Attention to all cigar box guitar builders. Not including playing a cigar box guitar that I have built, the second most favorite thing about having a cigar box guitar is showing it off. Let’s face it – that’s why you build a beautiful kitchen table. That is why you build a beautiful chair. Sure you may need something to set on when you use your new kitchen table. Besides the practicality of the use you do want it to look good, don’t you? It is not a matter of conceit or arrogance that I tell you I make some pretty damn good-looking projects. There is just something about a two tone vintage suitcase with a guitar amp stuck in it. It just looks good. Some people look at it and don’t see what you and I as builders would see, the work that went into it etc. I enjoy showing my projects off that is what this website is all about. I want to see your projects and I want to give you a forum to see other projects for inspiration and technique. I think it is safe to say that you will find most builders very anxious to show you how and what they built.
Here is a great example of a quick video on a really cool project. Gas can guitar
Let me say that again I really want to see your projects. Please feel free to go to the contact page and send me photos, or e-mail to email@example.com. I will put them here as long as I can keep up. Eventually there will be the ability to upload photos and videos of your projects and performances. The more time I spend building guitars the less time I have to work on this webpage. So indeed it may move slowly but this will come about eventually.
If you have any other comments or articles you would like to place on Cigar Box Guitar Hut, feel free to send them.
From time to time it is necessary for me to take a good hard look around the shop for projects that I have started and not quite finished. Sometimes I will get to a point on a project where I am missing a part. You know how is something you need to go here or there to make it that work of art that you’re striving for. Let’s say one case “what am I going to use for the bridge.” Now you can just go over to the table saw and with a little practice cut out a nice wooden saddle. A nice bridge saddle where you could put in a blank and notch it however you need. Then other times you may be looking for just the right re-purposed part to do the job (a screw or a bolt). A key is a good example of using something other than a standard bridge. Cigar box guitar bridges are as plain or as complicated as you want to make them. So let’s say I have two guitars I am looking for pieces to hang them up in the shop where I can see them from time to time. Seeing them keeps them on my mind and thinking about what I might fine to finish them up. This is well and good until you realize you have like me maybe five or six projects that are almost complete.
From time to time I just have to finish things up. To start I will take a notepad and go over each uncompleted project and take notes on what is needed to complete it, in regards to labor and parts. Now I have a shopping list on what I need, which are usually simple things that will make an entire project now usable and sellable. In some cases I must go online to parts stores that are specifically designed for cigar box guitar parts. There are few but the ones that are out there they are doing quite a good job of accumulating the right parts and tools for cigar box guitar building. It is easy to see that saving a few small things for one time and taking care of them in one afternoon or weekend can mean a big difference in inventory. If you are not looking at them as inventory, I understand I consider my cigar box guitars a folk art piece as much as a homemade musical instrument. But like any art project you need supplies. Now some builders keep an ample supply of most every part you could imagine. Others will buy specific parts for a project pickups tuners bridge etc. I have always lived by the principle of scavenging parts. I keep a lookout on social media for project guitars that I can rob parts from. As in any adventure beware of the parts you are being sold, know what you are buying and what it should cost you.
It feels really good to get that package in the mail knowing that it will allow you to complete four or five projects. Now I know all of this can be solved with perfect timing and planning ahead and all that. If that is how you do it things that is fine but me I always end up with some ghost projects. Happy building.
Five minute epoxy, how long does it take? Someone who shall remain nameless was visiting my shop and saw my abundant glue shelf. My shop is by no means well-organized. Honestly, the only time I clean is when it becomes a safety issue. I keep a clean area around saws and moving equipment for obvious reasons, but my glue shelf is a mess.
My visitor asked, “so what is your favorite glue?” Although there is never a bad question if you really don’t know. This was a question impossible to answer with only one glue. My favorite types of glue are quick setting – 15 minute, 30 minute or 5 minute epoxy glues. I also love CA (Cyanoacrylate) glue. I use CA when it is most convenient to just hold something in place and not clamp it. Off course you can’t beat just plain white wood glue. There are tricks when using glues. Some clues like wood glue is best clamped under pressure. Make sure you get a good even coat, and apply good clamps and above all give it time. Don’t rush a wood glue up job. Let it stay in the clamps at least 24 hours, it’s not like you don’t have another project to work on in the meantime.
When it comes to epoxy glues I like a good five minute epoxy. I find it generally cheaper when bought by the bulk from a hobby store or online. If it comes into little tubes with a syringe it’s probably not going to do. Two-part epoxies are heavily affected by the temperature. When you glue up a project, set the timer for twice as long as the glue claims to take to set. Set a timer and find something else around the shop to do, especially if the weather is cold in the shop – which it can get quite cool in my shop (in the 60s, which is cool for the Cigar Box Hut’s southern locale).
I remember quite well watching my grandfather make wooden projects in the most amazing woodworking shop I thought ever to exist. He would carefully measure and mark mysterious lines I didn’t understand. A mark with an a X to one side, a mark with “d.o.” in little letters. What I know now to be a mark and a drop-off side. My grandfather’s initials were W.P.W., for William Patrick. Later to be Willie Patrick. He would mysteriously cut the board and then mark it with “PAT.” Being a young man of 10 or 11, I always thought he was marking it with his name Pat. I know now this was his pattern.
