How to Make a Cigar Box Guitar

This humble, homespun guitar is all you need to make sweet music.

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You Will Need

  • 3 ft. piece of 1 in. x 2 in. oak
  • Ruler or straightedge
  • Pencil
  • Power drill
  • 1/4 in. drill bit
  • 1 piece of 1/2 in. x 2 in. wood
  • 1 piece of 1 in. x 2 in. wood
  • Epoxy
  • Clamp
  • Saw
  • 3 eyebolts with wing nuts and washers
  • 3 wood screws
  • Nylon mason twine
  • 4 1-in. finishing nails
  • Cigar box
  • Piezo transducer
  • Soldering iron and solder
  • Electric guitar cable
  • Amplifier
  • Grinder (optional)

Steps

  1. Step 1

    Measure and mark

    Measure from the top of the oak, which will be the neck, and make a mark horizontally across it with the pencil 1/2 inch from the top. Make 3 more marks, spaced 1 inch apart, measuring from the first mark. Draw 3 vertical lines the length of the horizontal lines, spaced about 3/8 of an inch apart, starting from the outer edge.

  2. Step 2

    Mark drill holes

    Mark the spots on the grid to drill the holes where the lines intersect. With the oak piece in front of you horizontally, mark the first spot where the first horizontal line meets the third vertical line away from you.

  3. Step 3

    Continue marking

    Mark another spot directly underneath the first one on the next horizontal line down and another next to it on the second vertical line. On the third horizontal line down from the top, mark the first and second line intersections, and on the fourth horizontal line, mark the intersection with the first vertical line closest to you.

  4. Step 4

    Mark the anchors

    Make 3 marks where the strings will be anchored at the other end of the piece of oak. Measure 1 inch up from the bottom, and make the first mark 1/2 in from one side. Mark the next 2 spots 1/2 inch apart to give you 3 centered marks. Drill holes through the spots where you marked using the 1/4 inch drill bit.

  5. Step 5

    Add string lifts

    Add the 1/2-inch by 2-inch piece of wood 6 inches from the top. This will function as the bridge. Then add the 1-by-2 piece of wood 1 1/2 inches from the bottom. This is the nut, which lifts the strings off the guitar. Secure both pieces with epoxy, clamp them down, and allow the epoxy to dry.

  6. Step 6

    Cut string grooves

    Using the saw, cut 3 small, equidistant vertical grooves for the strings to sit in across the bridge and nut. Insert 1 eyebolt into the topmost hole of the neck, the second bolt into the middle hole below, and the last eyebolt into the first hole on the third level. Secure them in the back with the washers and wing nuts. These will serve as the tuning pegs.

  7. Although a regular guitar has 6 strings, cigar box guitars often have only 3 or 4 strings.

  8. Step 7

    Insert wood screws

    Drill pilot holes for the 3 wood screws on the back side of the oak, about 1/2 inch up from the end to hold the strings. Insert the screws.

  9. Step 8

    String the guitar

    Cut a length of twine and double-knot it to one of the wood screws at the bottom. Thread it through the hole to the front of the guitar and up through the nut, and then back down the hole at the top to double-knot it to the top of the eyebolt. Repeat for the 2 remaining strings. Then turn the bolts to tighten and tune the strings. Cut away any excess twine.

  10. Step 9

    Add frets

    Place 4 nails horizontally below the bridge, underneath the strings, at regular intervals to serve as frets. Secure them with rubber bands fastened to either end and around the back of the neck.

  11. Grind off the sharp ends of the nails using the grinder.

  12. Step 10

    Attach cigar box

    Glue the cigar box shut and center it underneath the oak neck, just above the string holes at the bottom end. Epoxy it on and let it dry thoroughly. Then tune it up, and you have a finished acoustic guitar.

  13. Step 11

    Make it electric

    Make your guitar electric by adding a piezo transducer. Tape the round end of the transducer directly underneath the nut and solder the other end to an electric guitar cable. Plug it to your amp and jam!

  14. The Cigar Box Guitar Extravaganza, an annual event begun in 2005 in Hunstville, Alabama, is billed as the largest cigar box guitar concert in the world.

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