Cigar Box Guitar

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Project by FrankLad posted 06-27-2013 05:24 PM 3118 views 6 times favorited 13 comments Add to Favorites Watch

Hey, fellow woodworkers!

I recently completed my first cigar box guitar. The process was very enjoyable, and I hope to make several more! (It’s addicting!)


- Cigar box Picked up a handful from a cigar shop for a few bucks each. They come in various shapes and sizes, which is part of the fun.
- NECK: 1×2” red oak Best to go with a long enough (3’) piece to run through the box for strength; to hold up under string tension.
- FRETBOARD: 1/4” walnut Had this laying around, but you can pick up 1/4” stock from Lowe’s (Though selection is likely limited to red oak, poplar, and pine.)
- BRIDGE/NUT: lignum vitae I’ve had a small chunk of lignum vitae for a few years. Very durable stuff. Bone can also be used, or you can simply go with a bolt or threaded rod. (Picture #4 shows the jig I used to rip a uniform piece with my pullsaw. Picture #5 shows the individual pieces with string notches.)
- Rivets (minus the shank) These will keep the strings from cutting into the wood. They also make things look a little neater.

Tools used: Handsaw (two-sided w/ crosscut and rip teeth), hand drill, sander, various grits.

For the electric components, I’m going with a basic 1/4” mono jack + piezo transducer + 500k potentiometer setup.

Additional notes:

- To determine the fret spacing, I simply marked the locations on the fretboard using my son’s small guitar as a guide. Although fret calculators are readily available and you can make the guitar to your own custom scale length.

- I may go with a tailpiece on my next one, which simply means extending the red oak out through the bottom of the guitar. This way, I can string it up without having to open the box. (Though I still kinda prefer the look of a guitar w/o the tailpiece.) I’m also hoping to try one with an old small hinge to connect the strings.

- I used regular acoustic guitar strings, sizes .026, .036, .046.

- It’s tuned to “Open G” (G, D, g), fretless, with a high action for slide playing. I’m actually JUST learning how to play, so I’ve got a long way to go. But I really like the overall tone of the guitar, and I like having only three strings to worry about. ;)

-- Frank, Mississippi, Original Bentwood Rings -

13 comments so far

View pintodeluxe's profile


6542 posts in 4265 days

#1 posted 06-27-2013 06:33 PM

Love it! This is on my list of things to build.
Looks wonderful. Well done.

-- Willie, Washington "If You Choose Not To Decide, You Still Have Made a Choice" - Rush

View WoodenFrog's profile


2737 posts in 4365 days

#2 posted 06-27-2013 06:34 PM

So awesome Frank!! really love it!
Will this be used in Hickory Never Bleeds 2 LOL!
Great Job!

-- Robert B. Sabina, Ohio.....

View aussiedave's profile


3114 posts in 3276 days

#3 posted 06-28-2013 12:06 AM

That is so cool Frank….well done.

-- Dave.......If at first you don’t succeed redefine success....

View FrankLad's profile


273 posts in 4761 days

#4 posted 06-28-2013 01:51 AM

Thanks, guys!

Robert: I’ve gotta learn to play first. ;)

-- Frank, Mississippi, Original Bentwood Rings -

View dvd812's profile


40 posts in 3251 days

#5 posted 06-28-2013 03:27 AM

Great job. Love it.

-- Do all things to the Glory of God.

View deltawing's profile


71 posts in 3482 days

#6 posted 06-28-2013 04:18 AM

Great work Frank > have fun learning to play it

-- > It takes a long time to become a child - Picasso <

View FrankLad's profile


273 posts in 4761 days

#7 posted 06-28-2013 05:06 AM

Thanks, guys!

I’ve already started on a 2-string guitar. ;)

-- Frank, Mississippi, Original Bentwood Rings -

View TheWoodenOyster's profile


1355 posts in 3387 days

#8 posted 06-28-2013 05:37 PM

Well done Frank! I am the ugly duckling woodworker in a family of stringed instrument players. Maybe if I can knock a few of these out, I’ll gain some points with the musicians and won’t feel so bad when all I can do at family gatherings is sing!

This is going on the list of things to make. For sure.

-- The Wood Is Your Oyster

View FrankLad's profile


273 posts in 4761 days

#9 posted 06-28-2013 10:06 PM

Oh man, I think you’ll enjoy it! They’re a lot of fun. I’m hoping to get a musician friend of mine to break it in.

-- Frank, Mississippi, Original Bentwood Rings -

View DanW's profile


123 posts in 4494 days

#10 posted 06-29-2013 11:34 AM

I knew a guy who built an electric 6 string with a toilet seat. He used to play all over the county. He’s gone now or I’d love to pick his brains on how he constructed it. It sounded great (though I suppose that was due to the pickups he used). Hope you have as much fun with your’s as he did.

-- "Let he who does not work in wood, find something else that's half as good." (can't remember who I'm quoting)

View Ted Crocker's profile

Ted Crocker

11 posts in 4087 days

#11 posted 06-30-2013 04:32 PM

Nice one Frank!
There is a large community of builders and players of cigar box guitars. You can find lots of info, lessons, photos, videos, groups, forums and even live chat at the Handmade Music Clubhouse There’s also info on all types of homemade instruments and music.

-- Make some sawdust & make some music!

View drbyte's profile


848 posts in 5514 days

#12 posted 07-01-2013 01:17 PM

Great job! An old strike plate from a door latch works great for a tailpiece also. Curved just right and you can get them in different shades of brass, chrome, stainless, and even painted or old and tarnished. I’ve used them several times and they work great. Saves opening box to string but don’t have to run neck clear through box either.

-- Dennis, WV

View FrankLad's profile


273 posts in 4761 days

#13 posted 01-28-2014 04:26 PM

Thanks, guys!

-- Frank, Mississippi, Original Bentwood Rings -

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