Cigar box guitar

This was my first actual cigar box guitar. Although many of the design features were well tested on previous instruments I hadn't been able to get my hands on a suitable cigar box until this point. I chose to keep things simple by going for a classic three-string arrangement. Initially I've tuned it to G-G-B (with the two Gs an octave apart) - which is the tuning used by Seasick Steve on his "Three String Trance Wonder". I also followed his choice of string gauges, which results in fairly high string tension. I might alter this in conjunction with some work on the action.

I tried to make a few steps forwards in terms of constructional sophistication, but without letting go of the essential ethos of simplicity. The neck is the most complicated I have built so far - it has frets and inlayed dot markers. I also added a tone circuit to the controls (although on reflection I don't think this is enormously useful). The pickup is a cheap generic copy of a Gibson "mini-humbucker" and has plenty of power..

The acoustic sound is quite good but rather quiet in comparison with the tin guitar. The amplified sound is great...especially when "cranked up" a bit.

(sound samples to come...)

Below are some pictures showing the construction. Some were taken with the camera in my mobile phone so the quality is a bit variable. Clicking on any of the images should lead you to a larger version.

The box.

There seem to be two separate "Cohiba" brands in the cigar world: one Cuban and one Dominican. This is a Cuban box, which once held some rather hefty "Esplendido" cigars. Apparently the Cohiba brand was originally created for Fidel's personal cigars.

The box was quite plain and cheaply finished compared to other cigar boxes I have seen, however it had the virtue of being relatively large, which I felt might have tonal benefits. It also has comb joints at the corners, which should make it relatively strong. I sanded it down and re-finished it (particularly the base, which was unvarnished and quite rough).

The neck sitting in the box to check the basic fit. I like to use a single piece of timber to make the neck and headstock - in this case a length of 1.5 inch by 1 inch sapele. Sometimes (as in this case) I glue an additional piece of timber under the body end to provide reinforcement where I need to cut away timber to accommodate a pickup.

(The neck was at a very early stage of construction in this shot - the timber blank was cut to length and the reinforcing block was glued on but no shaping work had been done.)

The finished neck. In addition to accommodating the pickup, the cutaway shape at the body end was intended to help allow the soundboard to vibrate freely. I finish my necks by sanding exposed areas with 400-grade abrasive paper and then applying a wax finish, which, together with the curved profile of the back, gives a really nice feel.

A view of the tail end of the instrument, showing the bridge (which was filed from a piece of 10mm square aluminium) and the tailpiece (cut from a piece of brass sheet).


A back view of the finished guitar, showing the arrangement of the tuning heads and the shape of the neck.

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