Cigar Box Guitar

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Project by FrankLad posted 400 days ago 1120 views 5 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, Handcrafted wooden rings -

13 comments so far

View pintodeluxe's profile


3283 posts in 1419 days

#1 posted 400 days ago

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 1519 days

#2 posted 400 days ago

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


3014 posts in 430 days

#3 posted 400 days ago

That is so cool Frank….well done.

-- Dave.......Keep calm and make more sawdust....

View FrankLad's profile


270 posts in 1915 days

#4 posted 400 days ago

Thanks, guys!

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

-- Frank, Mississippi, Handcrafted wooden rings -

View dvd812's profile


40 posts in 405 days

#5 posted 400 days ago

Great job. Love it.

-- Do all things to the Glory of God.

View deltawing's profile


67 posts in 636 days

#6 posted 400 days ago

Great work Frank > have fun learning to play it

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

View FrankLad's profile


270 posts in 1915 days

#7 posted 399 days ago

Thanks, guys!

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

-- Frank, Mississippi, Handcrafted wooden rings -

View TheWoodenOyster's profile


646 posts in 541 days

#8 posted 399 days ago

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


270 posts in 1915 days

#9 posted 399 days ago

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, Handcrafted wooden rings -

View DanW's profile


116 posts in 1648 days

#10 posted 398 days ago

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 1241 days

#11 posted 397 days ago

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


557 posts in 2668 days

#12 posted 396 days ago

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


270 posts in 1915 days

#13 posted 185 days ago

Thanks, guys!

-- Frank, Mississippi, Handcrafted wooden rings -

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