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Old 06-26-2015, 09:10 AM
J.acoustic J.acoustic is offline
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Default Cigar Box Guitar Help

So, I current use 1/4" size guitar for my travel/hiking guitar. It sounds alright (nylon strings), but honestly I usually just play it to play something... not for it's sound.

So, considering I don't care much for the tone (though loud enough to hear acoustically), I thought... how hard could it be to make my own guitar with a longer scale (23") and lighter weight? Essentially, I want an acoustic guitar that is all neck/string and little anything else. It seems to me that a cigar box guitar matches this best--assuming I can find a strong/lightweight cigar box, any recommendations?


Also, there seems to be two ways to go about building one.

1. The "easy' way is simply to feed the neck all the way through the cigar box. While this adds some extra weight, it's easier to attach to the body securely and likely stronger. However, this means I need to create my own neck, attach fretboard/frets, nut, tuners, etc.

2. The other way would be getting a pre-made neck (used/broken small guitar like Little Martin or Squire Mini or something) and attach that to one end rather than feed through. This doesn't seem that strong (unless you can reinforce the box or use lighter gauge strings).

The options above I assume each dictate the soundhole(s) and the bridge.


Any and all help is appreciated. Thanks!

Last edited by J.acoustic; 06-26-2015 at 09:18 AM.
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Old 06-26-2015, 10:20 AM
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Rodger Knox Rodger Knox is offline
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It would probably be easier to build completely from scratch than to try to attach a neck to a box that wasn't designed to support a neck.

Careful though. Building guitars is more addictive than heroin, nobody stops after the first. I've done a couple of cereal box electrics, I'll see if I can find some construction photos.
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Old 06-26-2015, 10:55 AM
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I've done three of these, a six string, a twelve string, and a bass. These photos are the bass. I had a neck for the twelve string, but I made the necks for the six string and bass. You just have to build the box with the structural capacity to attach the neck. These are all bolt-on necks similar to Fender.
Here's the pieces of the box. For some acoustic sound, I'd go larger on the box and thinner on the top and back, and probably a little deeper also.


Here's the way those pieces fit together. You cab see the "tounge" where the neck bolts on, and how it's secured to the box.


Here's the finished bass, from the back. You can see where the screws go through the tounge and into the neck.
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Old 06-26-2015, 12:17 PM
J.acoustic J.acoustic is offline
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Thanks for the pictures. However, that seems a bit heavy... no? I'm fine with building my own box (honestly, that might even be the best way?), but how lightweight can I go? Also, where can I find laminate wood? Especially considering no truss rod, I'd like to have something that won't warp as much due to humidity and such (will bring this hiking, backpacking, camping).
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Old 06-26-2015, 02:12 PM
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Yes, what I show in the photos is way too heavy for an acoustic, it was designed to play electric without feedback. I'd go with spruce for the top, about 1/8" thick, and whatever hardwood strikes you fancy for the rest. The sides can be pretty thick, 3/8" to 1/2"(that will be thick enough that you won't need linings to glue on the top and back), but I'd go about 1/8" thick for the back. As for the size of the box, 12"to 15" wide, 18"to 20" long, and 3"to 4" deep. You may need some bracing for the top, that depends on how big you make the box. You don't need laminate, solid wood would be better. You do need a way to thin it down to the desired thickness. What kind of tools do you have?

It would be easier to find a neck you can use, and build the box to fit the neck. That's what I did for the 12 string. Building a neck isn't really that hard, but it is a bit intimidating, and takes some time. You will also want to use a typical acoustic bridge, without the block underneath as shown in the photo.
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Last edited by Rodger Knox; 06-26-2015 at 02:18 PM.
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Old 06-26-2015, 05:49 PM
ttcycling ttcycling is offline
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I have built several cigar box guitars and other related instruments and I think you can make exactly what you want. I have used sturdy cigar boxes for bodies as well as 1/4 and 1/8 Baltic Birch plywood from a hobby shop and other found materials.

The first couple of photos are of one that I built using some scrap cedar fencing and a license plate for the top. Small, lightweight and sturdy. The second photo is a funky reso using 1/8 Baltic Birch plywood. They can sound amazingly good considering the size and materials.

