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
~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
~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)