How to Make Cigar Box Shelves

About: Building design/consulting in SE Minnesota. Resource based problem solver... in other words, I always take a minute to peek in construction dumpsters :) ---the way some have to workout everyday... i have to...

Cigar boxes are the perfect modular element to use in basic woodworking. Every few years I pickup a load of them from a smoke shop that is willing to give them away. (never pay more than a couple dollars)

Two other names I considered for this instructable:

  • Cigar Boxes Everywhere - why I love them (step 1)
  • How To Jazz Up an Airbnb w/ Cigar Boxes - easy way to add character (step 3)

---- Swiss Army Shelves Instructable is a more permanent version of these shelves from a previous apartment. Same approach and goals for adding 'working space' to the kitchen.

Step 1: Materials // Why Cigar Boxes

Why are cigar boxes SO perfect?

  • Square - it's always a challenge when building to get things square, level, plumb... with the boxes you have a unit that is already giving you right angles
  • Modular - easy to connect a series and have nice parallel planes (as accomplished with the horizontal shelves here)
  • Hinged - cigar boxes come with a door. Super useful for organization projects.
  • Pre-Finished - They typically have a stylized design. At minimum a protective coating. Often a fresh smell of hardwood.
  • Backing - their back panel makes them easy to install to drywall
  • Sizes - from the available selection at most smoke/cigar shops you can find a range of sizes to fit your project
  • FREE - who doesn't like that! (never pay more than a couple dollars per box)

Step 2: Assembly

The process I follow is simple. Here I show a series of photos walking through how I framed up one side of my self. Overall photos show two installations: one at the kitchen another over the desk

  1. Locate - holding the boxes to the wall locate where they will be fixed and get a visual reference (plus dimension) for how long the lengths need to be to frame around boxes.
  2. Shelves - cut shelves to length. In this case I use a corner box that sits on shelves running perpendicular to each other.
  3. Pre-Drill Holes - Important for these thin boxes to pre-drill holes to avoid splitting the wood.
  4. Pre-Assemble - wherever possible it's easiest to assemble in advance.
  5. Mount - mounting with a couple screws through the back panel or a side of the box is simple. A level is necessary especially when your apartment slopes the way mine did:) The weight I planned to support didn't require any additional brackets but easy to get creative with added support (brackets)
  6. Finish - add wood to the mounted assembly.

Step 3: Alt Title: How to Jazz Up an Airbnb

Cigar Shelves were a perfect hack for adding function and personality to my last apartment. Timing was perfect for my first time renting a room in my place. A great way to differentiate on Airbnb is to help people see how you've made your place your own. (see the before/after in the photos)

New to Airbnb? Click here for my referral code... (airbnb provides $40 off your first rental... they update the exact rates every 6mo or so --current as of july '18)

Step 4: Reused From Previous Projects

My building materials tend to look familiar because they show up in different ways at each apartment. The cigar boxes also showed up in my first instructable - Cedar Planked Platform Bed (step 9)

Hope you enjoyed!
Please consider voting in the Creative Misuse Contest.
Thank you - Jeff

More ReUse? Here are projects that used the same painted 2x4s and 2x6s.

Creative Misuse Contest

Participated in the
Creative Misuse Contest



    • DIY Summer Camp Contest

      DIY Summer Camp Contest
    • Games Contest

      Games Contest
    • Barbecue Challenge

      Barbecue Challenge

    7 Discussions


    1 year ago on Step 3

    Mhhhh, I am only Asking myself "How did a Nobleza Gaucha pack ended in a shelf between Chicago and Minessotta?"

    4 replies

    Reply 1 year ago

    Thanks for asking!! That's what was left of a pack I worked my way through on a couple of overnight drives ba>mendoza>rosario>ba in march '14. Sadly my bpa included water bottle got lost in along the way!


    Reply 1 year ago

    But...are You from Argentina? I am from Buenos aires, with relatives mainly in Mendoza , but spread all over the country too!


    Reply 1 year ago

    Had only 2 weeks in your country - loved every minute!! Was there for an internship where the staff drank mate nonstop... could never handle the overload of caffine from mate + powdered coffee that some drank. I find it easy to acquire any flavor... funny how so many culture makes luxuries (yes, i count tea) out of distinct flavors.


    Reply 12 months ago

    Yes, but some herbs they put into It are not only delicious, but somehow.....too digestive!!! ( be prepared to sprint to the nearest bathroom/ forest/ hole in the surface of the planet!) I prefer lemon zest, or a herb called here "payco", mildly cigestive and delicious....

    Good luck with mate, from Argentina!


    1 year ago

    It was nice before people knew about them and you could get them for free. Now the shops charge for them. Oh well. Time marches on.

    1 reply

    Reply 1 year ago

    AE - these boxes were free in Chicago... they wanted to charge here in small town MN. I think bigger cities see more volume. GL!