Introduction: Electric Cigar Box Guitar

Picture of Electric Cigar Box Guitar

Albeit guitar manufacturing has come a long way in the past hundred years, there is a long history to show that you don't need much to make a guitar. All you need is a box to resonate the sound, a plank of would to act as the fretboard, a few screws, and some string. On account of its simplicity and instant reward factor, it is still pretty fun to build one of these traditional homemade guitars.

Yet, it would be a little silly to ignore all of the great things that have happened to guitars in the last hundred or so years. With this in mind, we are going to be bringing this cigar box into the modern era by amplifying it with a piezo contact pickup and a volume knob.

Step 1: Go Get Stuff

Picture of Go Get Stuff

You will need:

- 10K-Ohm Audio Control Potentiometer with SPST Switch (Model: 271-215 | Catalog #: 271-215)
- 90dB Piezo Pulse (Model: 273-066 | Catalog #: 273-066)
- 1/4" Mono Panel-Mount Audio Jack (Model: 274-255 | Catalog #: 274-255)
- a cigar box
- 3 feet of 1x2
- 1-1/2" section of half round
- 3" section of half round
- (x3) 1/4" x 3" eye bolts
- (x3) 1/4" wing nuts
- (x3) 1/4" nuts
- (x3) 1/4" washers
- nylon guitar strings
- 5-minute epoxy

Step 2: Measure and Mark

Picture of Measure and Mark

Open up your cigar box. On each of the shorter edges, find the center point and then measure 3/4" in each direction from this point.

Note: This is assuming your 1 x 2 is 1-1/2" wide. Adjust these measurement for the exact length of your 1 x 2 if need be.

Step 3: Cut

Picture of Cut

Where you have made your marks, cut down until you have made two square holes that are flush with the top of the case that are the size of your 1x2.

Step 4: Measure and Mark

Picture of Measure and Mark

On one end of your 1 x 2 make 4 sets of lines that are an inch apart, starting half an inch from the edge.

On the first line, make a mark 3/8" from the right edge.

On the second line, make a mark 3/8" from the right edge and 3/4" from both edges.

On the third line, make a mark 3/8" from the left edge and 3/4" from both edges.

On the last (fourth) line, make a mark 3/8" from the left edge.

Step 5: Drill

Picture of Drill

Drill six 1/4" holes through the 1 x 2 where you had just marked.

Step 6: Measure and Mark Again

Picture of Measure and Mark Again

At the opposite end of the 1x2, make three marks that are 3/8" apart (at 0.375", 0.75" and 1.125"), and that are 1/2" from the edge of the beam.

Step 7: Drill Again

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Drill through the 3 marks that you just made with an 1/8" drill bit.

Step 8: Piezo

Picture of Piezo

Carefully pry off the back of your Radioshack buzzer.

Break apart the buzzer case without damaging or bending the piezo disc to free it.

You should be left with only the piezo disc with two wires attached.

Step 9: Audio

Picture of Audio

Attach a black wire to the ground lug of the audio jack and a red wire to the signal lug.

Step 10: Wire It Up

Picture of Wire It Up

With the potentiometer knob facing upwards and the three side pins facing you, wire the black audio jack wire to both the pin on the left and the case of the potentiometer. Also wire the black wire from the piezo disc to this left pin.

Wire the red wire from the piezo disc to the right pin of the potentiometer.

Finally, wire the center pin on the side of the potentiometer, to the closest (front) pin on the bottom of the potentiometer. Wire the red wire from the audio jack to the furthest (back) pin of the potentiometer.

Step 11: Drill

Picture of Drill

Drill a 1/4" hole 1-1/2" from the bottom left corner of the cigar box for the potentiometer. I also drilled an 1/8" hold just to the left of this hole for the potentiometer's mounting tab (this helps the potentiometer lay flush with the case and prevents it from shifting).

Flip the cigar box on its edge so the clasp is facing upwards and drill a 3/8" hole for the audio jack near the potentiometer hole. Make sure not to put this hole too close to the top or bottom of the cigar box, or the audio jack won't be able to fit in.

Step 12: Glue

Picture of Glue

Epoxy your 1x2 to the inside-top part of the cigar box.

Make sure that the end of the 1x2 with the three small holes is sticking out about half an inch from the cigar box on the side with the potentiometer hole.

Step 13: Glue More

Picture of Glue More

Once the epoxy from the last step has set and your guitar can be handled, close the case.

Mix up some more epoxy.

Glue your 3" section of half round to the front of the cigar box towards the edge with the potentiometer hole.

Glue the  1-1/2 section across the length of the top side of the 1x2 about an inch from the holes you drilled there.

