policies and a degree of  active site admin, but these seem to be in the minority, in many cases it's a free for all, and all the worse for it.


Anyhow, I'll keep ploughing my own furrow,  making my guitars (over 670 of them to date), and teaching other people to make them too (it must be well over 1200 people by now). If you spot one of my comments on a guitar forum, try not to be nasty to me, or to other people come to that....I'm only trying to be helpful. Back to work for me, I've got guitars to make.


  • John Wormald

"Clog Me Up, Beeyatch!!!"..a short tour of the Low Countries 0

Well that just about wraps up the touring schedule for 2014 for me and Mr Belly..a quick trip over to Belgium and the Netherlands for 3 gigs and 2 workshops, and a mere 1300 miles under the wheels. Huge thanks to Ozzy VanDer Loo of Chulahoma Music and Hans Singers of Cafe Pallieter who arranged things for us, and for all who came along to make guitars and to listen to us. It was, in the words of Mr HB's song, a Long, Long Road, but worth the effort and time taken to drive through 4 countries and back for a weekend's work. Things didn't start too auspiciously, after a 4.00am start from the Hollowhaus, we had to drive cautiously through Stygian darkness and thick mist...with Mr HB feeling increasingly groggy and car-sick...then hammering round the M25 with him hanging out of the passenger window until we managed to find a stop. Fortunately the rest of the day wasn't too bad..apart from dreadful traffic at Antwerp, this time the satnav tried to avoid the worst of the ring road...but we were still about 1 1/2 hours behind schedule when we arrived at our promotor's gaff in the Netherlands, So with only the briefest of breaks, we transferred some gear into Ozzy's van and headed down the megacity 6 lane motorway to Rotterdam for what seemed like an interminable stop-start trip. We were booked in at a really nice place, Dizzys jazz club and had a wonderfully warm welcome from the lady who ran the place (having learned the correct etiquette  in the Netherlands of the three kisses  always works well when greeting a lady). We managed to shoehorn Ozzys long wheelbase van into a parking space right outside the venue, but this is one of the problems with big city gigs - the difficulty of finding a parking space can be really stressful, and fitting in a 2.7tonne Merc van into a regular car parking space required nerves of steel and a lot of to-and-froing.


Still, ensconced in the bar with a slap up feed of excellent local grub, we had a cracking gig...a fairly small audience (yes, there was a big football match on that night...and last time we were up against  a Seasick Steve concert), but to their credit they all came right to the front of the room to hear us play. A steady drive home saw us back at base at 2.00am...600 miles covered and a 22 hours working day to kick off the tour.


We had Friday a we went to see the the National War and Resistance Museum at Overloon, the scene of one of the largest tank battles of WWII.  I found that parts of it reduced me to tears, particularly the sections about the "hunger winter" and the forced labour factories, as I have connections thru' my wife with Dutch family members who suffered dreadfully during this terrible period of conflict.  Ozzy also has direct family connections with this time, as do so many Dutch people, as his grandfather was in the resistance, and climbed up the church steeple of Asten to watch the Germans advancing towards the town across the flat terrain. We finished the day with a quick shopping trip to stock up with all those foodstuffs that I can't get in the UK, but which my family love. I'm sure most of it will seem unpalatable and weird (apart from the strong Dutch and Belgian Trappist beers)...fritessauce (sweet mayo for putting on French fries), salt licorice drops, oyster flavoured prawn crackers, hagelslag (chocolate sprinkles for putting on bread at breakfast), sweet & spicy "ketjap" soy sauce, extra hot chilli "sambal" paste, syrup waffles, Spekulaas ginger biscuits...basically, loads of sugar, salt, fat and alcohol...Dutch health food, that's what makes them the tallest people in Europe!


So off to Belgium early next morning for a small workshop held at the local folk music centre. They have a whole building devoted to promoting folk music and traditions, and we were treated to a lovely impromptu recital at lunchtime on the hammered dulcimer and the Hommel, a short of short scale dulcimer. We also heard some cracking dance tunes during the afternoon played on accordian and spoons.

Trying out the instruments made by members of  Westelfolk - Hollowbelly with a diatonic diddley bow and me trying the Hommel - that's a hammered dulcimer in the foreground.


Learning to solder a pickup.


As soon as we had finished, it was off to Cafe Pallieter to get set up for the gig...although quite a bit of the bar was occupied by a brand new Ducati sports tourer and a beautiful vintage 500cc Royal Enfield, owned by Hans, the gaffer at the bar.

Bikes duly pushed outside, we set up for the evening...including our own PA, which we usually carry to cover these sort of small town bars. We got rolling, and by the time I was into my set, the place was pretty busy, with several people in the house who had seen us before, including some from Brussels, which is a fair step away. With another heavy day ahead of us, we got to bed at a respectable hour - we were staying in the attic room above the very convenient, apart from two flights of near-vertical staircases which are typical of these old buildings.


In the morning, it was easy hour's drive, under grey winter skies through the Flanders countryside back into Dutch Brabant, to met up with our promotor Ozzy at Cafe t'Spektakel, at typical traditional "bruin cafe" in Asten.


A full house for the workshop kept us busy all day, interrupted by the bizzare visit by Sinterklaas's (Santa Claus) little helpers, the "Zwarte Pieten", spreading jollity and handing out sweeties and gingerbread cookies.. In the Low Countries, Santa arrives earlier than in the UK, the 5th December being Sinterklassavond (St Nicholas' Night), on a white horse, by boat from Spain, accompanied by moorish black-faced helpers..."Black Pete", dressed in full renaissance get-up with silk doublet and feathered cap. In recent years this traditional character has been the cause of increasing controversy, as may well be imagined, so the days of this tradition may well be numbered.


