Building a Cigar Box Guitar


A class on how to build a cigar box guitar

Out of stock

SKU: BCSW-CG Category:

Taught by Danny Williams

Sunday, November 10th, 2019 8 AM to 4:30 PM (Lunch provided)

No experience, or tools, necessary
Tuition does not include a ~$30 materials fee payable to instructor

“Cigar box guitar” is a catch-all phrase for any stringed music instrument made by re-purposing a thin wooden or metal container—cigar boxes, cookie tins, gas cans, parts trays, lunch boxes, and any number of other items which catch the eye of a builder. An online search reveals that seemingly thousands of people are doing this for personal enjoyment, and many are designing and producing them in commercial quantities.

The instructor will bring a variety of boxes, but feel free to bring your own. You will decide all the important elements of your instrument—length of the scale, number of strings, design of the sound holes, and how it will be tuned. No two will be alike. There is not a lot of woodworking skill involved, but it will be a valuable introduction to laying out and slotting a fingerboard, then installing and finishing the frets. Each instrument will have a piezo pickup with a standard ¼-inch output jack. If you’re at a concert and the band calls you up on stage, you’ll be ready to plug right in!

What to do with it after it’s built? The instrument has been adopted by many blues guitar players, who tune their three or four strings to an open key for slide-style playing. If you play any stringed instrument already, you can tune your CBG to something your fingers will recognize—ukulele GCEA tuning, three or four adjacent strings on a guitar, mandolin GDAE, the four main strings of a banjo, or tune it to something new and explore what can be done with it.

At the same time we’re building the CBGs, we will each build a one-string, major-scale instrument with a steel can for a resonator. These go by many names, and I call my design a “ditty stick.” It’s a fun toy, and sort of a real instrument. Anyone, including very young children, can play ditties on it after a few minutes of instructi0n. Working on these will give us practice in some of the building skill, before we tackle the more demanding CBGs.

All the tools we need will be available for use at the Back Channel School. If you do have favorite hand tools, feel free to bring them: rasps, sanding blocks or powered hand sanders, chisels, clamps, and small hand saws are always welcome at a woodworking event.

Please e-mail me with comments or questions. If you’re thinking about bringing your own box or tin, tell me about it and I’ll think about how to make it work. I can also send you more pictures, give details about the process, or offer free opinions on almost any topic.

Come on out August 17, and help fill the shop with twang.

Danny Williams