Hand-Rolled Music

Five years ago, MAKE featured an electric Cigar Box Guitar project (Volume 04, page 76). The project’s author, Ed Vogel, designed a simple instrument using only parts you’d find at a hardware store. I made one myself, and had a wonderful time playing it.

Last year, I decided I’d like to make a more traditional cigar box guitar. I soon found Cigar Box Nation (cigarboxnation.com), a fantastic online hangout for homemade stringed instrument enthusiasts. The photos, videos, and MP3s posted by these happy strummers and pluckers were inspiring, and the variety of guitars in the photo galleries was astounding.

I joined the group and was warmly welcomed by its members, who kindly answered my newbie questions about frets, choices of wood, and other aspects of guitar building. In a matter of days, I had built my first cigar box guitar (or CBG for short). I’ve now built more than a half dozen CBGs, and I guess you can say I’m hooked.

Because every CBG is built by hand, using different found and scrounged materials, no two sound alike. I love the suspense of not knowing what kind of “personality” a CBG is going to have until it’s completed. Here’s how to make a plain-vanilla, 3-string CBG that requires a minimum of tools and parts, yet sounds great.