In an age when many instruments are mass-produced and the quality of sound has become increasingly diluted, there is renewed interest in handmade musical instruments. One of the most popular is the cigar box guitar, which is a simple stringed instrument made from discarded cigar boxes and other found materials. Known as “cigarbox blues” because of the twangy sounds they produce, these instruments can be used to play a wide variety of music styles, from rock and country to folk and jazz. They are typically acoustic but can be amplified by adding a piezo-type flat disc transducer pickup (bought or homemade) glued to the inside of the box or tin under where the strings will be fitted, or an electromagnetic pickup wound by hand by the maker or bought and wired up. Many of these handmade instruments are one-of-a-kind creations.
While some professional musicians are sceptical about the sound of cigar box guitars, they have also found them to be extremely useful for creating a wide range of musical genres. Walker believes this is because of the unique and expressive nature of the instrument’s sound, and the fact that its makers are able to create their own signature sounds using simple tools and materials. He is particularly impressed by the inclusivity of the cigar box guitar community, which he feels is driven by a desire to make music accessible to everyone, regardless of their background or financial means.
The cigar box guitar is very easy to build, and most builders will start by cutting a piece of mahogany or pine that is about 12″ long. This piece of wood is then glued to the bottom of the cigar box, with glue squirted around the perimeter to ensure a good seal. Once the glue has dried, the top of the cigar box is then cut down to size with a saw and sanded smooth. Once the top of the cigar box is ready, it can be painted or stained.
The next step in building the cigar box guitar is to build a neck. To do this, first, measure the width of the box at the top. Then mark a line that is 3/4″ away from this measurement, on either side of the box. Make sure that this line is level with the top of the box.
Next, the neck is constructed out of mahogany or pine. To make the neck, first cut a piece of wood that is 1″ x 2″ x 36″. To make it easier to fit into the box, you can use a mitre saw to make the cuts. Once the wood has been cut to size, it can be sanded down to shape and then marked out for frets.
The final stage is to install the frets. To do this, first, the frets should be bent slightly. This can be done with a tool called a “Surform”, which can be purchased online. Once the frets are bent, they can then be inserted into slots in the neck. The neck should then be test-fitted into the box, and if necessary, the excess material can be removed with a chisel.