I'm pleased and proud to announce that fireslide is working with
The Salvation Army Gananoque to collect spent BIC® lighters.
They will collect the lighters at local stores and I will donate 25¢
for each usable lighter they collect.
The fireslide is earth-friendly: it is created from a reimagined spent lighter, recycled lead, repurposed leather from worn-out clothing and a bit of glue.
Years ago my friend and mentor, Bob Witmer, gave me a pedal steel slide made of a piece of lead coated in plastic. It was a great slide but too large to use on a guitar and it's more a keepsake than an active tool.
I’ve played with bottleneck slides for over forty years but was always frustrated by their limitations. Lately, though, I've been jamming in multi-guitar groups and became the designated slide player.
I was jamming with Terry Tufts and he showed me how Sonny Landreth frets behind the slide, which amazed and delighted me. I played with that, and a little later I discovered that I could reach over the slide (which I wore on my pinky) with the other fingers and fret above the slide. It was a pretty cool discovery and pretty useful. It was also kind of difficult and contorted. But it showed me how much a little fretting could enhance my slide playing.
One day I forgot my bottleneck slide at home. I saw a BIC® lighter and tried that, like so many have done before. It felt great in my hand and let me do things I couldn’t do with a bottleneck slide, like fret above the slide with ease and play accurate slants without twisting my arm all over the place. But it sounded lousy — too light.
I thought of the old pedal steel slide: maybe by filling the lighter with lead, I could get the the necessary weight to make a better-sounding slide. It started pretty primitive -- bits of lead from piano key weights, fishing sinkers, recycled lead shot, all pounded in with a hammer and glued so it wouldn't rattle. They were good, but I became obsessed with better, which meant heavier. Then came cast lead slugs, which was a big improvement; but the fill still could be heavier and better connected to the lighter itself. Finally, after a lot of thought and some tentative experiments, I figured out a way to safely and completely fill the lighter's chamber with lead, resulting in the heaviest possible** slide for a given length. And you can hear the difference -- rich and full tone, clean attack, and lovely long sustain.
The cut end of the lighter is shaped for comfort and handling, then sealed with silicon glue and covered with a comfortable and grippy suede leather patch.
Being handmade, every fireslide is a little different and being made from recycled BIC® lighters , they come in colours! I love that part.
Length matters. My bandmate Dale likes his fireslide short (4.7cm) because he holds it differently from me. I like the extra weight (and hence sustain) of a 6cm slide and the extra length is useful for slants. By default, that's the length I make them. If you'd like something shorter or longer, just ask.
Over the months of developing the fireslide, I've been testing, tweaking and playing and getting feedback from other players. I am convinced that the fireslide is the most versatile, comfortable, and great-sounding guitar slide available.
* I originally called it the "Catch a Fire guitar slide" after my favourite Wailers album and my friend and advisor, Mary Ann Maruska, shortened that to "fireslide" which was brilliant. Thank you Mary Ann.
** Between 100 and 110 grams. I use recycled lead. There are heavier metals but gold is pricey, mercury and uranium have other issues. Osmium is the densest naturally-occurring element, but it costs $13,000 per kilogram which would add about $2000 to the price of each fireslide and is hard to source locally. I get my lead from Runnings Garage for free -- thank you Lorne and Joanne!