Monday, May 12, 2014

Building a Cigar Box Guitar

While researching my Cigar Box Guitar (CBG) I came across many sources of information. Here is a list of the ones that I used for building the guitar, minus pickups. I will post about pickups later.

The main guide I used was over at Cigar Box Guitars and their How to Build a Cigar Box Guitar tutorial. I found this had the main information I needed to build my guitar. This is the guide I used to build my CBG.

Another good resource was at Cigar Box 101 which includes a downloadable PDF of notes taken while Michael Glenn built his CBG.

The short notes for building a CBG are:
  • There are no rules!
  • There are lots of resources for how to build a CBG.
For an idea of how beautiful these guitars can get look no further than Soul Cat Guitars, found at the Pike Place Market in Seattle, WA. The owner, Dean Moller, creates amazing looking guitars, ukes, and amps.

For my guitar, I winged it on a ton of details. I wanted to see what it would sound like ASAP so I did not get fancy and was able to put it together with a minimum of tools. For the openings in the body of the cigar box I just traced out a pattern and then used a dremel with a cutting bit to cut out the designs. They are not symmetrical but I don't care, it's unique.

One thing about my guitar, you know it is hand made. Nothing fancy going on here.
Headstock is shaped due to a split in the wood, not by design.

The photo above shows my headstock which I had to trim down on one side not by original design. I was trying to line up my tuning nuts like someone suggested and then ran into a split in the wood as I put one of the nuts in. I grabbed the circular saw, chopped off the split, and then drilled a new tuning nut hole. I then sanded this down to ge the design above. I then had to put a screw in to act as a string guide since the alignment of my tuning nuts were off and the 3rd/top one had it's string colliding with the other 2 nuts.

So, even though I planned some things out, I ran into issues which resulted in unique "design" decisions for my guitar. That's one thing I love about this guitar. It did not come out as I planned but it still looks good and is fun to play.

The building of this guitar was a very Agile process. The building of it was very agile, in software speak. I ran into issues I tuned the headstock. I got the bare minimum put together and I stringed it up to test that it played ok. That worked so I took it apart and put in pickups and sanded down the neck so it felt good in the hands. I played it again and the neck was still not perfect so I sanded it more.

Now I have a smooth, nice to hold, custom guitar.

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