Monday, September 21, 2015
Recently I made 2 Cigar Box Guitars using mostly leftover material I had. Although actual cigars boxes were not involved in the construction of these guitars, I called them Cigar Box Guitars because of their simplicity and resemblance to the actual things. My brother, who actually plays the guitar, loved my guitars and gave me a bag full of guitar pieces and the neck of a guitar.
These will be useful for making new guitars with. So with all these new materials I decided to make a few more. Hopefully one of these guitars will utilize the neck my brother gave me.
Finding actual cigar boxes was not overly easy for me. I had to visit several stores before I found 2 that might work.
The First guitar I'll make will be a simple one, using the nice white and red cigar box.
First step will be to draw in all the guides for the neck.
I decided for this guitar I'll cut the neck/head at an angle.
I'll take the cut piece, flip it over and glue it back to the neck making the head be at an angle.
While that dried I marked the positioning of the neck and holes onto the bottom of the box.
I drilled the holes out with a hole cutter.
Then I used my table saw to cut out the frets. I decided to cut 3 necks at once, saving me time when making other guitars.
Next I drilled holes in the cigar box so that I can screw the neck to the box.
Not too bad so far.
I cut and screwed supports for the neck on both the front...
...and back of the box.
Now the neck and box are straight and fully supported.
Time to drill some holes for the tuners...
...and screw them in.
I also drilled holes for the strings at the tail.
Next I needed a bridge and a nut. For this I sawed some bolts to the correct size.
The space I cut out for the bridge and nut was too deep, so I glued in a small craft stick to raise the bolt.
Then I gave the fret board a good sanding to make it smooth.
Finally I strung it up.
This thing sounds great - so much better than the first two guitars I made.
I decided to pretty it up a little with some stamps. A few on the front...
...with a "handmade by" stamp on the back with my logo.
Then I glued the top of the box shut.
I didn't stain this one at all, nor did I add any wood filler.
I wanted this one to be as simple as it could.
Something as similar as what they made in the 1920's & 30's.
Here's the new cigar box guitar with the first 2 I built.
The next guitar I started to make used the Orange JM cigar box.
This box unfortunately wasn't strong enough and wound up breaking as I was working on it.
It's a shame, because I started rounding the edges and it started to look like a cartoon rocket shape.
I didn't even try to fix this one up. The box was made out of MDF underneath the paper and I didn't have any MDF of that thickness on hand. I could always use my table top planer to thin out some of the MDF I do have, but MDF dust is very toxic and I'd rather not coat my workshop with that stuff. But having a rounded guitar was appealing, so I decided to use some of the scrap 1/4" plywood I had and build a more conventional looking guitar.
I still want this guitar to be small, so I drew a nice shape in illustrator...
...which I printed and cut out to use as a template.
I traced the shape onto the wood...
...and then cut it out with the jigsaw.
Next I clamped both sides...
...and began smoothing out the shape and evening both sides with the belt sander...
...and my detail sander.
Once the sides were the same, I removed the clamps and sanded both sides with the mouse sander.
Next I cut 2 pieces of wood...
...which will eventually be glued to both the front and back of the body.
Before I attached those, I cut some strips of wood...
...which will be glued and nailed to the top and bottom for support.
Once the struts were attached, I glued and nailed the 2 larger pieces to the front and back.
I trimmed the struts with the jigsaw.
Then I cut 4 more supports...
...which were glued to the struts.
Then everything was clamped and left to dry.
I wasn't quite sure how to tackle making the sides. So once dry, I began cutting strips of cardboard for the sides.
I added glue to the guitar body and attached the cardboard strips using tape to hold it down.
This eventually didn't work. I didn't have the money to buy a lot of wood to make layers, nor did I have the tools or know-how to bend wood around.
So I removed the cardboard and paper and cleaned up what I had so far.
I left this alone for a day or two - which is sometimes what you need to do in order to refresh your mind and go at it in a better way. So after resting I thought to use some thin crafting sticks for the sides.
One-by-one I glued these to the sides...
...until the sides were solid.
I brushed on a lot of extra glue to make sure all the sticks were stuck together.
When the glue dried I began trimming the sides with my dremel saw...
...and a hand saw.
Then I sanded to smooth out the top and bottom edges.
