Saturday, February 5, 2011

Cigar Box Guitar

A few weeks ago, I decided that I'd try my hand at building a cigar box guitar.  Having listened to a lot of Seasick Steve, lately, I figured I'd go with three strings.  I have the St. George set up as a 3-string, and I'm having a good time playing slide on it.  But, I think that the cbg works even better with 3 strings.

I went to the Rockler Woodworking store, over on Colorado Blvd, and picked up a 1x2x48 stick of Jatoba wood (Brazilian Cherry).  Jatoba is hard and dense, so I hoped that it would hold up well to string tension, since I wasn't planning on using any metal reinforcing.

I wanted to build the guitar in a fairly traditional manner, using no power tools other than a circular saw and a drill.  Eventually I deviated from the traditional tools by using a Dremel and SuperGlue, in the interest of saving time.

 I started off by roughing the shape of the neck in with a knife.

Then, I went to the wood rasp to refine it a bit.

Eventually, I used sandpaper backed with duct tape to do the final shaping.  I used the circular saw to remove the wood where the neck runs under the body, and where the tuners go.  It was tedious, and nerve-wracking to make repeated cuts, side by side, removing a saw-blade's width of material with each pass, to remove the wood.

I glued on a 1/4"x2" maple fingerboard (left over from another project, also bought at Rockler) and marked the fret positions.  I then used my miter box and saw to slot the fingerboard.  A little round-file work made room for the frets to be set down into the wood.  The frets are cut-off sections of 14 gauge stainless steel bicycle spokes, and they are held in place with SuperGlue.

Once the frets were set, I started work on a bridge.

The bridge is made from a bone nut glued onto a short section of the same maple which makes up the fingerboard.  I "ebonized" the maple with a Sharpie.

The tailpiece is a belt buckle which I found at the thrift store, with three holes drilled in it for the strings to pass through.

 Sound holes in the side allow for more air movement which, in turn, allows the top to vibrate more freely.

So, there it is.  Later, I plan on installing a piezo pickup, so that I can plug it in.  Until then, it is acoustic.  To hear it, check out the video.



Big Oak said...

That's really clever - I like the spoke-frets. It sounds good, too!

Anonymous said...

Jonny G---------

I'm fuggin' amazed at what you are capable of!


Christopher said...

I am loving this project. I started with the cigar box amp and worked backwards. I would like the try my hand a building one of these, even though I have no experience in building or playing one. Is there any info I should check out first or should I just get some wood and start carving?

Jon said...

I always recommend Cigar Box Nation if you don't already have an idea about what you want to do. They have free plans, and a bunch of different groups with support and advice.

Graham Stenning said...

Hi - Loving the CBG
can you tell me how the belt buckle is fixed?


Jon said...

The belt bucle is attached to the butt end of the through-neck with two eye bolts. It floats over the top like a trapeze tailpiece.