Beau Theige can take just about anything and turn it into a guitar. First, he used a cigar box. Then he moved on to cake pans, license plates and antifreeze cans.
The North Dakota-based father of three builds the stringed instruments in his garage and sells them to customers across the United States through his website (beauguitar.com; guitars cost anywhere from $50 to $600). Right now, it’s his full-time job: He’s creating inventory for a blues festival in Fargo, where he plans to be a vendor.
But before Beau disappears into his garage-turned-workshop, he shares the instruments’ origin story, the sources of his creativity and his latest how-to project.
A custom order pine guitar adorned with a Minnesota license plate and a metal Summit sign.
It all started on Youtube.
Beau is an amateur handyman: He uses how-to videos when he needs to fix his air-conditioning or lawnmower. One day while sifting though Youtube, Beau stumbled on a video with a guy building a guitar out of a cigar box. He thought, I could do that.
Business took off fast.
When a friend tried to throw away seven cigar boxes in November 2014, Beau took them instead. He built his first guitars with them, and a local bookstore displayed them. Word got out, and by Christmas that year, he’d sold 20. Today, he’s made more than 130—and says he’s six orders behind.
A guitar made from an antifreeze can
They sound incredible.
Many people buy Beau's guitars as pieces of art, but he wants them to sound good, too. So he works with local musicians to make sure they’re completely playable. “They have different tones,” Beau says. “Some of them are more hollow, some of them have a twangier sound, but for the most part they sound like an electric guitar.”
He finds materials everywhere.
Beau's wife used to drag him to antiques shows, but he just couldn’t get into them until he started his business. Now he’s the one who spends hours rummaging. He also hits up the local Salvation Army and yard sales. His favorite item to transform into a guitar? “Old metal cake pans with the lids still on them,” Theige says (hear a cake pan guitar in action here).
A "panjo" and a guitar made from a Bundt pan
He makes custom guitars. And they can get personal.
Beau doesn’t always choose what his next guitar will look like. Sometimes customers send materials to him. “I do some memorial guitars,” he says. “A guy’s mom had passed away, and he found her old Cadillac plate in the garage. He had me make one to remember her by.”
Practice makes perfect.
Beau admits, “Some of the original ones that I gave to my buddies aren’t very high quality.” But now they are durable. “I almost have an assembly line process when I put them together, and that keeps my standards and quality up.”
Beau makes microphones from soup cans, too.
He didn’t play guitar before. But he’s trying to learn.
“When I sell them, I have a lot of people who want to hear how they play, so I’m trying to teach myself through Youtube,” Beau says. “I can play three or four songs now and show people what they can do.”
He loves what he does.
“I really like creating something out of nothing,” he says. “It’s really taken off over the last year and a half, a lot more than I thought it would. So now I just want to see how far I can take it.”
Photos courtesy of Beau Theige Custom Guitars