Here is my first attempt at building a cigar box guitar. My self imposed goal was to build it out of as garbage and reused items as possible.
I started with a piece of oak that I picked from the garbage. It looked like it had been a piece of flooring or cabinet trim at some point and would perfect for the neck of the guitar.
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I cut it down to 34 inches long to start with and ripped it to 1 and 1/2 inches wide. I then planed down the sides and glued on an extra piece to widen out the section that would go inside the cigar box. I also cut down an extra piece of wood to make the neck piece inside the box thicker. This was mostly done so that there was plenty of material for my tail piece to screw into.
For that I used an old strike plate. My in laws got new interior doors in their house recently so this was the perfect time to relieve them of some garbage. I cleaned it up a little bit and then drilled 3 holes big enough for the strings to pull through, but small enough where the ball end on the string would hold.
Next I marked a center line on my cigar box and cut square holes to fit my neck assembly. This went pretty easy since the cigar box wood is thin and soft and fairly easy to chisel out. I just took my time and did a lot of test fitting.
Next I had to cut a relief, or wide dado in the neck so that the top of the lid only touched the neck at the edges. I chiseled the profile so that the neck supported the sides of the lid, but the middle would be free to resonate like a real acoustic guitar.
once the box and neck were fit together I could lay out the scale length for the guitar. I put my bridge, which was just a piece of threaded rod with some acorn nuts on the ends about 1/3 of the way towards the end on the cigar box. And then measured 23.5 inches up the neck and made a mark for my nut. I then added an additional 4 inches for the headstock.
I used some files and rasps to make a channel for a piece of threaded rod to sit in to act as my nut. Then I laid out where I was going to drill for my tuning pegs. I used eye bolts for the tuning peg and set them 1 inch apart from each other. I drilled holes through the side of the headstock for the bolt to go through, and drilled 1/5 inch holes staggered in the top for the strings to thread around the bolt. This worked out pretty well but I had to carve out some relief in the headstock so that the string could pass over the nut and around the top of the bolt without touching anything else.
Once that was taken care of I could round the corners of the headstock and get to work shaping the neck. For that I mostly used a spoke shave and put a heavy round over on the back of the neck. Once I was happy with the overall shape I cleaned it up with some sandpaper.
At this point things were really starting to take shape. I just had to screw in my strike plate tailpiece, glue the neck into the box, and then add strings.
I added an output to the guitar by installing a 1/4 inch jack wired directly to a piezo disc. I wasn’t fully confident about the placement so I just used some tape to stick it down to the under side of the lid, under the bridge towards the bass end. This seems to have worked out nicely.
There are some things that I would do differently next time but overall I am happy with my first attempt at building a cigar box guitar. Now I just need to practice…and build some more…
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