Artist Bench Guitars founder and luthier Ken Paterson plays one of his custom three-string box guitars. (Contributed)

Artist Bench Guitars founder and luthier Ken Paterson plays one of his custom three-string box guitars. (Contributed)

Salmon Arm luthier rocking the three-string

Two of Ken Paterson’s Artist Bench Guitars are owned by actor Jason Momoa

There’s a lot of music that can be played with just three strings.

This is something Salmon Arm luthier Ken Paterson has learned since building his first three-string box guitar.

Now, 76 box guitars later, Paterson has become adept both at playing the box guitar, and at building them for his business, Artist Bench Guitars.

Modeled after the “cigar-box guitar,” but instead constructed with solid, exotic woods, each of Paterson’s guitars are one-of-a-kind works of art, from their sometimes unconventional parts (such as the Guinness can that was used for the bridge on a guitar built for Aquaman/Justice League actor Jason Momoa), to their custom paint jobs.

Paterson had never played a box guitar before building one, but he had his fill with the six-string variety.

“It’s a kind of strange transition – I airbrushed for about 30 years, I’ve done motorcycles and airbrushed lots of things and I always liked playing the guitar,” said Paterson.

“I started out with a six-string years and years ago, but I got totally frustrated with chords and music theory and all that stuff.”

About three years ago, Paterson came across a video on Youtube of Justin Johnson playing a three-string shovel.

When he heard that bluesy sound, Paterson started looking into three-string instruments and decided to make his own.

“The first one I built, it kind of failed because I didn’t make the neck properly,” said Paterson. “And then I started doing more research and started building them and just fell in love with how simple they are to play and the sound they created, especially when you electrify them…

“They’re super easy to play and you can play pretty well any song on a three string.”

Paterson stressed he doesn’t use cigar boxes for his guitars as they are difficult to find in Canada and the materials used in their construction do not inspire confidence.

“I started making them out of exotic woods like three-quarters-of-an-inch thick walnut,” said Paterson.

“There’s some weight to these guitars.”

The necks used on Paterson’s box guitars are the standard 25.5-inch guitar length, and they tend to be tuned to an open G, though he said it’s endless what they can be tuned to.

Tess Corps, Paterson’s partner and six-to-three string convert, said there’s a community of fellow three-string players who share information and music online.

One of them, Mark Piper, features one of Paterson’s guitars on his Youtube channel, Uncle Mark’s Cigar Box Guitar Lessons.

Paterson’s guitars are also played by Momoa, who was gifted two of them by stunt people working with him.

“He loves drinking Guinness so I used a Guinness can as part of the bridge, and his tattoo is actually on the surface of it,” said Paterson of one of the guitars.

Speaking of good exposure, Paterson and Corps were also thrilled with the vibes at their Artist Bench Guitars tent at the 2019 Salmon Arm Roots and Blues Festival.

“The Roots and Blues Festival was just amazing because, that was basically our first kick at the cat to get our name out there,” said Paterson.

“There was a lot of guitar players coming around…

“They’d pick one up and I guarantee you, within five minutes they’ve got it figured out.

“They were doing chord changes and just having a blast.”

In addition to box guitars, Paterson has built a number of three-string shovel guitars and even a couple of four-string box guitars. He’s also creating a series of Flying-3 guitars (modeled after the iconic Gibson Flying V), including a V designed in tribute to Eddie Van Halen.

“There are no rules with these things; I’ve got free rein,” said Paterson.

Artist Bench Guitars are currently available through the company’s Facebook page, on reverb.com, and they have a display at Solid Urban Studios in Ranchero.

