Before making the guitar, I decided that it should be made from either found or very cheaply obtained materials. Most of the items I used were not originally meant for use in a guitar, I don't think I spent more then $50 for all the parts. It's not a dirt cheap guitar, but it wont hurt the wallet either.
Also, since I don't have any big power tool, I had to be able to make it in my kitchen using handheld tools i already had. (with the exception of the fingerboard which i had cut for me from from a scrap of plywood at a hardware store)
And lastly, I wanted to make this instructable because I wanted to share everything I learned, plus to give back for all the helpful guides I used for this project. There are lots of fantastic cigar box instructables on this very site, just do a search!
This project has a lot of steps, so i tried to divide it up in to logical sections. Hope its not confusing!
Here are some essential tools:
Dremmel (best tool ever)
different sand papers
couple of different files
lots of clamps
Step 1: The Body
Since the neck will be glued to the top of the box lid I first made a cut where the neck will go through. I cut it down with a saw and then filed it down.
Next I wanted two circular sound holes on either side of the guitar, this way i can run the neck all the way down the body. I also wanted to make the rims of the sound holes be metal. So i found a nice chrome metal pipe at home depot that had nice rims at the end. I cut those off with my coping saw.
I also want the option of this guitar being played electrically, so i will install a piezo pickup in a later step. But I have to make a hole for the mono jack. Since the jack is pretty short, i had to grind down the inside of the box were the jack will be installed. check the pictures for what I mean.
Step 2: The Neck
First thing first, I cut the neck to the desired length. I didnt use any conventional length, i just picked it intuitively, whatever felt right. Then I cut the hole in the box where the neck will be glued. This gives me an idea where to add the base.
After cutting the neck. I started to work on the heel at the bottom of the neck. I cut out two pieces of wood about 4" long from the remaining neck wood. I glued them together using Titebond wood glue. Using a clamp I pressed them together and let dry for 30 minutes. Then I glued the two pieces on to the main neck board.
Next I cut the glued heel to the desired profile with my coping saw. And then shaped it using a file.
Next step is the head...
Step 3: The Head
First I glued another piece of wood to the back of the head. I cut it from the same wood as the neck, and then cut it in half, so that it was about .25" thick.
Then i grinded it down with a file to make it nice and curved.
Next I cut 0.25" off the front of the head. Then i filed everything down to make it as smooth as i can get it.
Next I did my best to guess where to put the holes for the tuner. I then drilled them. I dont have power tools so it got a little splintery around the edges. No big deal though, it gets covered up by the tuners.
lastly I put in a decal at the top. I put my brothers name. I used a technique i found at .... basically printing it in reverse on acetate, then glued it on with photo mount. Then later, when i apply the finish, it gets sealed.
ince the neck and is complete, i smoothed out the back with a file to be nice and round.
Step 4: The Bridge
First, to hold the strings in place I used a heavy duty picture hanger I got at home depot (sawing off the peg that is used for hanging). You can get them at home depot.
I used a large screw to keep it in place. The screw went throught the cigar box and in to the piece of wood for the neck. Making it a pretty solid fit.
Then I found in the trash a handle that was attached to some drawer that was thrown away. This turned out to be perfect for the saddle, just needed some shaping.
I chopped off the sides, cut it down a bit so the action isnt so high.
Then added notches for the strings using the dremmel.
and lastly drileld a couple of holes at the bottom and screwed it in to the body of the guitar.
Step 5: Fretting
I got a piece of ply wood scrap cut for me to size at a hardware store, its basically the thickness of the neck. I cut it lengthwise and glued it on to the neck.
Keeping with the goal of using found/cheap materials, I decided to use wire cut from a common hanger. I cut up the wire using big wire cutters (later using a dremmel, so much easier) Make sure to cut them a little long, you will grind them down to shape.
I then glued on the very top fret using epoxy.
At this point i measured very accurately the distance from the top fret to the bridge. This is very important as it will determine the spacing of the frete.
Then I went to stew mac website. They have a very good fret calculator. I inserted the length of the scale and how many frets i wanted.
using the measurements stewmac website provided I penciled the all in one by one. Remember to always measure from the top fret, dont measure fret to fret, this is a great way to make a mistake and screw up the notes.
After penciling them in i used a coping saw to saw little gutters for the frets. You may need to go in to them using a file as well.
Once done, you can glue the frets in to place using epoxy.
Use a piece of wood and clamps to hold the frets in place white the glue dries.
Once they are glued solid cut the edges off using a dremmel with a cutting attachment. Wear eye protects, sparks will fly.
Step 6: Fret Dots
Then I hammered in tiny nails in to the holes.
Then sawed them off with my dremmel and filed the down.
Step 7: Peizo Pickup
The one thing i'd recommend is getting one that is easy to disassemble, so you can get the metal plate that acts as the mic out. The one i got from radioshack was sealed shut, and i had to grind up the plastic to get to the piezo element inside.
After removing it, i soldered two wires to the yellow ones that came with the piezo element. Then it coiled them together.
Inside the box I added loop screws to run the wire, and soldered it to the mono jack i installed earlier.
I installed the piezo element using a bit of hot glue from a glue gun to raise it above the wood.
Step 8: Applying the Finish
I covered the frets up with some masking tape, so that they dont get all sticky. I know im probably doing this backwards, but it is what it is...
i applied a coat and waited about an hour. once dry i used a fine sandpaper to smooth it out. Then i repeated a couple of more times. And thats it.
Step 9: Finished!
Here it is in action: