featured roving canal trader
Chris Hicks - chilligibbon's stringed things
We have been trading from the canal now for 5 years, albeit the last couple of years have been very quiet on the festival front! Karen, Ozzy dog and myself have been living aboard now for about 7 years, quickly progressing from our first small leisure boat to a 57ft liveaboard within about 18 months, having fallen in love with the lifestyle, surroundings and characters on the cut.
I am a keen amateur musician and have played bass guitar in a few local bands during my younger years but now am firmly set on the ukulele and enjoy playing with a ukulele group. Also we have many an impromptu jam session on the towpath or in the canalside pubs!
I had a 3 string guitar a few years ago that someone had made from an old whiskey tin, after a while I took it apart to make a few changes to it. This progressed to me doing some investigating into the history of cigar box guitars and then moving on to making myself a guitar from scratch from an old wooden cigar box. This turned out well, so I made another one, and another one!
At this point I had a couple of friends on the canal asking if I would make them a guitar, so I did and one thing led to another and we ended up becoming roving traders so we could sell as and when we got the chance to travel and attend small Canal based festivals.
Initially I was making the instruments on the towpath with a few tools when the weather allowed, now I have an 8 x 6 shed on our mooring so have a little more comfort and room for a few more tools!
Every instrument looks and sounds different depending on the box or tin that you use, I started by searching eBay and junk shops and experimenting with anything that looked like it might work, now I get people giving me tins and boxes so have a good selection at the moment.
Once I had sussed the guitars, I started to make ukuleles as they are very popular at the moment. Both the guitars and ukuleles are fairly compact so make good boat instruments without taking up too much room.
I tune my guitars to an open chord which means you can play with just one finger across all 3 strings on any fret and make a chord so it is easy to get a tune quickly for beginners but is also versatile enough for a more established player to use more complicated chords or play with a slide for a real bluesy feel.
I build instruments for stock and also will take commissions if a customer has a suitable box or tin that they would like converting.
Alongside the instruments, Karen makes crochet blankets, buntings, cushion covers and mushroom vent covers and also always has a good selection of her handmade rag rugs available when we are trading on the towpath or online.
Recently she has made matching blankets and cushions to finish off the décor in an historic back cabin and can make to order if you have something specific in mind.
How much fun can you have with an old box? Chris Hicks, trading as chilligibbon's stringed things, is the maker of Cigar Box and vintage tin guitars, ukuleles and other musical instruments. 'From First aid to Glenfiddich to Jacobs Crackers, we can make any tin of the right size into a great instrument.'