Step 14: Tuners

Picture of Tuners

Thread a nut all the way to the bottom of the eye bolt. Put a washer atop this nut. Pass the eye bolt from bottom to top of the single 1/4" hole closest to the edge of the beam. Place another washer onto the eye bolt and fasten it all in place with a wing nut.

Repeat this process on the center hole in the second line and the left-most hole in the third line.

In short, each bolt should have a hole directly in front of it once complete.

Step 15: Install

Picture of Install

Insert the potentiometer into the cigar box and fasten it in place with its mounting nut.

Next, insert the audio jack and fasten this as well.

Finally, using standard two-sided tape (preferable), attach the flat side of the piezo element to the underside of the front of the cigar box guitar. Try to place this close to the 3" section of half round that is glued atop.

Step 16: Tie

Picture of Tie

Tie a guitar string to one of the small nuts.

Repeat the process with the remaining to hex nuts.

Keep track of which string is which. I highly recommend using the high E, B and G strings, as they will add the least amount of tension.

Step 17: String It Up

Picture of String It Up

Pass the high E string up through the small hole nearest the potentiometer. Pass it along the length of the guitar and then down through the hole in front of the corresponding hardware tuner. Tie the end of the string to the eye bolt and twist it until the string is tensioned.

Repeat this in the center for the B string and then again for the G string.

Once all of the strings are tensioned, you can tune them to your liking.

Step 18: Finishing Touch

Picture of Finishing Touch

Fasten a knob to the potentiometer to make it look finished.


Vishtanas (author)2017-01-29

How come this guitar doesn't have any pick-ups?

Ttoys1002 (author)2016-11-28

Great video thanks

animeguard (author)2015-06-03

i have to try make these, thanks the elecrtric cigar box guitar look great

marrymay (author)2015-01-26

If this is possible to make it able to chain with the effect pedals? Ha...if that's ok, I am sure that i will go with a distortion guitar first!

Havlicek stole the ball (author)2014-03-06

Could you possibly provide a video clip or a sound clip?

Ninjakaib (author)2012-09-01

How much would it cost to make this?

Depends on what materials and "extras" you choose.
Just use the checklist provided and use Google to start a basic search to get an idea.

randofo (author)Ninjakaib2012-09-02

Not much. $20 - $30 at most. Probably less.

SantaB (author)2013-05-29

It's nice not to glue down the bridge part (the wooden part down where you first insert the strings, with the 3 holes). This will allow you to slide it about to make sure you get the correct pitch. Estimating on a fretless where a note should be will be much easier if the guitar's intonation is correct. Some folks never glue their bridge down. Cutting slots for the strings to fit/guide into would also be good for the bridge and nut.

I am just finishing my first build and about to start a second (just like this one shown in this 'ible).

avianoguitarist (author)SantaB2014-02-26

Great choice for a cigar box, man!
Love the look of that one.

pianoman23 (author)2013-08-15

I'm confused because your directions for wiring don't match your pictures or video and the pictures of the wirings don't even match the video of the wirings. In the pictures, you don't show wires on the middle terminal of the pod or on the back prongs and in your video you have red wire on the left terminal and black on the right when in the picture it's opposite. Am I just misunderstanding something.

There is no wire going to the middle lug on the pot--it's grounded. It needs to be bent back and soldered to the flat surface of the pot.
Just Google "guitar wiring diagrams" and pick the 1 pickup diagram.

randofo (author)pianoman232013-08-16

Go by the pictures and text, not the video. I am pretty sure the picture matches the text. What exactly are you confused about?

avianoguitarist (author)2014-02-19

This is a FANTASTIC tutorial, and you made a fine looking CBG. I like that you went with anon-paper covered cigar box--it adds class to the guitar.

My question/concern, is why you went with a 10K Ohm pot. A 10K pot really limits your range. For anyone else building a CBG--please go with a 500K or even a 250K Ohm pot. Make sure it's an audio(log), too--not a linear taper.

AlohaOrangeBrian (author)2012-05-08

So if i were to wire it the way you wired it will the on off switch in the pot still work?

SantaB (author)AlohaOrangeBrian2013-09-30

The pot more than likely works as a volume...

Sovereignty (author)2013-05-01

I know nothing about guitars; does the cigar box dimensions affect the sound? Do I need to keep within any particular range of dimensions? thanks

SantaB (author)Sovereignty2013-09-30

Yes, smaller the box, smaller the potential resonance and sound. An average box at the local cigar shop should only be a few bucks. I think I paid $3 for the one I made above and $1-$2 for a smaller paper covered, wooded, Punch box (those being the average size, like the one in this 'ible).

noah paco (author)2013-05-23


noah paco (author)2013-05-23

I am making one for my dads Father's Day gift

gothycdesigns (author)2013-05-10

Nice build. ThX for sharing.

kaufmandk (author)2013-03-04

Just finished building one and I can't be happier. I have mine tuned to D F# A at the moment w/ the (GBE nylon strings). It stays in tune for the most part, but I still need to let the strings break in.

