Saturday, November 26, 2011

Cigar Box Guitar

the finished CBG and homemade amp

I first discovered this project in Make magazine.  I try to give my girls something hand made for Christmas and/or birthdays every year.  Both of my daughters love music so I thought this would be perfect for Christmas 2010.  The original inspiration was a little too rough around the edges.  I wanted to make something with a little more heirloom quality and better sound.  So I found better plans online.

I scored the cigar box from a cigar store for $3.  They have tons of empty ones.  Just ask and they'll be happy to get rid of some.  Finding a wooden one in this shape was a little tough though.  Many of them were cardboard or square.  It took a few minutes of digging to find one that was just right. 

the neck

The neck is a piece of maple from the home improvement store.  It extends all the way through the body of the guitar.  I used a wood router to thin out the neck for the headstock and the part of the neck that inserts into the body.  ***Blog lesson #1:  DON'T USE YOUR WOOD ROUTER INDOORS!!!***  It had been a long time since I used a wood router.  I forgot what a mess it makes.  It was cold out so I used it in the basement.  I'm still cleaning up the dust and shavings a year later!  I slightly rounded the back of the neck for comfort.  I glued two more pieces of maple to the neck to make the heel.   I shaped it by hand with files.  I used an online fret calculator to determine the fret spacing.  The slots for the frets were cut with a Dremel Mini Saw.  I taped some thin wood strips to the base of the Mini Saw to get the proper depth of cut.

the heel
The tuning pegs, frets, and ferrules were all from Stewart-MacDonald.  The nut is a piece of brass rod.  The saddle is a piece of aluminum angle.  The strings were from C.B. Gitty tuned to "open G" (GBD).  The "inlays" were burned in with a wood burning iron.  I cut a sound hole in the front and wired a piezo element inside between the neck and the cigar box to use as a pickup following these instructions.  I finished it with a few coats of tung oil buffed out with steel wool.

This was a big project.  Probably took a week or two of evenings to finish it.  But it was also one of my most satisfying.  My only mistake was not making two so my girls don't fight over it.  It sounds great, but it would sound even better if someone in the house actually knew how to play guitar!  If you are interested, I made the amplifier as well.  Instructions for that can be found here.

1 comment:

  1. ok, our kids have the coolest dad in the world.