I use 1x2 maple for my necks, shape them with a spoke shave and glue on a 1/4" oak or maple fret board that I make to 24 scale. You can use the neck through method which is easy or a bolt-on which I prefer. Traditionally they are 3 or 4 stringers and can be fretted or slide only if you prefer not to go the fretted route. 6 strings would of course require some sort of truss rod where as the 3 and 4 stringers seem fine without.

Most parts are available inexpensively at cbgitty.com (no affiliation) and there is lots of building assistance at cigarboxnation.com. Good luck and have fun!


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Old 06-26-2015, 06:37 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Rodger Knox View Post
Careful though. Building guitars is more addictive than heroin, nobody stops after the first. I've done a couple of cereal box electrics, I'll see if I can find some construction photos.
Let's see, not much to a cigar box guitar, think I could make one.



Maybe I can get it to sound better by doing this.







Hmmm... Pretty impressive but still short on tone. How about if I try this?











Oh no, I'm hooked.







Just because it looked easy to stick a neck on a cigar box!

But seriously, cigar box guitar I made did not sound bad given what it was. Do some Youtubing and see and hear what others have done. If something catches your eye and ear give it a try.
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Old 06-26-2015, 07:53 PM
mirwa mirwa is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by J.acoustic View Post
1. The "easy' way is simply to feed the neck all the way through the cigar box. While this adds some extra weight, it's easier to attach to the body securely and likely stronger. However, this means I need to create my own neck, attach fretboard/frets, nut, tuners, etc.
The downside of having a single piece neck that has the tuners bridge saddle nut and strings fitted to it, is you are loosing your acoustic sound. You are in essence making a skinny electric guitar, without the electrics

Have you seen these

https://www.martinguitar.com/model/i...er-guitar.html
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Old 07-08-2015, 11:24 AM
J.acoustic J.acoustic is offline
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Thanks for replies!

I can see how making these could get addicting. We will see.

In terms of box size, I actually made myself a diagram to get at the "ideal" size for a 23" neck. It seems very difficult to find the right size box... so definitely feel it is worthwhile just building the box myself. However, for all those woods you mentioned, where is a good source of that? I assume it wouldn't be Home Depot?

Still, I am thinking of slapping an existing neck on a box. The mini squier can be had used for like $50. I can just remove the neck and slap it on. I will have to reinforce the box, but that will be easier than building a headstock, neck, fretboard, etc. Also, I assume a neck through the guitar is still heavy and will hurt acoustic. Sure, now I must reinforce the box... but might be able to do it in a way that allows the top to vibrate more.

I like the Martin Backpacker, but thought it'd be fun to build something myself. I want the 22.75" or 23" scale too, and Backpacker is 24'.

I actually think the Backpacker with a 23" scale and a more simple cigar box construction is what I'm looking to do here. It involves some reinforcing, but I can get the bridge in a spot to vibrate the top. Sure, it won't be great acoustically, but I think they sound good enough for my use!

I can't get a bridge in too optional a spot considering it means adding length to the guitar. At 23" scale, likely 6" headstock... that's 29"... I don't want much more in length. Maybe 4-6" after the bridge at most. Limit the size to like 36".

I have to keep thinking about it. I've been sketching some stuff out.
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Old 07-08-2015, 02:23 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by J.acoustic View Post
Thanks for replies!

I can see how making these could get addicting. We will see.

In terms of box size, I actually made myself a diagram to get at the "ideal" size for a 23" neck. It seems very difficult to find the right size box... so definitely feel it is worthwhile just building the box myself. However, for all those woods you mentioned, where is a good source of that? I assume it wouldn't be Home Depot?
All the wood in the pics I posted is maple from Home Depot
Still, I am thinking of slapping an existing neck on a box. The mini squier can be had used for like $50. I can just remove the neck and slap it on. I will have to reinforce the box, but that will be easier than building a headstock, neck, fretboard, etc. Also, I assume a neck through the guitar is still heavy and will hurt acoustic. Sure, now I must reinforce the box... but might be able to do it in a way that allows the top to vibrate more.
That's a bolt-on neck, you could easily build a box and route a neck pocket for it, with the neck/body join at the 14th fret. Fender and a couple of German companies made acoustics with that neck joint. This would be the easiest and quickest way...

