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Oil Can Guitar

 

For some of us, music is a necessity, and necessity as they say, is the mother of invention. Brothers Adam and Shaun Lee saw lots of musical inventiveness displayed on the streets of their hometown of Johannesburg South Africa, where local street musicians repurposed discarded materials and made them into playable musical instruments. One such instrument that made a big impression on them was the "oil can guitar", and it's the ancestor of the Bohemian Guitars Surf Wax model that is under review here.  

 

What You Need To Know

  • Inspired by South Africa, designed in Atlanta Georgia, and manufactured in China, the Boho Surf Wax is part of the Bohemian Guitars Boho series, which includes the single Strat-style pickup equipped Boho Honey, the dual humbucker equipped Boho Motor Oil, and the twin single coil equipped Boho Moonshine.
  • No, your eyes are not playing tricks on you - made from recycled materials in the shape of an "oil can", that's actually metal that's used for the hollow body of the Surf Wax. The body measures approximately 11" L x 8" W x 5" D. It feels like a small and compact electric when you hold it, but the thickness of the body is similar to a full-sized acoustic; it's a bit weird at first because the neck feels like it's out and away from your body further than it should be, but you quickly become accustomed to it.




  • The body of the Surf Wax is brand new - unlike some of their other models, all the guitars in the Boho series are made from new cans, with graphics done specifically for Bohemian Guitars. The Surf Wax has surfing-themed blue and yellow graphics.

  • The Surf Wax has a 25.5" scale length. The neck is maple with a rosewood fretboard. The shading of the rosewood is a little bleached out in spots, but the 21 frets are well-seated and crowned, with no distracting sharp edges. The neck is a "through body" type, and the neck / body joint is covered with a rubber gasket.




  • Neck width is 1.75" at the nut and 2 1/8" at the 12th fret. The thickness isn't too bad either, measuring 0.875" at the first fret. The profile is a fairly standard C shape, with modestly thick shoulders. It's not a particularly slim or thin neck, but it's not unduly chunky either.

  • The headstock features the Bohemian logo and is painted in a yellow that matches the color used on the body. The tuning machines are no-name models that function okay, but could be smoother - they're something you might want to consider upgrading if you use the guitar a lot.




  • The electronics are about as simple as you can get. A single P90 style single coil pickup is mounted in the middle position on the oil can "body", and with only one pickup, there is no need for a selector switch.

 

  • You get individual volume and tone controls with plastic Strat style knobs. The output jack is mounted on the bottom side of the guitar.

 

  • The hardware is all chrome and while it's nothing fancy, it gets the job done. There is a tune-o-matic style bridge, and the strings anchor with a stop tailpiece. The factory setup job was well done, and the guitar arrived with good action and intonation.

  • The interior of the metal body is reinforced with basswood. This provides additional structural integrity as well as helping with the amplified sound quality.



Limitations

  • The tone control on the review unit was loose and required tightening, which required removal of the rear panel and internal plywood support pieces in order to access it.

  • It's a hollowbody guitar, and while it doesn't feed back quite as readily as some all-wood full-hollowbody guitars, it does have those tendencies when you really crank things up.

  • No case is included. A case is offered ($125.00 MSRP, $99.00 "street" ) as an optional purchase. At this price, expecting a hard shell case to be included would be unreasonable.


Conclusions

This is a fun guitar with a lot of visual vibe. The unique looks are a definite eye-catcher, and would no doubt draw attention on stage. The vibe isn't just skin deep either - there's lots of uniquely quirky tonal mojo happening here too courtesy of the pickup's interaction with the metal body. Adding a piezo pickup to the body might help bring some of that out a bit more for those who are interested in emphasizing it. With only one pickup, the Boho Surf Wax is not the most flexible of guitars, but it does get useful clean tones as well as very greasy overdriven tones that would work well for Roots Rock, Blues, Country, and Americana. It's also wonderful for slide, compliments of its biting, rootsy tone. True, it does take a bit of getting used to the small yet thicker body and the way the neck feels like it's "away" from your body as you play, but you come to terms with that fairly quickly. While it's not going to fool anyone into thinking it's a high-end guitar, the overall quality is bound to be better than what most of us could do if we tried to build one ourselves, and despite its reasonable price tag and no-budget DIY heritage, it's a quite serviceable and playable instrument and far more than just a novelty item to display around the house or studio. With an under three hundred dollar price tag, I suspect we'll see a lot of these guitars being used to add visual pizazz to stage shows and unique tones to recordings.


Resources

Bohemian Guitars Boho Surf Wax oil can guitar ($299.00 "street", available direct from Bohemian Guitars)

Bohemian Guitars Surf Wax product web page

Bohemian Guitars website

 

__________________________________________________



Phil O'Keefe is a multi-instrumentalist, recording engineer / producer and the Senior Editor of Harmony Central. He has engineered, produced and performed on countless recording sessions in a diverse range of styles, with artists such as Alien Ant Farm, Jules Day, Voodoo Glow Skulls, John McGill, Michael Knott and Alexa's Wish. He is a former featured monthly columnist for EQ magazine, and his articles and product reviews have also appeared in Keyboard, Electronic Musician and Guitar Player magazines.  

1 comment
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Mick13  |  July 27, 2017 at 8:20 pm
My girlfriend ordered me one for Christmas from boho guitars. Placed the order in October We just received it yesterday in battered condition dented in several places, one major dent directly in the output jack and missing hardware. The neck does not go all the way through and instead of plywood(like others I've Seen ) is press board. Beyond the incompedence of boho's poor buisness ethics ,0 customer service and false advertisement, they also charged her account for a 38$ tshirt she never ordered almost a year a later. It's an interesting concept but poorly executed and cheaply manufactured. I wouldn't recommend anyone doing buisness with bohemian guitars.
Reply
Mikeo  |  August 24, 2015 at 4:07 pm
I like this one
Reply   |  1 Reply
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