Hemp-Made Canna Guitar is the Real Deal
Maximum Yield contributor Alan Ray is an award-winning songwriter, so it’s no surprise he found a luthier in Germany who makes guitars out of hemp and tracked him down for a very interesting interview.
Although classified as different varieties, cannabis and hemp belong to the same species of plant, Cannabis sativa. What a remarkable plant it is, too. From hemp’s medicinal CBD oil for aches and pains to its THC-charged cousin’s quiescent and positive effects on PTSD sufferers and more, she is truly one of nature’s most amazing cultivars. Few plants — scratch that — no plant can match the seemingly infinite number of consumer goods derived from Cannabis sativa. Not even close.
Even as one of the oldest plants in the world, cannabis continues to prove itself an extraordinary herb whose bounteous versatility borders on the miraculous. And has for quite some time. For instance… did you know that up until 1883 all paper in the world was made from hemp fiber?
Hemp vs Marijuana
Legally and literally the main difference between marijuana and hemp is the measure of psychoactive THC (tetrahydrocannibinol) and the amount of CBD (cannabidiol) each contains. While medical and recreational marijuana can produce THC levels into the high 20 percent range, hemp cannot. It generates a mere 0.3 percent or less by comparison. That wouldn’t get a fly high. But then again, hemp contains a far greater measure of medicinal CBD than recreational or medical marijuana sans the psychotropic dynamics.
But Wait! There’s More!
As one of the strongest naturally accruing fibers in the world, hemp is transformed or processed into thousands of everyday goods and materials. Going back to its versatility, Forbes reported some 25,000 products worldwide are made or derived from hemp. They can now make that 25,000 plus one. But in contrast to its prior applications, this latest derivative isn’t eaten, smoked, swallowed, worn, or applied to the skin. It’s strummed. Say what?
These Times They Are a Changin’
Should you not know, a luthier (lutey-er) is a person who builds or repairs stringed musical instruments. And while instruments similar to the guitar have been around for thousands of years, the guitar began its upgraded modifications in Spain during the early 16th century. Then in the mid-19th century legendary luthier Antonio Torres Jurado is credited with recreating and to a great extent, standardizing, the acoustic style of guitar we recognize today.
Be that as it may, throughout the centuries and no matter the craftsman, their hands all worked with the same medium, wood. Until now.
Cannabis Strikes a Chord with a Luthier
Now it’s the 21st century where an Old-World instrument meets a modern-day luthier working at an even deeper level by building guitars from what wood is made of: cellulose fibers. Hemp fibers to be exact. Through this union, music and marijuana have been fused together so tightly, they transcend their spiritual bond and become literally, physically intertwined. It’s a marvelous achievement in a raft of ways and it’s called the Canna Guitar.
Composing a Guitar from Cannabis
Jakob Frank is the 32-year-old owner of and Master Luthier at Canna Guitar in Baden-Württemberg, Germany. Jakob is also the Canna Guitar creator and designer. His distinctive, homegrown instruments are the culmination of his longstanding dream blended with today’s technology and the expression of his own artistry. Oh, and some cannabis, too. But only in the guitar body.
With inventive new-design concepts, the aptly named Canna Guitar forges new pathways into guitar composition, style, and innovation. Its body is comprised totally of hemp fibers and water, producing a strong and organic material known as Hempstone. This composite is not only stronger and more durable than wood, but more scratch and chip resistant.
To form the body, Jakob begins with hemp paper as his raw material. Hemp paper is produced by stripping the fibrous pulp from the plant then shredding, grinding, and pressing it into thin sheets to dry. Remarkably, these sheets of processed cellulose form the basis for what is to become a beautiful musical instrument.
The next step is to create the Hempstone from the paper. The recipe is no secret. Ground hemp fibers and water. The secret lies in how it’s processed. Natural mineral pigments are added to create a desired color. When the proper consistency is reached, the hemp mixture is sprayed by hand over a preformed mold. Once dried you have a guitar body of Hempstone so hard it is smoothed with an angle grinder, yet, lighter than a traditional wooden body.
