A fine-tuned crutch

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Chatham’s Noel Marentette shows off his latest creation, an electric crutch guitar.

Local man creates an electric crutch guitar

It is said one man’s junk is another man’s treasure, but for Chatham’s Noel Marentette, that junk emits music.

His latest project is an electric six-string slide crutch-jo.

That’s right, he turned a cast-off medical crutch into an electric guitar.

And what better item to use as the slide than an old brown medicine bottle?

Marentette is no stranger to making instruments out of odds and ends. He’s made cigar box guitars and in 2017 made a license plate guitar as his celebration of Canada’s 150th birthday.

This time around, the crutch called to him. Marentette said he was out for a morning drive and noticed a crutch sticking out of a trashcan. He went back, grabbed it and took it down to his workshop.

“I came across it and saw the possibilities. I could see strings on it and a tuner,” he said. “I added a pickup and a bridge. A cheese grater worked perfectly to anchor the tail.”

Who else thinks of using a piece of a cheese grater to hold the strings in place? And who else puts the tail of an instrument at the head?

It works.

With the crutch guitar, the tail is at the bottom end of the crutch, which would normally make contact with the ground for a person using a crutch as a, well, crutch.

“It’s totally reverse when you go to play it. The tuners are at the end where you to go to play and the tail piece is at the fret board,” Marentette said.

Only, there are no frets. That does not stop the musician from finding the notes.

Marentette submitted his information to Our Canada magazine, and that publication labeled his instrument “A COVID Crutch.”

“We all need to lean on music in tough times,” he said.

Marentette said he’s been making unique instruments for the better part of a decade.

“I got interested and researched early stringed instruments. As a musician, I was taken in on how different areas of the world came to make these instruments,” he said.

He’s even made an instrument out of beer cans.

“It was just an ongoing learning experience and hobby. I took beer cans, opened them up, put some fishing lines on them, a neck, and away you go,” he said.

He’s also made a bedpan guitar, so the crutch instrument is not his first foray into health-care-based instrument creation.

“I’m always looking to up-cycle something. I go looking to make a silk purse out of a sow’s ear,” Marentette joked.

Marentette said some of his creations are in his family, while he’s sold others. His instruments can be found as far away as the Muskokas, Detroit, and even the Philippines and Australia.

“They’re eye candy,” he said. “People just like looking at weird, different stuff, especially homemade, up-cycled stuff.”

But all his creations are playable. Some might just take a little getting used to.

Check out Marentette and his crutch-jo here.

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