Making A Cigar Box Guitar
Well we did it! Over the past day and a half Max and I made a pair of cigar box guitars. After my blog posts on Paul McCartney’s one, let alone the Mike Snowden Shuffle Ace from a couple of days ago, I figured it was about time! From the start the idea was to make these out prototypes for a “proper” build further down the track, but happy to say that even as they are they are pretty impressive for our first take on making a cigar box guitar!
Rather than take you through the build step-by-step (let’s face it, there are a million sites out there that do that), here’s a quick rundown on what we did. First off, instead of hunting around for cigar boxes we made our own. The box size is 30cm x 22cm x 5cm, nothing special, just some plywood with 20mm thick pine ends (that we still covered with the ply to keep them looking uniform). The necks are one piece of 40mmx18mm blackbutt (an Australian hardwood) with a slab of similar-sized meranti as the fretboard, and we decided on using a 24” scale length. Gluing the fretboard to the neck and leaving it overnight to dry properly in the only reason we didn’t knock these over in a day. The nut is a piece of threaded rod sitting in a “dremmelled” channel, as is the bridge (larger diameter rod) except it sits in an offcut of the meranti. For a tailpiece we used some basic decorative hinges.
The pickup is a basic piezo transducer from Jaycar wired direct to a mono jack, and the tuners are cheap Chinese ones that came as a 3+3 set for A$18.99! Finally we strung it up in open G (G, D, G) using the A, D and G strings from a set of medium light guitar strings)
All up I spent about $60 on materials, made two CBGs and have lots of stuff left over for making more.
Lessons? Here’s a few things we learnt in no particular order!!
1. When you buy the hinges for the tailpieces make sure that the holes are small enough to hold the ball end of a string in place.
2. While the action isn’t really an issue on ours given they are purely for slide use, it is probably a little high. We’ve already made the nut channel deeper and reduced the height of the bridge and it already feels better.
3. I’m not personally a fan of CBGs where the tailend of the neck pokes out of the box as a place to secure the strings. We went with the hinge idea but I’m not convinced. I feel like there must be something better for the job.
4. We are still playing around with the piezo position – the sucker is picking up everything, even conversation! Not sure how to sort this out, but at least when plugged in and a bit of distortion added it sounds good. We are yet to screw the lids down so we can experiment a bit more.
5. We quite like the larger box size – it seems to work well in proportion to the neck. That said, I am now intrigued to do one with a real cigar box (that will no doubt be smaller).
6. On the pickup front, we are also going to install a lipstick pickup in these ones – if only to compare the difference between it and the piezo. And two input jacks will be very rock!
So what did happen next? Well I’ve finally finished making some more interesting CBGs myself. You might want to check them out to get some ideas.
Three-string custom box guitar
Four-string custom box guitar
Two-string bass custom box guitar