With a lunch of sandwiches and a delicious homeade pumpkin soup under our belts, we carried on and got 22 guitars completed, and Hollowbelly then taught everyone how to play - all in all a tiring but very satisfying day's work. A quick sprint back to Ozzy's for dinner, then back to the bar to soundcheck at 6.00pm. 


Opening for Hollowbelly at Cafe t'Spektakel



Main set by Hollowbelly...playing to a good came from as far afield as Germany for the evening. We enjoyed a great sound both on-stage and in the room, due to a super PA, and most importantly a great sound engineer (top tip for budding performers...always thank the sound engineer, they are a vital part of your performance, so don't forget to tell them so). 

This Sunday night gig started at an early hour, so we were off stage by a very civilised 9.20pm. Here's Hollowbelly after the gig making his selection from the extensive range of fine beers on offer. I was drinking only coke (yes, it really is rock 'n' roll, but driving safe and legally are all part of the deal of being on tour), so we packed everything into the car and drove back to Ozzy's to wind down and relax. We did, I must admit, somewhat over-indulge ourselves a little after such a hard few days, one bottle of Jack Daniels having it's neck thoroughly wrung dry, and Ozzy asking me to make glass after glass of White Russians, but I reckon we'd earned it. So, after sleeping the sleep of the righteous, we were back on the road late morning and on our way...a smooth circuit of the sometimes appallingly congested Antwerp ring road, a quick diversion to a French supermarket to stock up on more Belgian beer and good French wine at excellent prices and we arrived in time for an early crossing thru' the Channel tunnel.


Our wheels hit Blighty's shores around 4.30pm, and we were again blessed by the traffic gods, having a very steady transit of the M25, and we were back at the Hollowhaus by 10.00pm. I stopped over and was on my way back to Birmingham, after fixing Mr HBs main stage 3 string guitar, and with the Pyronator 4 string resonator  left in my charge for a bit of an overhaul and repair...countless gigs, rehearsals...and a bit of contact with the stage and microphone stands takes their toll on a gigging instrument. 


So, 2 workshops, 3 gigs and 1300 miles in a weekend...."Doesn't it sometimes feel like work?" I was asked by a member of the audience at the bar of the Cafe Pallieter....damned right it does, but it's what we do. Prettige Kerstdagen en een Gelukkig Niewjaar! Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year to all!

  • John Wormald

Christmas Orders 0

The last dates for our Christmas orders are the 15th of December for Europe and USA to be sent out on the 16th, and the 18th for the UK to be sent out on the 19th.

Any orders that are placed after these dates are not guaranteed to be with you for Christmas. 

  • John Wormald

Winter draws on... 0

So, I've done the last of my 2015 UK workshops and gigs, with just a short sortie over to Europe to finish off the year. I'll be travelling with my good friend and collaborator Hollowbelly, visiting Rotterdam, Westerlo (near Antwerp) and Asten (near Eindhoven) for a few gigs and some guitar building workshops, courtesy of Chulahoma Music


In the meantime, I'm going full-tilt to finish off my back orders for custom guitars and getting stick ready for Christmas. Here's one nearly ready, a Daphne Blue Resocaster.



For 2015, I'm planning more workshops, and next year I'll be running learn-to-play days with Hollowbelly. These promise to be extra special, with input from the both of us on how to play cigar box guitar. The first one is lined up for Swindon in March, as part of the Brunel Vintage and Retro Weekend....and on the grapevine I hear that Indian Motrcycles and a Wall of Death will be featured...what's not to like!

  • John Wormald

Running to catch up... 0

So, what's been happening?  Just back from two full days at Upton upon Severn Blues Festival, running an all-day open mic, Saturday night gig and Sunday sessions at The White Lion with my band Chickenbone Blues.  As usual, the John, the gaffer at The White Lion makes a real effort for the weekend...a great range of real ales and ciders (which inevitably ran out!), loads of great hot food on offer all day....and a super groovy laid-back vibe.


Next up is Birmingham Jazz Festival Fringe this coming weekend at The King's Head Bearwood, again with the band and some old will be real pleasure to be sharing the stage with them...acoustic young guns Mellow Peaches,my old buddies  Dermot "Dog" Walker's Trio, and the wonderful Kirsty and Kenny, acoustic blues duo with some super authentic old timey blues and gospel..blues shouting and slide playing at it's very best.

A quick holiday break, and then back for Bushwacked Bike Festival, Barrelhouse Blues in Elstead (with a cigarbox guitar making workshop), Mosely Folk Festival...that's the end of August taken care of, then away to Belgium in September for Aaarschot Rockt and the 1st Dutch Cigar Box Guitar Festival in Ommen.  


  • John Wormald

More UK Festival dates 0

I'm pleased to announce that I will be playing at the Lunar Festival in Warwickshire (6-8 June),Simon Says Festival in Leicester (26-27 July), Moseley Folk Festival in Birmingham (29th-31 August),  and HayFest in Hayfield Derbyshire(3-5 Oct). One of the cool things about this is who is also on the bill at these events...Donovan, The Crazy World of Arthur Brown ) Lunar), Martin Carthy (Moseley), Andy Fairweather Low(HayFest) cool is that!!

I'll be taking my shop out on the road and running learn to play cigar box guitar sessions at these events...and at HayFest I'll be doing a "Make & Play" guitar making workshop (there will be special festival ticket / workshop combo deal, details to announced later).


  • John Wormald