My First Box Guitar

It happened when I was cruising the "brick-a-brack" section at Ross.  There it was, a First Act beginner's electric guitar with amp for $35.  Right after adding it to my cart, a musically inspired jewelery box caught my eye.

What you'll need...
A donor electric guitar
A  box

If adding a second pickup...
(I've always been a fan of musicians that run 2 amps to their guitar ala Bob Log III)
A piezo buzzer
1 potentiometer
A 1/4 inch female mono jack
1 volume knob
all the above can be had at your local Radio Shack

And other things you'll need...
Soldering iron and solder
some extra wire length (I used an old headphone wire)
Wood glue
A Dremel
A drill with various drill bits
and a means for cutting wood

Everything else will be supplied by the donor guitar.

Step 1: Break 'em on Down...

First thing is to take apart the electric guitar.

Start by removing the strings.
After that the neck will unscrew from the body.
Then you can unscrew the bridge and pickup.
You will have to cut the wires from the pickup and give yourself room on the pickup wiring.  You will be soldering them back together.
Unscrew the pick guard and the cover on the back.
The volume and tone knobs can be pried up and off.
You then can unscrew the bolts holding the potentiometers and the mono jack.
And don't forget the jack plate and screws.

Keep all the wiring intact with the exception of the wires you cut to get the pickup out.  Set aside everything you take off the donor guitar as you will need them.

At this point you should have something like the picture.  Now would be a good time to remove the hinges from your jewelery box as well.

Step 2: No Matter What Shape Your Guitar's In...

 Time to cut the body.  You only want to keep the part from the neck to the bridge.

Step 3: Here We Go Again...

 Now to cut the box lid.  I tried to line up the more aerodynamic guitar body in a position that would conserve as much graphic as possible.  Hopefully you're better at woodworking than I am.

Step 4: F-Hole Parade...

Now to line the neck up with the box lid and glue it in place.  I let it sit for about an hour while I took a lunch break.  After lunch I went ahead and installed the pickup.  I also noticed that the guitar had a wire that sat bare under the bridge and connected to the grounds on the pots.  I assume it's for noise shielding and nevertheless I ran that wire as well.  I then decided to try my luck with cutting f-holes.  Like I said, I hope your woodworking skills are better than mine.

Step 5: Yeah, It's That Easy...

No time to transfer your old guitar hardware over.
I started with the strap buttons.
Then I drilled holes for Amp 1 and Amp 2.  The hole for amp 1 had to drilled bigger so I could make use of the bezel from the old guitar.
Now to reference my piezo schematic.
I then drilled holes and connected my volume and tone knobs.
Now to reconnect the wires I cut, but with some extra length added.
Reattach the box lid hinges and latch.
Attach my jack outputs and tape the wires out of the way.

Step 6: For Those Who Are About to Rock...

Well about 1 weekend and $50 later you're ready to create musical fusion.  Time to string it up and get in tune.  Get some tabs for your favorite Dire Straits song (my christening song was "Money for Nothing") and crank it up to 11.

Final thoughts,
I did enjoy this build even though it was kind of cheating.  I have been interested in building a box guitar for a while but have found guitar parts to be a bit on the expensive side.  A set of new tuning machines can go for as much as $40 at the local music store.  Add in the cost of wood for the neck and electronics and you could easily spend 100 large.  It may not be the prettiest axe on the stage, but at least it's not a cookie cutter.  I did notice that due to the thickness of the jewelery box, the acoustics have a very low tone and may not be as loud as I'd like.  One thing I may try is mounting the practice amp that came with the guitar inside the box.  If I came across another cheap guitar again I would definitely consider making another.  I already have a really nice cigar box on standby now that I know the limits of my carpentry skills.

Hope you enjoyed this Instructable.

Step 7: Take It Away...



    • Pocket Sized Contest

      Pocket Sized Contest
    • Pie Contest

      Pie Contest
    • Weaving Challenge

      Weaving Challenge

    20 Discussions


    Reply 7 years ago on Step 6

    it's only a sacrifice if it was nice to begin with... here, a peice of junk was turned into art, in a creative way.... sacrifice is pulling a pete townsend!


    7 years ago on Introduction

    you could also rewire it so that you can run both pickups from the same jack and even at the same time


    8 years ago on Step 7

    Great instructable! I've got a cigar box just waiting for something like this. I also have a question though: What tune is "walking blues" and who plays it?
    It's very familiar to me, but I can't seem to place it. No luck searching online so far, either, but I won't stop 'til I figure it out. :)

    Thanks again

    4 replies

    Reply 8 years ago on Introduction

    Thanks man. The sheet music I have says that "Walking Blues" is by Robert Johnson but I've yet to hear a recording myself. If you find it let me know.


    Reply 8 years ago on Introduction

    All makers of classic one-of-a-kind guitars should hear the "King of the Delta Blues Singers" So here you go!


    Reply 8 years ago on Introduction

    Let them do what they want, if you want to go around and save every abused First Act guitar out there, go ahead. It's not like he just cut up a Les Paul.(That would be blasphemy) He took an El Cheapo and turned it into a one of a kind guitar.


    Reply 8 years ago on Step 2

    I have made several guitars using a similar method. I will never cut up or tear apart a quality guitar but i have used an epiphone les paul jr. that was beat to crap and i gave it a new life as a unique instrument. But the wood these guitars are made of and even low end big name guitars are made what is basically saw dust and glue. Even cheap parts are some what expensive to get and this just makes it easier without spending a large chunk of change


    Reply 8 years ago on Introduction

    It's all in the "eye of the beholder" my friend. What may look like a good guitar body to some, looks like a giant cookie cutter to others. It may have been the lazier way to go about a project like this, but that's what I'm all about. :)


    8 years ago on Introduction

    I like it! Regardless of what other people might think or say! It is a cool little project in the "style" of a cigarbox guitar and as soon as I find a cheap old guitar and jewelry box etc I am going to try it! You now have a very PERSONAL guitar rather then a cheap guitar and a cheap jewelry box and you should be proud of it!


    8 years ago on Step 6

    Yeah, I've been there...tin can microphone? Sounds cool.

    Cool stuff. I'm sure you've been to to see their stuffs. have you looked at making a tin can microphone yet? they actually sound pretty great.

    I would suggest you replace the title and add some keywords with

    "cigar box guitar" it's more recogniceable and will allow more users to come by your ible :)

    This is the term the community of cigar box guitar builders uses so I think that would be more convienient to use :)

    Just a suggestion.

    nice ible btw

    3 replies

     Yeah, my options were either "box guitar" or "jewelery box guitar".  I went with the one that I wouldn't be embarrassed to play AC/DC on.

    Yeah I get where you're coming from.

    You're right although it's in the style of a cigar box guitar, since it doesn't really use one you can't really call it that indeed.

    I didn't say anything :)

    Hows the intonation?  Do all the notes sound in tune from fret 1 to the highest fret?  I can see that you did not place the bridge at 2x the distance from the nut of the neck to the middle of the 12th fret, so I was just wondering how good it sounds.

    1 reply

     It keeps it tune well so far.  I didn't really change any of the measurements from the original guitar.  I did have to adjust the action at the bridge a little, but I planned to do that anyway to aid in my wanna-be slide guitar playing skills.  I plan on posting video of it in action when I'm darn well ready. :)