In total, nearly 90 percent of the guitar is made from hemp fibers. Naturally the neck and front of the guitar are made of wood. Beautiful wood.
- Newer and Better Ways to Process Hemp
- America’s Hemp Hotspots
- Differentiating Between Industrial Hemp and Marijuana
As a player myself, the concept of a guitar made of cannabis was intriguing. But after a bit of research, I was pretty convinced this axe was much more than just some six-stringed novelty. I lined up a Q&A with Jakob.
Hello Jakob. Thank you so much for taking this interview.
I’m happy to do it.
So, when and where did the inspiration for the Canna Guitar begin?
I was in school... back in my fourth semester during my industrial design studies; I think it was 2013.
I found it in my research for guitar designs. I found the MADA Guitar, designed by Adam Wehsely-Swiczinsky, using Hempstone. The MADA guitar is electric, and I thought that the material was much better suited for an acoustic, so I contacted Norbert Schmid (in Austria) who makes the Hempstone.
I created the first models later in 2015 as part of my bachelor thesis.
How long have you been in the Canna Guitar business?
Officially, since May of 2017.
What did you do before becoming a luthier?
I studied industrial design.
Are you a musician yourself?
I have played the guitar for myself since I was 15 and just started to play the bass as well.
Are you the sole designer of all your guitars?
Yes, everything is designed by me.
Whose idea was it to place the f-hole on top of the guitar body?
The off-center sound hole isn’t a new idea. It’s meant to increase the active vibrational plate of the top. I placed it at the cutaway so it also allows for an easier access to the higher frets. The side port is also not my invention. I like it a lot, though, because it gives the player a more 3D sound as well as adding some bass frequencies to the mix.
What wood is used for the face of the guitar and the neck?
For the woods, I usually stick to local woods, such as maple, walnut, or plum. For the necks I usually use some sort of maple. I like Curly, Roasted, and Birdseye. But I also experiment with new materials such as Hempwood or Sonowood.
How much hemp fiber goes into making a Canna Guitar body?
A typical Hempstone body weighs about 750 grams or 1.65 pounds. But to make it we use about double that if you count the stuff we have to cut off and the overspray.
It’s also a very environmentally friendly material to work with, isn’t it?
Yes, it consists only of natural hemp fibers and water.
How long does it take to create a guitar using this method?
It depends. If I make a batch of five guitars, it’s about 70 hours. But I have spent over 200 hours on one guitar as well when I am building something new or more difficult.
Is the Canna Guitar only acoustic?
They are mainly acoustic, but I usually put a pickup (transducer) in them, just in case. I also made one with a Humbucker [pickup] before, so no limitation there.
What’s been the reaction from musicians who’ve played one?
Mainly people were surprised about the sound and volume of the guitars. I think most [people] didn’t expect them to sound very good. Many might think it’s just a unique design but are surprised to learn they actually sound great as well.
I understand a famous guitarist or two now own a Canna Guitar.
Yes, I made a guitar for Nadia Kossinskaja very recently.
The famous classical guitarist from the Ukraine? She’s big time.
Yes. Also, James Bartholomew (Big YouTuber) has one. He made a review and spoke very highly about the guitar.
I actually watched that video and Bartholomew loves this guitar. Well, alright Jakob, I think that about covers it. Thank you very much, man.
Being comprised of cannabis fibers definitely adds to the coolness of these purpose-minded instruments, but it’s clear their remarkable tone-color, ease of play, and natural beauty take them octaves above mere novelty. This is a serious instrument, and some really nice thought went into the design and feel of this guitar and players are taking note.
With all the doom and gloom going around, it’s refreshing to see a creative and dedicated pathfinder like Jakob realizing his dreams. So many go up in smoke.
Written by Alan Ray
Alan Ray has written five books and is a New York Times best-selling author. Additionally, he is an award-winning songwriter with awards from BMI and ASCAP respectively. He lives in rural Tennessee with his wife, teenage son, and two dogs: a South African Boerboel (Bore-Bull) and a Pomeranian/Frankenstein mix.