F I N K B U I L T

Scale model cockpit FPV

fpv
cool scale cockpit video

Funny Zoo Snap

man enjoys elephant My wife noticed this in the family archives.

RC Nitro motorcycle racing

rc motorcycle Motorcycle racing in Lilliput.

Manned RC Multicopter

manned multicopter
Here’s an RC multicopter big enough to ride on!

Make: Talk 004

make: Talk 004
I had a fun time talking to Mark Frauenfelder in episode 4 of his new podcast, Make: Talk!

One Man Basement Band

one man band
I feel like I could be getting more mileage out of my right foot.

Liberty

liberty vintage motorcycles An Etsy portrait. Thanks, Danny.

Tequila Sleeve

tequila the champs
Champs sleeve

Wolf-Stelzer Book Lamp

Book Lamp
My friend Tess just made the cover of ReadyMade with her cool lamp design.

Tree Stump Bug

null
Can this be for real? The design is so awesomely Thunderbirds. Via

The Nothing Box

nothing box

Thunderbirds

Thunderbirds are go
Are Go!

Command Center

command center
Sweet assemblage spaceship’s bridge.

Four Drano’s

drano
Watch the sink slowly, all but disappear from the design .

Toothpaste Aerosol

toothpaste aerosol
Aerosol toothpaste




Cigar Box Guitar

cigar box guitar plans

Here are some photos and build notes for a cigar box guitar that I built. I’ve wanted to do one of these ever since I read about CBG’s in Make Magazine several years ago.

If you’ve never heard or seen CBG’s in action, you should treat yourself to a few of the videos on Cigar Box Nation. These things are a real hoot to play, especially with a bottleneck slide.

Construction is really simple, you pretty much just poke a stick through a box and string it up. Here are the basic ingredients for my build, as shown above:

  • A wooden cigar box
  • 1 x 2 stick of hardwood
  • 4 tuning machines
  • 4 guitar strings
  • 7 pearl marker dots
  • Fret wire
  • Piezo Buzzer and Phone Jack (not pictured)

cigar box guitar plans

I chose this box because it was lightweight and tightly built, with a really nice ring to it when tapped. The box sounded pretty “musical”, but supposedly any old box will sound great.

First, I cut holes in either side of the box. On the neck side of the box, I made the hole larger, so that the neck could visually intrude into the body a bit. This is purely an aesthetic move. I thought that it would look nicer that way.

cigar box guitar lesson

My walnut board had a slight bow, so the first thing I did was jun it through a jointer on one side to make it dead flat. I planned to make a fretted instrument with a nice, low playable action and despite it being a cigar box guitar, I hoped to avoid buzzing if possible.

Next I cut a 2 step relief into the neck where it goes through the body. The first step compensates for the thickness of the box top, allowing the neck to sit flush with the top of the box (or even a bit higher).

cigar box guitar neck

The second notch is a standoff to keep the stick from actually contacting the box guitar top. This will allow the top to freely resonate, which will make for a louder guitar than if the stick were just glued to the top.

cigar box guitar frets

The common way to form the peg head is to cut away 1/2 of the thickness of the neck, but I have seen a few fancy-pants CBGs that had glued on angled head stocks.

cigar box guitar tutorial

cigar box guitar frets

I reinforced the seams of the box with some thick CA glue, and added some blocks to brace the neck to the box.

cigar box guitar

A word about glue – Luthiers traditionally use hide glue to build instruments, and will advise against using CA glue to build or repair guitars. With that being said, I used thick CA glue and an accelerant for all joints in this project. I did this because it makes building so fast. So far so good! A better approach (aside from hide glue) would be to use carpenter’s wood glue, but this requires extended clamping and drying time for each operation. If you’re not in a hurry, don’t use CA.

cigar box guitar plans

I copied the fret locations and scale length from another guitar, and installed the frets and markers. I drilled 4 half-inch sound holes in the top, these will be the finials of my “f-holes”. You really don’t need very big holes for a box this small.

