Cigar Box Ukelele

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Project by TheWoodenOyster posted 12-26-2013 04:40 PM 1391 views 4 times favorited 4 comments Add to Favorites Watch


This project was a Christmas present for my grandfather. For as long as I can remember, he has always been strumming a ukelele. He has an old beat up one that is nearly worn through where his strumming hand contacts the box. I am out of work right now, so I figured this Christmas was my chance to put some time in and build him a nice gift.

Materials included a rough piece of hard maple, some left over jatoba from another project, frets and machine heads ordered from an online source, strings bought at a local music store, and a cigar box bought from a local cigar store.

Some particulars about the construction:
- The head was cut at about a 20 degree angle and then glued back onto the neck.
- The neck was shaped with a spokeshave and then sanded down to 220. Neck is also notched out where the top of cigar box folds down on top of it. The neck is floating and can be removed by simply opening the cigar box.
- Frets were meticulously cut with a harbor freight pull saw. Fret wire was then superglued and pounded into the fret slots.
- Tailpiece is just four holes drilled through the part of the neck that extends below the body.
- The bridge and nut (the pieces of wood that the strings rest on) are made from jatoba.
- Finished with 2 coats of wipe on poly and a 2 coats of paste wax (I would have liked to do more, but the deadline approached rather quickly).

In all, I was very pleased with how this came out. I definitely expected a much more difficult time. I would say I put about 12 to 15 hours into it. The sound is a bit “twangy”, but I believe that is sort of what cigar box instruments are supposed to sound like. I was worried about the volume capabilities, but this little guy can pump out about 2/3 of the sound that a normal ukelele can, so I was pleased.

I consider this my penance to the males of the family for never learning to play an instrument! At least I can build one!

-- The Wood Is Your Oyster

4 comments so far

View Nicky's profile


698 posts in 4893 days

#1 posted 01-02-2014 04:53 PM

I really like this project. You did a great job on the neck. 12-15 hours to build even more impressive.

I’m sure your grandfather was pleased. Very thoughtful gift.

-- Nicky

View B0b's profile


105 posts in 3491 days

#2 posted 02-06-2014 04:34 AM

How did you determine the spacing? Did this have to be tuned, or is there just a simple layout that all ukes have? Despite the twang, does it stay in tune well, and sound like a quality instrument? This is a really fun project.

-- Time to get started

View TheWoodenOyster's profile


1335 posts in 2736 days

#3 posted 02-06-2014 03:46 PM

I copied the spacing from another ukelele and it worked out pretty well. It stays in tune pretty well once the strings stretch out, just like any other stringed instruments. I wouldn’t say it sounds incredible, but it definitely plays in tune and is a fun instrument

-- The Wood Is Your Oyster

View helluvawreck's profile


32122 posts in 3667 days

#4 posted 02-06-2014 05:52 PM

It looks like a really fun project. Nice work.

helluvawreck aka Charles

-- helluvawreck aka Charles,

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