Cigar Box Guitar

I’ve decided I want to build me a cigar box guitar. I don’t remember where I first saw one of these; but I think there was a man playing a cigar box tenor guitar on stage with Joan Baez at a concert Beth and I went to two years ago. Basically, it’s an ersatz guitar made from a cigar box. Some of them sound pretty good. I especially like the sound of resophonic models like this one:

I’ve learned from a bit of internet research that cigar box guitars have become pretty popular of late, but they have a fairly long history. (According to wikipedia, cigars have only come in boxes since the 1840s, having been shipped in barrels before that!) There is an etching that shows a Union soldier playing a cigar box fiddle in the 1860s (shown below). Legend has it that the blues guitarist, Blind Willie Johnson built himself a cigar box guitar when he was five (in 1902).

Etching by French Artist Edwin Forbes (1839-1895), showing a Union soldier playing a cigar box fiddle in camp.

A couple weeks ago I stopped in Dave’s Cigar Shop, just down the street from our apartment. I was not surprised to find that Dave had quite a selection of nice, empty cedar cigar boxes in the corner. He was offering them for $3.50. I chose this handsome black one:
Dave makes key chests out of some of his old cigar boxes, which he sells in the store. He mounts a strip of brass hooks inside, so you can keep your keys organized. He said some girls buy cigar boxes and make purses out of them, and he has some old ladies that come in and buy them to make jewelry boxes. With all these cigar box crafts going on, I was surprised to find that he’d never heard of a cigar box guitar (CBG).

For my first attempt at building one of these, I’ve decide to do a four string model (probably to be strung like a tenor guitar, or the top 4 strings of a 5 string banjo in G tuning), and to follow the basic design by Ivan L. Sucharski, which is shown in the free plans at, and can also be found at

I have cut out a recess in the poplar 1×2 that I’m using as a neck, and a rectangular hole in the box itself to make a half lap joint between the neck and body:

It may take me a while to get some fretting wire and geared tuning machines. But I will do another post with video or audio when the CBG is finished.

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4 Comments on “Cigar Box Guitar”

  1. Fire Grate Says:

    we have different jewelry boxes at home and most of them comes from my mother who like to collect jewelry boxes `;”

  2. Very cool! I just bought my first, maybe I’ll make my own someday – my project is going to be making a case, and making an amp for it. 😀 I like the box you’re using!

  3. wsbluesbox Says:

    So how did it sound?

  4. wsbluesbox Says:

    i make thse too. i love how they sound and feel when playing. may i suggest open E tuning. sounds real dirty and southern.

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