Next I began smoothing out the sides with wood filler. Since the wood sticks that make up the sides aren't all perfectly level, I had to fill, then sand, then fill, then sand, etc.
Once the sides were smooth enough I opted to use the second neck that I pre-cut earlier.
Using my table saw, I cut out a space in the neck...
...that will fit nicely in the guitar body.
Then I did some sanding to the neck to make it nice and smooth to play on.
Next I glued and clamped the neck to the body.
When dry I drilled the holes for the tuners at the head...
...and the strings at the tail.
Then I attached the tuners.
Before I go further I wanted to make sure that this thing played decently, so I attached some strings to find out how this thing sounds.
It actually sounds beautiful! But there are cracks forming on the sides. I temporarily added more wood filler to seal them, but I need to come up with something better.
When the filler dried I sanded, then I cut up some tissue paper...
...and started gluing it to the sides.
Once done I began cutting strips of cardboard to give the guitar a nice border on the sides.
These were glued on and I used tape to hold them in place until the glue dried.
When the cardboard dried I added wood filler on all edges.
When that dried I did a lot of sanding...
...followed by some cleaning and then a layer of primer. Unfortunately there is so much filler and tissue paper and cardboard that staining this piece won't do. But painting will work fine. First I sprayed on some light gray primer.
When dry, I sanded then sprayed on some dark gray primer...
...actually it was black enamel paint. I mixed up my cans! Once the paint dried I was able to sand it, but not as well.
Once I cleaned it up I gave it another coat of black.
When it dried I brought it inside and began painting with acrylics.
Since the sides were still very much textured from the cardboard and tissue paper, I painted them orange with some brown sponged-on areas. This made all the textures look less accidental.
For the top of the body I painted on many coats of yellow, and mixed in green with the top coat.
I meant to make it look a bit like a pear, since the guitar is shaped that way, but it looks more avocadoish to me. I also painted the head this color.
I used a gold paint marker to paint in the frets.
After a few little details painted on here and there, I brought the whole thing back into the workshop for some glossy clear coat.
Once the clear coat dried I reattached the tuners.
Then I strung it up.
And I'm done with this one!
It may look funny, but it sounds great.
So, I meant to make 3 new guitars but wound up with only 2 because of the cigar box that broke. So I still have another neck since I made 3 at the same time earlier.
The 3rd neck had a straight head, but I like the angled ones so much better, so I cut the neck to make one more angled head.
Before I glue the head back on I drilled holes for tuners...
...and holes for the strings at the tail.
Then I glued it together.
While I was out and about I found this nifty little box at Michael's Arts & Crafts for $4. It's wood, has hinges and a latch and I think it will make a good body for this last guitar.
I drew plans for some newer decorative F-holes...
...which I printed out and traced onto the box with charcoal.
I then cut out the f-holes with my jigsaw and my dremel. I cleaned up the cuts with sandpaper.
Next I attached the neck to the body with glue and screws.
Looking good so far!
I decided to spruce up the piece by cutting a nice decorative piece of wood with the jigsaw...
...which I glued and screwed to the bottom, underneath the tail.
Then I attached the tuners.
And cut the bolts for the bridge...
...and the nut.
Next I added some wood filler to the few areas that needed it...
...then I sanded and cleaned in preparation for staining.
I chose a red mahogany stain for this guitar. Since the box still opens and closes, I was able to stain the insides.
The stain looks awesome.
The screws on the tuners stripped, so I was unable to remove them. So I simply stained around them.
When the stain dried I decided to add some stamps to it.
Like some of my other cigar box guitars, I used silver ink with some of my flourish stamps.
Next I sprayed a few layers of clear coat.
When that dried I did a little light sanding with some fine sandpaper.
Then I cleaned it up, and stringed it.
And I'm done!
This one turned out very nicely.
It also sounds very nice too.
Below are the 3 new guitars made.
Below are all 4 of the cigar box guitars, completed.
And below is all of the (working) guitars I've made to date.
These were fun to make - and I'm happy to say that they all sound pretty darn good. I tried to get one of my friends who actually knows how to play the guitar well to come over so I can take a video, but none were available. So I took a video of myself playing. Please be kind - I am not a proficient guitar player.
These are a great project for either a wood worker, or a guitar enthusiast. Plus they are a great gift! I plan on giving one of them to my brother who gave me all the extra guitar parts.
Thanks for reading!