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter

#Salmon Arm

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

 

One of two Artist Bench Guitars built for actor Jason Momoa. (Contributed)

One of two Artist Bench Guitars built for actor Jason Momoa. (Contributed)

One of two Artist Bench Guitars built for actor Jason Momoa. (Contributed)

One of two Artist Bench Guitars built for actor Jason Momoa. (Contributed)

Ken Paterson enjoys having free rein to create whatever he can imagine at Artist Bench Guitars. (Contributed)

Ken Paterson enjoys having free rein to create whatever he can imagine at Artist Bench Guitars. (Contributed)

Just Posted

B.C's COVID-19 dashboard shows the peaks and valleys of cases prior to the record daily report of 132 on April 9, 2021. (Dashboard image)
Interior Health has record day of COVID-19 cases

132 cases reported Friday, April 9, more deaths in Vernon hospital outbreak

School District 83 trustees are leaning towards an option in the school district’s Long Range Facilities Plan that favours making Salmon Arm Secondary’s Sullivan campus and Jackson campus (pictured) both Grade 9-12 schools. (Google maps image)
Letter: Two high school option for Salmon Arm will create ‘have, have not’ situation

Writer concerned with E5 option, says transparent talk about implications needed

Left, Elena Bruns (2015 Rapattack Junior recruit/current Rapattack staff) and Leah Nash (2019 Rapattack Junior recruit/current Rapattack staff) in a helicopter on the Eagle Bluff Fire, August 2019. (Kamloops Fire Centre photo)
Salmon Arm students stick with wildfire fighting after junior Rapattack program

Junior Fire Crew program partners with Salmon Arm Secondary, develops students’ love for job

Work began April 6, 2021 on the Trans-Canada Highway downtown corridor project to improve safety and traffic flow, which will see the traffic light at Ross Street relocated to Fourth Street NE. (Martha Wickett - Salmon Arm Observer)
VIDEO: Traffic slow downs to go through May on Salmon Arm highway corridor

Ministry says night work not planned on Highway 1, single lanes to remain as traffic light changed

B.C. Health Minister Adrian Dix and Premier John Horgan describe vaccine rollout at the legislature, March 29, 2021. (B.C. government)
1,262 more COVID-19 infections in B.C. Friday, 9,574 active cases

Province’s mass vaccination reaches one million people

Vernon Secondary School. (Google Maps)
Case of COVID-19 at North Okanagan high school

VSS exposure announced late Friday, April 9

Librarian Katie Burns with the Fraser Valley Regional Libraries poses for a photo in Chilliwack on June 18, 2019. Monday, April 12, 2021 is Library Workers’ Day. (Jenna Hauck/ Chilliwack Progress file)
Unofficial holidays: Here’s what people are celebrating for the week of April 11 to 17

Library Workers Day, That Sucks! Day, and Wear Your Pyjamas to Work Day are all coming up this week

The Royal’s 1951 visit to Revelstoke. (Photo by Revelstoke Museum and Archives #17)
PHOTOS: Prince Philip visited Revelstoke – twice

The prince died April 9 at the age of 99

Nolan's Pharmasave in downtown Vernon received 200 AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccines Friday, April 9, 2021. (Brendan Shykora - Morning Star)
AstraZeneca vaccines arrive at Vernon pharmacies

Four pharmacies in the city received doses of the COVID-19 inoculant Friday

The RCMP were called to the Alchemy Studio on Thursday, April 8. (Contributed)
Revelstoke yoga class fined for defying COVID-19 orders

The RCMP were called to the Alchemy Studio on April 8

An East Hill resident had their leaf bags torched in front of their home overnight April 8. Less than two weeks prior their garbage can was lit on fire too. (Taryn Allen photo)
Garbage, leaf fires spark fear in North Okanagan

First an East Hill residents’ trash can, then bagged leaves were lit on fire

Okanagan-based All Are Family Outreach Society, which provides support to those struggling from Armstrong to Kelowna, is in need of a new headquarters after leaving a Winfield church in June 2020. (All Are Family Outreach photo)
Okanagan outreach society in ‘desperate’ need after storage unit break-in

All Are Family Outreach had $4,000 in tools stolen from its donation shipping container

Most Read