As it turns out, if you follow this guide, you don’t need a lot of expensive tools to make your guitar. All you need is a small screwdriver and small hammer which can be found in almost any household. You’re well aware which cigar box guitar kits are priced best in the market this year, and you’ll have all the resources you need to get started building your own as soon as this week.
What is a cigar box guitar? A cigar box guitar (shortened to CBG) is a type of acoustic guitar that was popularized by folk musician Josh Kaufman. The neck of the instrument was made from a figurative/metaphorical “cigar box”, hence the name. Let’s look at some of the cool things you can make with your very own CBG: 3-string models, 4-string ukuleles, and other small projects!
Guitars From Cigar Boxes: History of Their Appearance
Cigar box guitars were created by young people who use them to express themselves and their personal stories. They are still popular in America because they’re relatively affordable and function well in large jam sessions.
A new type of guitar was first made in the South American countries during the 1850s. Yes, yes, the whole Mississippi Delta, where the first black blues musicians would later appear and a huge blues culture, the so-called “delta blues”, would begin to develop. In the 1860s, many African-American slaves worked on cotton plantations in the south.
With the abolition of slavery, it became much harder to profit off cotton. Cotton yielded much less cash on average after the war. Despite the deplorable situation of slaves on cotton plantations, African Americans were a very musical nation. Otherwise, their music could not have developed into the blues.
It must be said that the appearance of the blues, which is when all of the pain and uniqueness that America has as its “black race” manifested itself, was generated by the after effects of our country’s civil war in 1860s. A lot of the post-war residents living in the delta of the south had almost no money, so there was hardly any production or purchase of musical instruments at that time.
Many people have been making instruments from what was at hand for hundreds of years. Old soldiers who served in the Union and Confederate armies often made musical instruments out of anything they could find in their time post-war. In this day and age, many start with a wooden box, tin can, broom or wires to make something playable. It’s really amazing what people can do when they put their mind toward music as a hobby and avoid all the harder aspects of crafting something themselves.
African slaves were brought to America prior to the 1800s and new generations of slave-groups being born and raised in America kept passed on their cultural values. This was done by sharing them with each other through memories, customs, and views. It must be said that black culture has greatly enriched the New World, mixing with the cultures of Europeans who were originally present on the continent.
African music has a few very peculiar traditions. The “Banjar,” which was made of pumpkin, is the true predecessor of banjo or guitar in America. The earliest depictions of this instrument date back to 1781 and show that Thomas Jefferson was not the first person to write music for it. The enslaved people themselves quickly learned how to play these unique chords and took inspiration from their African roots. The body of a guitar is made from a cigar box.
African Americans are very passionate and emotional about music, so it’s essential that they have it readily available everywhere. A lot of their culture relies on music. Events such as funerals, celebrations etc need to be accompanied by tunes – the same way they would provide their own instruments if they were playing themselves. “Take the cake” is an English expression with multiple meanings, including “to win something easily” and “to accomplish a task most easily.”
Gradually, the US slave culture started to spread from plantation to plantation, eventually leading to the boom of blues music and finally the popularization of electric guitars. That’s where you need to look for the origins of American guitar culture. In large cities, people in salons would exchange licks and ideas with each other, for example exchanging guitar licks during conversation. Eventually, someone decided to play a guitar as part of their salon-room performance.
The development and popularity of the guitar in America is legendary, but difficult for impoverished southern states. The poor couldn’t afford to buy a guitar and this caused them a lot of problems. With unemployment and poverty so widespread, folks started building guitars out of cigar boxes. It was the closest thing to an affordable instrument for decades until the 1930s when the “Great Depression” hit.
Many of those who built these cigar guitars later came into close contact with the first blues and rock stars of those times. Rock and Roll pioneer Carl Lee Perkins recalled his childhood and said that he made the first guitar out of a cigar box, a stick, and metal wiring. Years later, Elvis Presley would be singing the song “Blue Suede Shoes”.
Charlie Christian, Blind Willie Johnson, and “Beans” Hambone are famous musicians who recorded with this instrument. A lot of delta slide guitars these days do not have frets. They’re believed to have been invented because you had to find a way to play them without them: without touching the fretboard.
The predecessor of the box guitar was an instrument called “Diddly-Bow,” which had one string stretched over an empty bottle. The sound was extracted by driving a slide bottle along this string. When two instruments (diddly bow and cigar box guitar) came out at the same time, they allowed for a new technique made popular by some big names of slide guitar players.
Such artists as Son House, Robert Johnson, Muddy Watters all did really well with their innovation in this new style. From a guitar to an emerging industry, Slide guitar and Blues are intimately connected. The folks who played slide often made music out of their humble cigar box guitars and simple “Cotton Fields”.
BB King was raised poor but always wanted to own a guitar. One day, he tried to buy one from the Sears catalog, but his dad told him that there was not enough money in their family budget for BB King to get his dream instrument. So they collected old junk out of the barn and BB King saved it up with interest. He eventually bought himself his dream guitar during a visit to New York City.