I like the Martin Backpacker, but thought it'd be fun to build something myself. I want the 22.75" or 23" scale too, and Backpacker is 24'.
Have you played a Backpacker? They don't sit on your leg very well, and it's an odd shape. I wanted to like it, but couldn't.

I actually think the Backpacker with a 23" scale and a more simple cigar box construction is what I'm looking to do here. It involves some reinforcing, but I can get the bridge in a spot to vibrate the top. Sure, it won't be great acoustically, but I think they sound good enough for my use!

I can't get a bridge in too optional a spot considering it means adding length to the guitar. At 23" scale, likely 6" headstock... that's 29"... I don't want much more in length. Maybe 4-6" after the bridge at most. Limit the size to like 36".

I have to keep thinking about it. I've been sketching some stuff out.
I'll sketch something up when I have a chance.
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Last edited by Rodger Knox; 07-08-2015 at 03:42 PM.
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Old 07-08-2015, 07:50 PM
chucksurette chucksurette is offline
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I too have thought about using scraps to build up a cigarbox box. Bedpans work out nice, and they are easy to do.



They produce a surprising amount of sound... This one was 24.75 scale. Cigarbox guitars can be as simple, or as complex as you want.
I think you are going the right route with the pre-made neck.
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Old 07-09-2015, 10:55 AM
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Here's a sketch of how I'd do it, without the top and bottom plates. Those would be about 1/8" thick, spruce on top and maple on the back. The neck pocket is about 3" long, and would need to be adjusted to match the neck. That's all made with 1x4 finished lumber, I'd use maple from Home Depot, but poplar would also work OK.
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Old 07-09-2015, 02:29 PM
J.acoustic J.acoustic is offline
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Awesome! Thanks!

So, 22.75" scale neck is 12.616" at 14th fret. Let's say that the headstock gets us to 18" (though probably longer) and this box will be 18" as well... so looking at 36" in length and 12" in width. That's a good size.

Any reason it should be joined at 14th fret? The bolt on portion itself looks a few frets deeper. If I were to attach it further along the fretboard (say 17th fret or wherever the end of the bolt on part is), this would also allow the bridge to be closer, so could get it in the "sweet spot" or at least have shorter box. The 14th fret to the bridge is 10" on 22.75" scale. That actually does put it in a pretty good spot, nearly central. If I utilized say 17th fret, it'd only be 8" perhaps... could make the box a bit shorter and still hit a sweet spot (to short and it becomes awkward to play though).

I like the wood fitting into a groove within the sides design. This seems to still let the top vibrate well behind these braces and the space below (since I assume that is empty space below the 3 stacked 1x4s?) gets the bottom to vibrate too.

Would any other bracing be necessary for the bridge area?

Last edited by J.acoustic; 07-09-2015 at 02:40 PM.
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Old 07-10-2015, 01:00 PM
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There's no real reason for the 14th fret body join, other than it is typical for acoustic guitars. It also works out to put the bridge in a good spot with this body size and your scale length (which is one reason I recommended that size). You can certainly adjust whatever you like to make it work with the neck you have (or get).

I intended the top and back to be flush with the outside of the box, as is typical in acoustic construction. There is a 1x4 cut to fit below the stack, but it might be better to have that solid, since the neck bolts will be going in through the back.

I'd put a 1 1/2"x6"x 1/8" maple bridgeplate under the bridge, and no other internal bracing. You could do more, but I don't think it's necessary for that size top if it's 1/8" thick spruce. The bracing depends on the thickness and stiffness of the top wood, and with 1/8" thickness almost any piece of spruce will be adequate.
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Old 07-11-2015, 09:47 AM
DarrenH DarrenH is offline
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I'm not a builder but interested in which way you go on this. My cigar box is basically a piece of wood which bears all the string load, the box itself more or less just a resonant chamber. Perhaps some resonant value in setting a neck with an extension to achieve the same end? Good luck, d
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