Handy Howard's got a new string to his bow

Retiree Howard Cox makes stringed instruments from his Sunshine Coast home

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PLUCKY FELLOW: Retiree Howard Cox with some of the instruments he has made on display in his Sunshine Coast home.

PLUCKY FELLOW: Retiree Howard Cox with some of the instruments he has made on display in his Sunshine Coast home.


Why retired fitter and turner Howard isn't fretting about his musical craft.


RETIRED Sunshine Coast fitter and turner Howard Cox is used to being in the workshop - and now he's added another string to his bow.

The walls of Mr Cox's home, in a retirement community in Bli Bli on the Maroochy River, are lined with hand-crafted stringed instruments which he has made himself.

He has made around 70 stringed instruments in the five years since he took up the unique hobby and now creates guitars, ukuleles, banjos and banjoleles out of biscuit tins, cigar boxes, truck hub caps, distinctive wood and, in one case, a large piece of fruit.

Mr Cox, who lives at Halcyon Lakeside, was on holidays when he first saw a cigar box guitar in a shop, which caught his attention.

"I wanted to buy it, but it was too expensive, so I thought to myself 'I could build one of those', and that's exactly what I did," Mr Cox said.

"I looked through a few books, and most of it just involved ad-libbing, which came natural because of my wood and metalwork skills.

"I made the first one out of a biscuit tin, but you can make a guitar out of anything that has a hollow resonation, although some things don't sound as good as the others."

The instruments are the latest phase in Mr Cox's lifetime of craftsmanship, and has also been known to make model boats and aeroplanes.

His experimenting has also led him to transform Mack Truck hub caps, miniature coffins and a gourd - a pumpkin shaped fruit - into musical instruments.

"I don't like building the same thing twice, so I try to do a lot of different shapes and experiment to find out what kind of resonations I can get out of the different materials," he said.

"Some of my early ones weren't so pleasant sounding but you've got to start somewhere."

Over time, Mr Cox has added wood to his guitar-making repertoire, using tone-friendly and distinctive timbers like King Billy pine and Tasmanian blackwood to fashion his instruments.

"Depending on the complexity, a guitar can take anything from three days to a month to make."

His work so impressed the owner of local collectable's shop Montville's Rare Emporium that Mr Cox's creations are now in-store.

The sales help Mr Cox to cover the cost of materials and to gear up for the next guitar, banjo or ukulele he wants to make.

One of his guitars recently went under the hammer for $320 at a Halcyon Lakeside fundraiser while other homeowners have asked Mr Cox to make them an instrument as well.

Mr Cox makes the instruments in his ground-floor garage, which has a workshop for his machinery and tools.

"I spend most of my life in the workshop, so I wouldn't have moved anywhere where I couldn't have my own workshop," he said.

"I have to be using my hands because it's part of my life to build things, repair things or to do things."

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