While Charlie Christian was a teacher, he also taught guitar and music at the prison. He once said that it helps when you learn how to play complex and cool chords like those found in blues on a simple cigar box guitar like one that Blind Lemon Jefferson would have played.
Sam John Hopkins said that he cut a round hole out of a cigar box, took a small piece of wood from the box, nailed it to the box, and then raised an electric wire to make sounds. He could play melodies and music just by raising the wire!
Cigar boxes for guitars were produced until 1840, then cigars began to be produced in larger boxes of more than 100 pieces. After 1842, in connection with the beginning of the development of the “wild West”, cigar manufacturers began to produce them in boxes 20-50 pieces. Cigars were popular among people in the western US, especially with patrons of saloons.
It was not difficult to get the box in those days because people were too poor to buy anything new and so they had to use things over and over until they wore out. Stringed instruments like guitars, banjos, and violins were the most popular types of instruments at that time. You might also say they were entrenched in music history. The little cigar box is a bit less well-known, but historians of American music don’t think it’s going anywhere anytime soon. It provides a history of American culture in general.
There are many items in the Smithsonian Museum, including original guitars from cigar boxes that soldiers had – just one example of how their work impacts society. Playing guitars was one of the moments people could escape from thinking about everything that had happened. This is an essay about how a different, simple thing could influence the history of a whole country.
What is a Cigar Box Guitar Kit
I can build a CBG from scratch! (Sheet music for cigar box guitars is also included, for your DIY-attempts). All parts come pre-drilled and marked to make it easier for you to assemble.
When people say “standard tools”, they’re talking about the most affordable way to build up your own cigar box guitar. CBG sliders are meant to be played like a slide guitar.
You won’t have to fret each string individually on a guitar and pick up chords but slide your finger up and down the neck as you strum. The blues genre is one in which slide guitars play a key role. This makes cigar box guitars a good choice for them.
So, if you want to play your guitar like a regular guitar make sure you buy a kit with a fretted neck (showing the fret markings). I recommend pre-sanding the fretboard of a kit “raw” to keep it from scratching your fingers. In doing so, they’ll be in shape to play once you assemble them.
A three-string cigar box guitar usually has “Open G” tuning which is G-D-G on the three strings.
A four-string cigar box guitars (also called cigar box ukuleles, since they typically have smaller necks) are usually tuned to “Open G” (DGBD) or “Standard Tuning” (DGBE).
Building A 3-String Cigar Box Acoustic Guitar
This cigar box guitar kit proves to be a great investment for those looking to get high quality parts. It’s also an easy build, so it’s a perfect weekend project!
Here are the main CBG components included with the kit:
- 1X Hardwood Neck (pre-drilled)
- 1X Cigar Box (pre-drilled sound holes and mounting holes)
- 1X Guitar Slide (used for playing your CBG once assembled)
And here’s a list of the smaller components:
- 3X Open-Gear Guitar Tuners
- 3X Tuner Bushings
- 6X Small Mounting Screws (#1 x 5/16”) [Philips Head]
- 6X Brass Eyelet String Ferrules
- 3X Brass String Retainer Screws (#4 x ½”) [Philips Head]
- 2X Washer-Head Screws for Box Mounting
- 1X Threaded Rod Cigar Box Guitar Nut
- 1X Cigar Box Guitar Flying Bridge
- 3X Guitar Strings (.042” Bronze Winding, .012” Steel, .009” Steel)
It’s easy to put together and build even if you’re new to the project. It’s great for kids who like musical instruments and putting things together with their hands, and then they can play it later which makes for a great learning experience.
We recommend this CBG starter kit for a beginner, as the documentation and high quality make it worth the money.
If you wanted, you could also add a piezo pickup and drill a hole through the side for a mono jack. There are DIY piezo guitar pickup kits for CBGs available. You can grab one of these guitar kits on Amazon ( before it goes out of stock – they’re popular!)
Building A 4-String Cigar Box Acoustic Ukulele
One cool way to build your own cigar box ukulele, with a shorter neck, is by using the Hinkler 4-String Electric Blues Box Slide Guitar Kit. Even though the card board body isn’t really made of cardboard and there are not very high-quality pickups, this cigar box is tons of fun to assemble and play it after assembly.
I can’t recommend this kit enough to people who want to learn how to play a cigar box guitar. It comes with everything you need and also contains 20 song tracks. Depending on your expectations, you may want to pass on this kit. The box, pickups, electronics and neck have been mostly preassembled and need additional assembly from the user. All you have to do to set this guitar up is put the strings on, screw in bolts for the guitar bridge and then tighten all of the strings.
The kit is good for a beginner or someone who’s looking for an easy project with few moving parts. If you’re looking to spend more time building, this may not be the kit for you. Just wanted to get that out there, so I included it in my review of the Glass Slide Kit. So it generally means you take it in your arm with both hands and play it by sweeping the strings against one of your fingers.
If you want a cheap kit for building a cigar box guitar you can’t go wrong with this kit! It’s one of the easiest song/guitars I’ve seen.
Recommended Cigar Box Guitar Accessories
Glass Slide + 304 Stainless Steel Slide
The truth is, one slide isn’t enough. Your guitar material has a huge impact on the sound you produce when playing slide guitar. Look at the specific scenarios below to find out what effect different materials have.
