Some of the most famous players in history started their careers on home-made guitars, and commandeering an old wooden cigar box was a well-known way of fashioning the body, the trickiest bit. Who would have thought that cigar box guitars would enjoy a renaissance?
It's true: they're back, particularly in the US, with a thriving subculture busily building, playing, recording and even gigging on instruments that were put together in a matter of hours. The DIY ethic rules, although modern tuners and even pickups are allowed. We couldn't resist: we had to give it a try for ourselves.
BUILDING THE BOX
Just like regular acoustic guitars, cigar box guitars require some backwards neck angle to achieve a sufficient bridge height. I planed a downward ramp towards the tail end of the neck on the surface that I intended to glue against the top of the cigar box.
After installing the nut, drilling holes in the headstock and installing the tuners I decided to check the neck angle by having a dry run at assembly.
I used a jewellers saw to cut out a couple of soundholes, then notched out the box to accommodate the neck.The strings' ball ends were secured in the traditional way with four ‘lost head' nails tapped into the tail end of the neck.
Sure enough, the neck angle had to be increased. At this point I decided to reduce the contact surface between the neck and box by scalloping out an area between the end of the fingerboard and the bridge to free up a little more of the top to increase the size of the soundboard and perhaps achieve a little more volume.