With two pickups, a Gibson-style bridge, a 21-fret neck, and a low eBay “Buy It Now” price, it was easy to pull the trigger for this guitar, inspired by the instruments of South African street musicians.
Is this metal machine hillbilly chic or too hard to handle?
I’ve always been a sucker for weird guitars, and when I saw this Bohemian Moonshine guitar on eBay it had me at “hello.” It’s actually made out of a deep rectangular metal can, with two single-coil pickups, a Gibson-style bridge, and a 21-fret neck. I did some research before pulling the trigger and found out that Bohemian makes many different models with different prices. This Moonshine model had a list price of $299. I wasn’t crazy about the configuration of the two pickups, with what amounts to a neck pickup and a middle pickup (instead of a bridge one). But the Moonshine on eBay had a “Buy It Now” price of $189 with free shipping, so I pulled the trigger.
When you play one of these Moonshine guitars, it’s a challenge!
When it arrived, I realized this guitar was brand-spanking new. It had never been taken out of its original shipping box. Sometimes that can be good, sometimes bad. In my case, it was bad. The guitar needed a setup badly. The strings were set pretty high from the Atlanta-based shop, as if they expected you to play slide on it. Intonation was way off, and the pickups were physically located too far from the strings to have any bite.
Raising the pickups to improve tone was a challenge due to the Moonshine’s interior bracing.
The workmanship was okay, though. So I went to work lowering the bridge and setting the intonation. But the pickups were unable to be adjusted high enough for me. I had to roll up my sleeves and go inside the can’s body to take the springs out of the pickups in order to raise them 1/8" more. This is tricky business, because even though the back comes off the can easily enough (six screws), it’s kinda cramped quarters in there because of the bracing. All in all, it took me about two hours to set the guitar up the way I wanted.
So next came the moment of truth: plugging in. When I first plugged into an amp, the guitar started giving me weird feedback at even low volume. The other thing I noticed is that this can guitar is really deep to physically play. It measures over 5" thick—deeper than an acoustic or a jazz guitar. Most of us are used to having the right hand at a certain angle to the strings, so when you play one of these Moonshine guitars, it’s a challenge!
Installing a bridge pickup may be in order, since the builder’s design is essentially a neck-and-middle configuration.
So is it a keeper? The jury is still out. I love the idea of a can guitar, but the can is just too dang deep to play comfortably. If I keep it, I’ll probably add a bridge pickup so the guitar can have a better variety of sounds. But carving out metal is quite different than routing out wood. I pity the guitar tech who will need to do that. (Jack Dillen, apologies ahead of time if you’re reading this.) All in all, the Moonshine is just quirky enough to probably stay in my collection for a while.