Analog, more advanced
304 Stainless Steel: For metal slides, this one offers a clear sound, excellent intonation and sustain. So you might want to consider getting it if you’re looking for something that’s great for playing music that has sustained notes or tones like a bright melody.
Glass Slide: In blues guitar, the glass slide brings out the mid-range frequencies of the sound. This effect is what makes it so similar to blues music. If you’re trying to play this genre of music, you’ll likely see yourself continue using a glass slide for your guitar.
Mini Guitar Amp (With Belt Clip)
This portable guitar amp is a match made in heaven. It’s an amazing little gadget for traveling musicians who also play guitar or get together as a party band at local bars! Of course, this speaker isn’t audiophile grade. But if you’re looking for a cheap musical experience, this is a good deal!
Basic Tools Required For CBG Building
We have been assembling guitar kits that are designed out of necessity and in need of some brightening up with eye-catching chrome parts. Included might be the tuner, a pre-wired humbucker, and some beautiful chrome parts.
And that’s all there is to it! Now you know exactly what you have to do to get building and become the proud owner of your very own Cigar Box Guitar.
If you’re interested, there are also cigar box amp kits available. Once you’ve got your guitar built, an amp kit may be a great next project.
FAQ for Cigar Box Guitar Kits
What are the benefits of making a cigar box guitar?
A cigar box guitar is an amazing project for anyone who wants to learn how to play the guitar but doesn’t have money for a proper instrument. It’s also a good way for those who don’t want to invest in an expensive one.
Cigar box guitars are one of the most popular DIY instruments. They are easy to make and can be made from items that you may already have around the house.
Cigar box guitars are a great example of what can be done with simple materials and patience. There is no need to buy expensive tools or pay for a guitar teacher. Anyone can learn how to make one in just a few hours!
Why is making your own cigar box guitar important?
Making your own cigar box guitar gives you the opportunity to learn how to play the guitar while also giving you an outlet for creativity. It is also a great way to make friends with other musicians who are into similar hobbies as yourself.
The best part about making your own cigar box guitar is that it’s very cheap, easy, and fun!
What are the most popular brands cigar box guitars in the market today?
There are various types of cigar box guitars that are available on the market today. They come in different sizes and shapes, but they all have a similar sound.
The most popular cigar box guitar brands are:
- The Cigar Box Guitar Company
- Stompboxes Inc.
- Cigar Box Guitar Shop
What are some of the drawbacks to building a guitar from a kit?
One of the main drawbacks to building a guitar from a kit is that it is not as easy as it sounds. There are many steps that need to be taken for the guitar to actually come together and work properly.
Some of these steps could be buying materials, assembling the guitar, tuning it, and finally playing. It’s not always easy when you have no experience building guitars.
What tools are needed to assemble a guitar from cigar box?
If you’re looking to build your own guitar from scratch, there are some things you should know before starting. For example: You’ll need tools like clamps and drill for drilling holes in wood; a jigsaw for cutting parts; sandpaper for roughing up surfaces; wire cutters or pliers for cutting wires; and glue so that everything will stay together once you put it all together.
Which type of wood is the best to use for a cigar box guitar?
The best wood for a cigar box guitar is mahogany. Mahogany is the most commonly used wood in cigar boxes and it has a nice, warm tone. It also has a very high density, which makes it perfect for building guitars.
The second best option for a cigar box guitar would be cedar. Cedar has a very unique sound and it is not too dense or light, so it doesn’t break easily when you are playing the instrument.
How long does it take someone to assemble a guitar from a cigar box and learn how to play it?
This is a question that many people have asked, but no one really has the answer to. However, there are a few ways to find out.
The first way is by taking a look at the instructional video on how to play using the cigar box guitar kit. The video takes about 5 minutes and it’s very easy to follow along with. It also comes with a PDF that provides more detailed information on how you can learn how to play using this kit.
The second way is by taking a look at the instructional video on how to make your own cigar box guitar kit. This instructional video shows you step-by-step what you need in order to make your own cigar box guitar kit and it only takes about 10 minutes for someone with average hand skills and knowledge in woodworking (even if they don’t have any experience) to complete this project.
Can I play my cigar box guitar in public without getting into trouble from smoking laws?
There are a few things you should know about playing your cigar box guitar in public without getting into trouble from smoking laws.
First, there is no law that says you can’t play a cigar box guitar in public. However, if your cigar box guitar has any electronic components or is too loud, it might be considered an instrument and therefore subject to restrictions.
Second, some states have bans on certain types of instruments in public places. For example, some states ban the use of drums or other instruments that make noise in areas where people gather. So it’s best to check with the local law enforcement before taking your instrument into a public place and playing it loudly.
How much cigar box guitar cost?
The price of a cigar box guitar is determined by the materials used, whether it’s an electric or acoustic cigar box guitar, and if it has any additional features like inlay designs or pick guards. A cigar box guitar cost anywhere from $30 to $100. While they may not sound as good as a traditional acoustic guitar, some people find them to be much more fun and interesting.