Before I was launched into the world of entertainment I was a sheet metal worker. What some called a sheet metal worker bench man I was just someone who laid out patterns. I love the geometry end of it and I was quite good. Sheet metal bench work utilized many patterns. You could appreciate how efficient and effective a bench man would be by his collection of patterns. If I laid something out that I knew I was going to lay out again at some point I would make a pattern. Punch a hole in it, drive a nail and stick it on the wall. Labeling that pattern was very important. Exactly what part, if it was a single part of many. Or if it was a single part precisely what part was it. Now that I am in the community of woodworking and cigar box guitar building I still understand the importance of patterns. Although every cigar box guitar is different in many ways, in as many ways they are the same.
If you plan to start a collection of patterns there are many things to consider: The long term storage of your patterns is important. If you have room and they are a wooden part, it is easy to hang them on a wall somewhere. If it is a paper pattern it is more important to protect it from moisture and sunlight to prevent fading etc. I have an old white four drawer cabinet that I have had since I was in diapers. This cabinet stores all of my wooden patterns, paper etc. Now I know what you are thinking we live in a world with computers and if “I want a pattern I will just set down at the PC, print it up and take it to the shop and use it”. If that is what you do then do it with pride. I understand, with the correct program you can now print out a life-size pattern. This can be very handy. However, it is hard to put a paper pattern on a crosscut saw to set the stop block. I find it much easier to have a wooden pattern to place on the table saw cranked the blade up with it off and unplug and set the fence using my pattern. I am also very aware that some readers have a table saw that they merely set the dial toone and three-quarter inches, and ripped the perfect neck stock. If you have the table saw to it that does that pleased shoot video and post it here as soon as that feature becomes available.
I find patterns for a router to be extremely useful. I have used this technique from everything from a project that required blue foam panels with series of holes notches and slots.
Cigar box guitars and amplifiers are a wonderful way to begin building playable instruments. Whether you choose to build a simple three string cigar box guitar or a credenza, you will at some point need wood clamps. There are various types and styles of wood clamps available to the modern woodworker. You will find having one or two clamps just may not be enough. I have seen shops with as many as 30 clamps. That’s not a record I’m sure. I myself have may be 14 or 15. Different clamps are used in holding different objects. When using any type of clamp on a wooden project keep in mind you must repair any mark your clamp puts on your project.
I keep various thin materials such as cardboard, wax paper and thin strips of wood to cover the jaws of my wood clamps. From time to time you need to check and clean the jaws of whatever clamp you are using. Clamps are generally used for glue ups or holding something in place to drill or screw. I absolutely endorse nothing here but I will say there are some fine glues out there. For a wide variety of materials. I just can’t imagine anything you could not glue together with the proper glue and the help of some quality clamps.
When your project calls for a complicated or even a simple glue up, I suggest a kind of “dry rehearsal.” Think about how you are going to use your clamps, what are the best clamps to use and how are you going to do all of this with glue all over your hands. I make it a point to use latex gloves when I glue up a project. And if you do it right it helps keep the glue off your clamps. Nothing will mess up the finish of a project faster than glue on the jaws of a clamp.
TIP: Remember to put on gloves. I keep all my clues epoxies etc. on a shelf and set the box of gloves in front of them. When I reach for the glue I can’t get to them without moving the gloves. I will admit before it was a habit I did move the gloves a few times only to put them back on the shelf with glue on my hand later.
Be careful don’t get in a hurry. I know after I have taken the time to design and build a cigar box guitar and get it to the point of its first glue-up it is hard not to just dive right in. You need to slow down, stage all your clamps and don’t get in a hurry. Do a little dry rehearsal, and be sure to put the clamps back into their staging position before starting the actual glue-up. Equally important is cleaning up any glue that has made its way to the surface. Remember different glues use different methods of cleaning up the excess glue. It is simple to have a wet paper towel and cleanup excess wood glue. It is somewhat more difficult to clean up an epoxy based glue.
That is the first question I usually get from a person that has never seen a cigar box guitar. “Why a cigar box?” It is a very simple answer – necessity. I would imagine ever since man started beating on a hollow log, he or she has attempted to sing. I’m sure singing alone turned into singing with others. And a fireside sing-along can only have so many logs. Fast forward to modern day, and the guitar was introduced – at a price. As we know, musicians do not always come from families that can afford a guitar. As resourceful as anyone, a musician learns to “use what you have to make what you need.”
From a simple one string stretched across a poll, or in some photo documented cases a tree. Often played with a whiskey bottle for a slide. In the tradition of call and response and a simple blues scale was not far behind. Using a cigar box gave the instrument more volume and tone, which is sought after today by many builders. If you are a builder you know the excitement of stringing up your latest project to hear its individual sound. The cigar box guitar has become a work of folk art. Often decorated with the faces of the blues legends long gone. Anything and everything goes with your cigar box guitar. From using dice for volume and tone knobs, to chrome corners and shower drain sound hole covers.
Welcome to Cigar Box Guitar Hut.
Our purpose here is to give a venue for advice, how to videos and photographs of your latest projects. I hope to open up the world of cigar box guitars and amps to those who have never seen them. Equally I would like to help out those who have been building CBG for a while with a place to show off their work. There are some amazing projects in the widest of varieties from simple one string and a can, to full six string electric cigar box guitars. I am looking forward to seeing your projects soon.