Hemp is starting to be used in a wide range of products including clothing and candles. Now, a Vermont businessman hopes that hemp guitars will hit all the right notes.
Jay Burstein is the owner of BugOut Hemp Guitars, which also carries ukuleles. He has extensive professional experience in guitar repair, but noticing how toxic carbon fiber can be made him seek a more environmentally conscious option.
“We were at that carbon fiber company using flax as a filler. The flax is a strong fiber and a nice, natural plant,” Burstein said to the Lancaster Farming Podcast. "About that same time, hemp was becoming a legal crop here in Vermont. I said, ‘If you can use flax, you can use hemp.’”
How Hemp Guitars Are Made
Burstein uses hemp stalks he primarily buys from Colorado. Although he wants to buy hemp locally in Vermont, most of the state’s hemp plants are used for CBD. The hemp stalks he receives come with different levels of processing. Although Vermont farmers would give him their hemp stalks, he would have to manually peel off the outside of it to get to the fibers.
“[They] have the stalks at the end of their harvest, which is where I get the fiber from,” Burstein said. “What they’re growing [in Vermont] is really top shelf… at least for the flower and the CBD. I would imagine that the stalks are quality as well. But there’s not a market for that here just yet.”
The effort is worth it for Burstein because hemp guitars offer benefits not found in traditional guitars. Because hemp is a composite, the guitars are more durable and can better withstand outdoor conditions.
His instruments are also environmentally friendly. There’s a shortage of the wood used to make traditional guitars, so using hemp limits the number of trees being used.
“There’s a movement within the guitar community to use alternative forms of building instruments,” Burstein said. “This one’s mine.”