With the weather transitioning, we have a project that can displayed outdoors while the weather is still nice and then brought inside to enjoy until next Spring!
We first saw a guitar planter in 2012 while vacationing in Florida when we visited the botanical gardens in Naples. It was like any traditional botanical garden until we came upon a stunning vignette in the Smith Children's Garden. It featured planters made of items from garage sales, thrift stores and donations to show that expensive flower pots and a lot of space is not needed to have a garden.
This was very much up our alley: repurposing items into planters to save them from going to a landfill! The guitar planter left a lasting impression on both of us. Thinking back, it's probably where my adoration for succulents started to turn into more of an obsession!
Recently Hubs came across this abandoned guitar. He's the best 'Partner in Grime' a girl could ever ask for: always bringing me other people's discarded items!
This guitar was beyond saving as an instrument but absolutely perfect to use as our first victim (I intend to make another one after working out some of the kinks on this one).
The wood on the body was split in many places. That was slightly problematic because instead of cutting away the face entirely, I wanted to leave a 1" border around the perimeter which would still leave the cracks. Having a border was beneficial to helping hold the soil in place, so I decided to embrace the cracks!
Clean the guitar before or after disassembling. Remove the strings by loosening the tuning keys which will ease the tension.
Pull the string out of the hole in the peg. Then pull each string out the bottom of the bridge. Some of the strings were difficult to grasp, so I used a needle nose plier to grab the end.
Remove the neck of the guitar to make it easier to handle the body when it comes time to cut it open. The heel was attached with only one nut and bolt. We didn't have a single socket wrench to fit a square head, it so I used the needle nose pliers to grab it and twist it off.
I saved all the pieces that were removed in a Ziplock so we could reinstall the neck again later. However, we ended up replacing the hardware to make it more sturdy.
Set aside the neck. Now you're left with just the body. I made a template so I could cut out certain areas of the face and transferred the pattern to the guitar (head to our blog to see the process). I placed pieces of green tape across the areas I didn't want to cut so I wouldn't accidentally cut too far.
You'll notice that this guitar didn't have pick guard, so I drew one on.
Cut Away Each Section
Now it was finally ready to cut. I took the body outside to the garage where it didn't matter if I kicked up sawdust. My tools of choice were a jigsaw with a fine metal cutting blade and a rotary tool.
I started with the rotary tool to cut the straight lines, but then realized it was easier just to drill a small hole in each corner to accommodate the jigsaw blade. The rotary tool did come in handy though for cutting the ribs.
I followed all the pencil lines with the jigsaw. Cutting through the ribs met with resistance; if you experience that too, just be slow and persistent with the jigsaw (as you'll see on the video). You may need to use the rotary tool and utility knife in some spots.
If you have a guitar that's in better shape, you can skip this step, however I had to fix all the splits in the remaining wood. I placed a popsicle stick beneath each split, marked it and cut it to size with scissors (just don't use your best scissors). The sticks were glued onto the underside of the wood then clamped until dry. There are more details on our blog about how to handle tricky areas if you have to make repairs like this.
Once all the clamps were removed, it was time to give the wood a light sand with fine grit sandpaper. I started with the front and sides.
To remove all the dust, Hubs lightly misted a cotton rag with water and wiped each piece clean.
Waterproof with Sealant
To prevent the wood from rotting on the inside due to moisture from the soil, we used a product called Liquid Rubber. You'll find more info and a link to it on our blog.
Hubs likes to wet the brush with water first before painting, and then flick it out, so he prepped the brush for me. I ended up applying three thin coats to the inside of the guitar over the course of a weekend. Each coat needs to dry 12 - 24 hours before re-coating so this was a Friday-Sunday project!
I taped off around the sound hole and edge so I could paint the 'pick guard' with two coats of black acrylic craft paint.
The inspiration guitar looked like it had been artfully stained with blue and green aniline dyes. Our curbside find, on the other hand, was bland in comparison. I decided to apply an NGR Spirit Stain in a blue-green shade right over the sanded wood.
I taped paper on the inside of the guitar and sprayed two coats of NGR. I was a little heavy handed with it; I probably should have stopped after one coat. Although it's darker than I would've liked, I still love how it turned out. What's even better was that I didn't have to strip the guitar down to bare wood to get the look of stain!
I also did the bridge and neck of the guitar.
After letting the stain dry, we gave everything four coats of water based Varathane to seal it so the exterior surfaces would be protected from water exposure too.
Reassemble and Plant
When it came time to bolt the neck back onto the body of the guitar, we replaced the bolt, washer (we used a much larger one) and added a locking nut. We devised a way to put the bridge back into the same position it was originally on the guitar (more about that on our blog).
We planted the guitar with succulents and softened the edges with moss. Choose Your Moss Wisely! I was short on time and picked up some moss from the dollar store. It looks great but it's actually NOT a good idea to use dollar store moss in this instance because the green dye will leach anytime it comes into contact with water. Dollar store moss is fine for projects that will never be watered, but spend the money for high quality moss!
Watering and Display
We chose not to drill holes in the guitar, but if you plan to keep this outside, you definitely should drill drainage holes! Head to our blog to see our trick for not overwatering the guitar planter.
The guitar should sit horizontally for several weeks until the roots are established and it can be displayed vertically. We found a guitar stand online to display it vertically:
For more inspiring ideas in and around the home follow us on Birdz of a Feather and social media:
Head to our blog for more reveal pictures: you'll also find a picture of the original guitar at the Naples Botanical Garden that inspired this project :)
Crochet for a Cure
If you haven’t heard, we’ve just launched a pattern shop, where we’re donating 100% of our proceeds to Alzheimer’s. You’ll find patterns, like our signature Kayla Pillow, Air Planter Pods and Tooth Fairy Pillow (shown below), available to purchase as a donation to our Alzheimer’s fundraiser.
Come visit us to purchase a pattern; with 100% going to charity, it’s a win-win!
Enjoyed the project?
- Guitar (roadside rescue)
- Succulents (garden centre)
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Laurie Cole on Aug 07, 2022
This is a beautiful idea, what a great addition to the garden, and quite unique...Now I'll be on the hunt for old guitars.
Birdz of a Feather on Aug 08, 2022
I wouldn't do that to a guitar either :). This guitar was beyond repair and in the garbage. I waited 7 years to find one that could no longer be used as an instrument.
Really looks great and you did a super job. Am wondering how you water it, especially inside? Do you use a mister? And how do the succulents hold up inside through the winter?
What is recommended to refurbish a vintage wrought iron bird cage for a parrot?