Instructables
Picture of Cigar Box Guitar
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Usually consisting of a stick, an old cigar box, some random hardware, and whatever strings are lying around, cigar box guitars are some of the simplest, cheapest, and easiest musical instruments you can build.  They can have anywhere between one and six strings (although most have three), and pretty much any kind of tuning.

I decided to make a slightly fancier guitar than most, with real guitar tuning pegs, a nice stained and varnished finish, and a piezo pickup.  You might see some photos of my homemade banjo, since I built both around the same time.

A little history: cigar box guitars have been built since the time of the American Civil War, but they first took off in popularity during the Great Depression of the 1930s.  Blues musicians especially favored the small guitars, along with cookie tin banjos, washboards, and other improvised instruments.  During today's economic woes and the rise of the DIY and Maker movements, musicians and hobbyists have revived the art of building and playing cigar box guitars.

Step 1: What You'll Need

Supplies:

~Cigar box - $1
I got this one at a garage sale.  If you make friends with a cigar smoker or tobacconists you can probably get this for free.

~1" x 2" x 3" poplar board - $3
keep in mind that these are actually 3/4" x 1 1/2"

~Guitar tuning pegs (3) - $4
These usually come 6 to a pack for about $8, so you can make another guitar with the other three!

~Guitar strings (3) - Free!
I had some old nylon strings lying around, so I used the low E, A, and D strings.  You can also use fishing line, steel wire, or plastic string

~Copper sheet metal - Free!
This is used to make the tailpiece, the part that holds the strings on the bottom.  I found some while dumpster diving at a construction site.  You could cut apart a tin can if you can't find copper

~Wood glue - $3

~Wood stain (optional) - $4
You can use any color; I choose a reddish brown.  A little can'll do ya!

~Spray varnish (optional) - $5
I used semi-gloss.

~Piezo buzzer and guitar plug (optional) - $4
This gives you an electric cigar box


Tools:

~Hand saw

~Coping saw or jig saw

~Drill with bits

~Rough file or rasp

~Sand paper in various grits
I used between 60 and 400 grit, although 100 and 200 would work fine

~Clamps (or heavy things)

~Various hardware (screws, small finishing nails, etc.)

~Soldering iron (for connecting the piezo buzzer)

 
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quick224 made it!7 months ago

Really nice cigar box guitar! Have you seen the washboard guitars? They
are pretty cool and have a very unique sound! Check out www.washboardguitars.com to see this washboard guitar and other cool handmade guitars!

ebay.jpg

The guitar turned out really nice

I have been writing about making cigar box guitars on my blog

Thought you might like it if you have time

http://darrenscigarboxguitars.blogspot.co.uk/

Bjarke1 year ago
How do you measure fret distance?
how did you carve the f-holes?
bwells23 years ago
EPIC F-HOLE WIN
grumpygrady3 years ago
i like this one
i have been collecting parts for three of the CBG and almost have everything i need but our are going to be acoustic and maybe upgradeable to electric
i am going to sit down with my two grand kids and we are each going to make one for our self selves
i think they mite like that and maybe be happy to play or make more instead of watching their games or TV
thanks for another instructable that will help me get this done
BIGA4 years ago
ANYONE BUILDING ANYTHING / PUNCH IN / GUITAR PARTS in ALL CATEGORIES  On EBAY or GO TO - CIGARBOXNATION . com  And SIGN UP or shoot me an e-mail at Arnldrydbrg@aol.com
stop yelling
BIGA4 years ago
WHAT UP !!!   IF U ARE INTERESTED IN THESE HOMEMADE CIGAR BOX GUITARS COME OVER TO CIGARBOXNATION.com FREE PLANS AND MANY PEOPLE TO HELP U OUT !!! CBGN Member - Arnie Rydberg Jr. / Peace            M
SINCE WHEN IS CAPS LOCK COOL?
and yours too
my eyes my eyes your screaming hurts my eyes
Mastermj164 years ago
Hey, I was wondering if you bought the piezo from radio shack and if so what's the item number because I can seem to find it anywhere other than eBay, thanks
At your Radio Shack store, there is a section with lots of drawers. The piezo buzzers are in one of those drawers. There are many differnt sizes and shapes. I used a piezo element, and other than my tuner doesn't like it, it makes a nice sound through my amp.
kgrant-23 years ago
Thanks for the great instructable. I built mine over the weekend. Found a scrap piece of copper for $1, a box from a shop for $5, a 3" wide Poplar board for neck. I put the knuckle on mine as well. My son (project for him) loved it and was playing it all evening last night. I used a Radio Shack piezo element (not a buzzer, but an element), soldered to the jack. It sounds pretty good through my amp, but my tuner can't make heads or tails of the signal; it does not show the note when I pluck a string. I had to tune it by tuning my guitar to the right note and then making my CBG strings match by ear. Any idea why the piezo element doesn't work with my regular tuner?
where did you get the tuning pegs? everywhere i look, its always like $40 bucks for a pack of 6.
I went to my local guitar repair shop and told the guy what I was building. He went in the back and four 3 pegs for me, $2 apiece. Must have been pulled off a guitar that was upgraded.
kgrant-23 years ago
it would add stability to the neck. There will be a lot of tension pulling the neck upwards, and having another connection point to the box would be a way to get some strength. I would put a couple of screws into that heel through the inside of the box.
gnargnar4 years ago
How are the strings in the tailpiece? It looks like you just tied them, but that can't be it. What am I missing? Thanks.
Guitar strings typically have beads at the end of them. He probably drilled holes in the copper sheet and fed the strings through the holes. The bead at the end is too big to fit through the hole so it gets stuck there and holds in place.
dirtyroger4 years ago
Great post man, i like your tailpiece is that just a flat piece of copper?

