7 Reverb Builders Making Gear with Recycled Materials

Every year around Earth Day, an inevitable slew of articles surface that take stock of the environmental impact of the music instrument industry in some form — deforestation, packaging waste, pollution from spray finishes or long–distance shipping. New models using alternative, sustainable tonewoods grab the spotlight. Polar bears are mentioned.

But the most meaningful actions that musicians can take to address sustainability are usually not mentioned: buy used gear, buy gear made with recycled materials, and resell your gear when you're through with it.

For musicians, the benefits of buying used — or selling your gear so that someone else can buy used — is something we’ve written about at length.

For manufacturers, repurposing found and waste materials is cost–effective, sets a brand or model apart, and offers the buyer something entirely unique, with eco–friendly brownie points to boot.

Repurposed gear is often the domain of smaller boutique brands, but even Fender has dipped its toe in the water with models using reclaimed redwood and rosewood.

On Reverb, finding smaller builders doing unique work that the big brands can’t or won’t do is one of the joys of the marketplace. Here’s a shortlist of some of the shops working with repurposed materials to make amazing instruments with minimal impact.

Wallace Guitars

Detroit, MI

Detroit is often looked to as the canary in the coal mine of American cities. For that reason, there has been a lot of coverage on efforts to revive its manufacturing and musical core.

Nothing represents this resurrection better than Mark Wallace’s guitars, which use reclaimed wood from Detroit buildings to create reimagined classic instruments. It’s easy to look at the buildings of downtown Detroit, thinking of its history, and wonder what those walls would say if they could speak. Now they can.

2017 Jazzmaster - Detroit Fire Department Series

2017 Telecaster - Michigan Avenue Series

2017 Telecaster - Brewster Wheeler Series

Derby City Custom Drums

Louisville, KY

Each year, Kentucky’s bourbon whiskey empire produces an incredible amount of used quarter–sawn white oak barrels. The folks at Derby City Custom Drums saw the perfect raw material for stave shell drums.

Starting from a solid block of hardwood (as opposed to plywood), their Bourbon King snare shells require much less glue than normal, resulting in a warm, resonant tone. Add on solid brass, chrome–plated lugs that are machined in–house, and you have a drum that looks and sounds like no other.

2016 Bourbon King - Bourbon Barrel Stave Snare Drum

Kochel Guitars

Potomac, MT

What’s the most Montana guitar you can imagine? Perhaps all that comes to mind is a cowboy strumming a beat–up acoustic while heating up beans on the fire. Well, Kochel Guitars is about to change that.

Kochel’s seller shop on Reverb lists all of the repurposed, Montana–specific materials that go into their guitars. They craft guitar bodies from old growth wood originally used buildings near Potomac and fashion nuts from bison and elk bone. Kochel keeps their prices modest to ease the relocation of a guitar from Kochel’s home, home on the range to your own.

Hollowbody Resonator Guitar

Confessional Cigar Box Guitar

Rough Sawn Barnwood Guitar

Analog Outfitters

Rantoul, IL

Analog Outfitters began as a repair shop, but has made a name for itself with its funky amps and cabs built with wood salvaged from old Hammond organs. Once common to many a living room, many of those electric organs now gather dust in storage units and basements. Analog Outfitters gives that gorgeous wood new life in the name of some great, offbeat cab designs.

Analog salvages other parts from Hammonds too, upcycling internal electronics into amplifier heads like its Scanner and Sarge models. When Dr. Frankenstein rearranged human parts into a new creature, it was horrifying. But when Analog Outfitters turns old Hammonds into new gear, we are astounded by their ingenuity.

2016 Scanner

2017 Road Amp Combo

Prisma Guitars

San Francisco, CA

We featured Prisma on our blog a while back, and readers fell head over heels for the beautiful guitars they craft from donated skateboards. This is about as Californian of a rescue endeavor as you could imagine, with Prisma making sure that these skateboards start and end their lives shredding.

As outlined in his interview with us, luthier Nick Pourfard says it takes about three days to pull a skateboard from his massive stockpile of decks and prep it to be turned into a guitar. Though a time–intensive process, it results in some of the most breathtaking new guitars on Reverb.

Toledo

The Duke

Bowman

C.B. Gitty

Rochester, NH

People have been building guitar–like instruments out of their disused cigar boxes for well over a century and a half, but somehow the cigar box guitar never loses its charm. C.B. Gitty has found its spark keeping the original labeling found on the cigar boxes to create some budget string instruments with a lot of character.

But the character doesn’t stop with colorful cigar box guitars. C.B. Gitty also has a line of small amps built in cigar boxes and a strange invention called the “canjo.” The canjo is basically what it sounds like: a banjo–like instruments made out of a beer can. This is backwoods luthierie at its most delightful.

A.J. Gaither's 4-String Cigar Box Guitar

Phillies Perfecto Cigar Box Amplifier

Upcycled Percussion

Portland, OR

Following the trend of giving everyday junk a second career as a music maker, Portland’s Upcycled Percussion has a whole host of creative percussion instruments made out of jingly detritus.

The makers get a lot of mileage out of bottle caps, making rattles and slingshot shakers. They give the same treatment to poker chips and Dungeons & Dragons dice. These are the types of quirky instruments that make a fun addition to your percussion collection or a great gift for your niece or nephew.

Bottle Cap Rattle

Slingshot Shaker

Triominoes Hand Rattle

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