You actually want to get 6 1/4" washers as they tell you to put one on the back and front of the headstock for each eye bolt. Being out of washers, I fashioned some from an old bread pan, it's quite classy :) It's also nice to have things like random files, a coping saw and some good clamps help the process.

Other than that, I drilled into the bridge side for my jack and used a spade bit to widen the hole enuf so I could fit it in. It makes sense to put it on the bottom, but I like it on the side. I taped my piezo right under the bridge on the bottom of the neck.

It turns out feeling like a 3-string diddley bow to me, but I could see how lowering the bridge and nut down and adding frets would produce a different instrument altogether.

For fret markers, I have been using stickers and then taping over them with clear packaging tape. It's easy and that's all I really need.

This site helped me setup the wiring for the guitar. Use alligator clips to replicate it then check it with an amp to see if everything is working right before you solder it in.

shantinath1000 (author)2012-08-29

Add one more string and you would have a ukulele! Nice job by the way.

rapidprototyping (author)2012-03-29

I got myself the cigar box and had taken a electric kiddy guitar apart for some hybrid combonation guitar. now you ible has inspired me to use the volume pizeo and audio jack method you describe here . great resuilts youi got. mine is all flexable the part with two by one showed me how to over come that problem. and i was trying to figure out the way to get tensioners this just fixes alot doughts i was having gee wiz thanks . I passed on a mini amp i could got for two buxcks it fit so well right in the box maybe its still there hopefuly it had two AA battery box mini amp n flat speaker

blodefood (author)2012-03-01

Fretless, I see. More of a challenge to learn to play.

Great ible!

REA (author)2011-07-03

Cigar box guitars have been getting popular recently, I've noticed. Very nice instructable! My dad is going to like this.

Redgerr (author)REA2011-07-15

getting popular where? O_o

Phoghat (author)Redgerr2012-01-23

Long answer...Yes Try  for more information. They also sell kits, offer advice, etc.

REA (author)Redgerr2011-07-15

well, i know alot of people are starting to buy and sell them around here.

Booratman (author)2011-11-22

Nice pictures! I like the video. By the way, do you know if you can do this without electric additions, would you need acoustic sound holes or what?

Phoghat (author)Booratman2012-01-23

Long answer...Yes Try  for more information. They also sell kits, offer advice, etc.

randofo (author)Booratman2011-11-22

No acoustic holes required, but I suppose they could not hurt.

Booratman (author)2011-11-24

Do you know if a cigar box could support a fingerboard along the neck?

Phoghat (author)Booratman2012-01-23

Long answer...Yes Try  for more information. They also sell kits, offer advice, etc.

lordbot (author)2011-12-06

I have your book! this looks like an awesome project...

Jr Hacking kid (author)2011-10-24

what dose the pot do?

randofo (author)Jr Hacking kid2011-11-22

It controls volume

egallagher-doucette (author)2011-10-11

where are you guys getting cigar boxes?

I got mine from a cigar shop. They often have extra boxes lying around. You have to ask. Sometimes that might charge you a small fee for them.

Artkid1976 (author)2011-10-08

I'm talking about the potentiometer.

Artkid1976 (author)2011-10-08

Great info, but the photo of the wiring is incorrect. The side mount should actually be the middle mount on the bottom with the others. Not sure if that makes sense.

mrmerino (author)2011-08-31

those are the exact piezo and jack i used to make a pickup for my acoustic guitar.

Gabbo540 (author)2011-07-05

This is definitely being built soon. Good Instructable dude!!

roberto sirigu (author)2011-07-03

Bellisima chitarra Coplimenti

Lindie (author)2011-07-03

Love the video! Good job!

florin_gtrst (author)2011-07-03

WOW! Great instructibe! Really well done - the pictures, details and the video; especially the video! Well done. I'm waiting to finish with my college degree and I'm building one a.s.a.p.! Thanks for all the work you put into this. Greetings from Romania.

noahh (author)2011-07-02

I started making the one out of MAKE a while ago, but put it aside when the time came to marking and cutting the frets. Precision is not my strong point.

rimar2000 (author)2011-07-02

Nice instrument, good instructable!

friger (author)2011-07-02

Well done, these things are as much fun to make as they are to play.

splazem (author)2011-07-01

Awesome! Great pictures! I built a regular cigar box guitar once, it was pretty cool. I have to try this!

About This Instructable




Bio: My name is Randy and I am a Community Manager in these here parts. In a previously life I had founded and run the Instructables ... More »
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