I tightened the last string, picked up a slide and eased it down the neck. I immediately thought that I'd never get a better tone. Several months later on Monday, April 6th, 2015 thanks to Justin Johnson it went from having a really good sound to having an ethereal voice.

Justin Johnson now owns and tours with the first Baromitar.
Justin has received over a million views with his exceptional playing and mastery of this instrument
https://www.facebook.com/JustinJohnsonLive/videos/912160122193992/
The 1840s "Baromitar" casting it's spell on several tunes on "If Walls Could Talk" LP from Justin Johnson.

photo courtesy of Justin Johnson Live 
 

 

I thought about it the entire month and I immediately returned to the booth where I had first seen it and luckily it was still there. This time I showed it to my girlfriend Kate and she said "Oh yeah, you've gotta buy that." I offered $40 and took it home.

The barometer then sat in my workshop for nearly 3 years. In between commissioned builds I would pick it up and contemplate how to build it out. Every idea just seemed too complicated for what should be a very modest instrument. There seemed no easy way to mount tuners. No way that would look good and play correctly. So many things just were not flowing correctly.

Like most junk artists, I am constantly looking in dumpsters, going to thrift stores, antique stores, flea markets, auctions etc. I love bringing old things back to life.

The weather barometer was discovered at an antique mall in Georgia called Lakewood antiques.


Standing in a barrel with some other wooden items, it definitely caught my eye. But it was priced extremely high. I believe it was priced around $50. I immediately loved the shape and instantly thought -lap steel- and I think I offered $20 or so. Regardless, it stayed and I didn't go back until the antique mall opened again the following month.

Then there was that Eureka moment when I realized that the rear of the barometer, the way it was gutted out, if I were to cut and insert a fingerboard...

 

Of course doing this would mean the face/dial of the barometer would be in your lap so I removed the faceplate and mounted it to the rear. Problem solved. For the fingerboard I used a piece of oak and then I aged/distressed it.

The tuners were just 3 in a row tuners but in order to get them to fit the shape that I needed meant that I had to saw each strip of three into individual tuners.

I wrote a note on the back of the barometer's faceplate and taped a poem from one of my books to it as well before I screwed it back down.

 

I do something like this to most of the instruments I build, little time capsules of sorts that I hope will be found many years from now.

The tailpiece was pulled from a box of vintage guitar parts I have acquired over the decades. It's is probably from the 1950's or 60's.

 

The top of the baromitar has a wooden accent that was another piece of scrap I had picked up somewhere sometime over the years. I believe it once belonged on a clock. It just seemed like it was made for this instrument.

 

Originally I installed a 60's style P90 pickup and it really sounded nice and warm.
Justin Johnson contacted me after seeing it posted on Facebook and he asked if I would part with it. I had already sold him a cigar box lap steel that I tuned C6 and I had sworn it was a keeper. Now, here he was wanting my new favorite instrument again.
I'm an artist, I make things to earn money so I can make more art. 15 minutes later we reached an agreement.


Although, I believe it sat in storage for some time as he went immediately on a tour of Europe. It wasn't until he returned to the States and began his Roots from the Road show. I was fortunate enough to be a guest on one of the episodes and before it was filmed Justin pulled the "baromitar" out of his caravan, handed it to me along with a flat wound Humidor pickup and asked that I swap them out.

Justin and Nikki went to set up for the show, I went to my shop and got to work. The Humidor pickup had a thin aluminum cover and the natural aluminum wasn't going to fit in with the overall style of the guitar so I sprayed it with black spray paint and dried it quickly with a hair dryer and then rubbed it down to give it a gently used look about it.

 

I removed the old P90, made a few necessary adjustments to mount the flatwound pup and then soldered, assembled and carried to Justin.

He plugs it in and....

terrible hum 

grounded to wrong side

quick fix

Try agin

 

Holy **** turn that up, that sounds incredible!


Charles Atchison

Justin Johnson admiring the Baromitar right after the new pickup was installed.

How to build a cigar box guitar and many other folk instruments

Learn more about Justin Johnson at JustinJohnsonLive.com

Baromitar II
Originally this was a weather barometer circa 1890-1910 timeframe. Now it's a phenomenal 4 string, lap steel with zither pin tuners.
The jack plate is an 1800s door knob plate (which the zither tuning key stores in perfectly)

© 2013-2018 by Charles Atchison. All rights reserved.