cigar box guitar

I made a walnut bridge with a cocobolo saddle and glued it in place. However I would not glue the bridge down if I were doing it again, as I had to break it off later and move it in order to set the intonation. I made a nut out of white plastic, but I think that it is a bit soft. I plan to replace it with bone or aluminum at some point.

cigar box guitar tuners

I added a cocobolo face to the peg head before installing the tuners (without bushings) and giving the guitar a quick lacquer job. I got the vintage tuners from a local luthier, who brought out a whole gallon bucket of spare tuning machines and dumped them out on the counter in front of me when I explained that I was making a cigar box guitar.

I eased the back of the neck with a router to make it more comfortable.

cigar box guitar neck

I cut string holes in the tailpiece, and lined them with bushings made from brass tubing to prevent the strings from cutting into the wood. A lot of CBG builders use the little metal ends from old guitar strings for this, but I didn’t have any around.

cigar box guitar tuning

If you want to electrify your CBG (and you do), you can make a decent pickup from a piezo buzzer element. You can find a buzzer at Radio Shack for about $3. Pop open the buzzer and carefully remove the element. You don’t want the plastic case or the circuit board inside, just solder some leads right to to the pads on the element. Wire the pickup to your input jack, and then glue it to the inside of the guitar top, directly below the bridge with a drop of CA.

Or if you get really adventurous, you can experiment with winding your own magnetic pickups. When you have tested your pickup and everything works fine, glue the box shut to greatly improve resonance and sustain.

cigar box guitar strings

With an open tuning, these instruments are really fun to play. Go ahead, Join the Cigar Box Revolution! Make one for yourself, they’re a real gas to plink around on.

cigar box guitar tutorial

10 Responses to “Cigar Box Guitar”


  1. Giel Says:

    Hi, could you tell me the measures of the neck?

    Greetings from Holland,

    Giel

    Hello, the scale length is taken from a Fender Telecaster. The overall neck length will depend on the size of your cigar box.

  2. steve Says:

    What did you use for strings and how did you get the frets in the proper location?

    Please get back tome at scinna@comcast.net.

    Thanks

  3. steve Says:

    What did you use for strings and how did you get the frets in the proper location?

    Thanks

  4. Steve Says:

    I copied the scale from a telecaster. The strings are some light acoustic strings that I had lying around.

  5. matt Says:

    Lovely lovely lovely – any chance we can get a sound file of this beauty?

  6. Richard Says:

    Can you specify on the type of phone jack? Any stock #?

  7. Stan Says:

    I’m not a musician, but I agree with the idea of keeping the “neck” from contacting the soundboard. I’ve been reviewing quite a few CBG plans before I attempt my own, and you are the first to address this. I would assume that it would result in a richer, as well as louder, sound.

  8. Simon Lucas Says:

    I’m just starting a CBG, got all the junk together. I’m making mine a 4 string. The fret positioning I calculated: use a 1/12 logarithmic scale (take string length, divide by 12, that is the position of the first fret, then divide the remainder by 12, that is the second fret, etc.
    I bought a length of 1 1/2″ dowel for the neck, I will cut or plane this to size, then angle the end to receive a piece of 1/4″ ply to bolt the machine heads to. I think this looks better than having the head the same width as the neck.
    I’ll post pics as I go . . .

  9. Fin Says:

    Nice build, I’ve built about 10 cbg’s. To get the fret positions download Wfret of Fretcalc & you can make any scale length you want, even print out a sheet from which you can transfer the marks. I usually use an electric iron for leather & wood burning to mark the frets using a square, good luck.

  10. Lindsay Says:

    you can get many ‘scale lengths’ from an existing guitar but simply starting on a fret that corresponds with the approx length you want. for example: i had already fretted a piece of wood when i decided the guitar could be a bit shorter. all that i had to do was remove a couple of frets from the head end, cut that bak for the tuners and put the nut-slot where the old fret was.