I'm starting to make my first CBG and will be posting it all on this blog
dirtyguitarguide.com
chugs784 years ago
so you can make it a six stringer if you really wanted too?  oh boy a cheap and effective guitar! thanks man
discontinuuity (author)  chugs784 years ago
You might want to use a wider neck (maybe 3") if you're doing six strings.  Daddy Mojo makes six-string CBG's for sale, but they aren't too cheap:
http://www.daddy-mojo.com/models/6-string.html
and where i maysay, get and or make a 3" neck?
discontinuuity (author)  chugs784 years ago
You could either carve down a larger piece of wood (like a 2"x4"), build it up out of smaller pieces, or use a 1"x3" like I did for my banjo neck.
I'm not finding your banjo instructable. Did you not make one for that instrument? I would be really interested in that. My kids are delighted with the instruments I've made, but they've all been rather ephemeral (read: flimsy) I'd like to make something like this for us to play.
What do you say? Even some pictures and an outline would be great!
Great build on this guitar too. Keep it up!
gnargnar4 years ago
What's the purpose in the heel?
Omwa4 years ago
Just wondering, what's the sound quality if you plug it into an amp? is there a weird effect, or does it screech or anything?
discontinuuity (author)  Omwa4 years ago
It sounds pretty good, but since it acts like a microphone it can pick up other sounds besides the strings. It's a bit buzzy too but I like the sound.
 When i turn on my amp (with the piezo and jack) it make a loud high pitched screeching noise. if i turn it down it stops and you can kinda hear the guitar sound but when i turn it up it screeches! PS i only took off the top plastic of piezo. matters?
discontinuuity (author)  Frozen Twinkies4 years ago
Not really sure.  You could have a short circuit, or you could have broken the piezo.  It could also be feedback, since the piezo works more like a microphone than a regular pickup.
 So to reduce feed back, would i have to move it away from the amp?
discontinuuity (author)  Frozen Twinkies4 years ago
Yes, or turn down the volume.  Pointing the sound holes away from the amp will also help.

what ends of the output jack did you attach your piezo to, I am having problems with that.

It doesn't really matter, it will work either way. 

When the piezo vibrates it makes a vibrating electrical signal in the wire, ie positive/negative, on/off.  The amp amplifies this signal and outputs it to the speaker, making it vibrate at the same speed as the piezo. 

The only time that polarity really matters is when you're making a humbucker magnetic pickup, but that's a whole 'nuther story.
elgorgo4 years ago
This looks beautiful. A real work of art. Well done.
 What types of pegs did you use on this bad-boy?

I've been trawling ebay and most seem to be $10^ for cruddy plastic ones. Yours appear to have metal caps on the end?
Mine are pretty cheap and cruddy, I think I paid about $13 at a guitar store for a set of six (or two sets of three, however you look at it).  I'd suggest going to the local music store and seeing what they have .
kaptaink_cg4 years ago
DANGIT!! LOL I was literally going to build one this weekend and post an instructable.  I have all the parts sitting on my desk at home. Oh well, you beat me to it.  Looks pretty good. I like how you arranged the tuning pegs.  You should probably give some credit to Make.Magazine.
discontinuuity (author)  kaptaink_cg4 years ago
Please do.  There's not enough home-made instruments on Instructables, and no two are built exactly the same.

I should give some credit to Shane Speal and other CBG makers out there, but mine is rather different than Make's design.
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