Cigar box guitars: a photo gallery of homemade greatness

22nd Dec 2011 | 21:10

Cigar box guitars: a photo gallery of homemade greatness
Cigar box guitars: a photo gallery of homemade greatness
Smoke 'em if you've got 'em - and then get creative!

"It was pretty fun how this all came together," says David Sutton, whose book, Cigar Box Guitars: The Ultimate DIY Guide For The Makers And Players Of The Handmade Music Revolution, will be issued by Fox Chapel Publishing on 1 March 2012. "Through the years I've been active in woodworking, guitar playing, photography and writing. So this project combined my interests beautifully."

Five years ago, Sutton wanted to give his young daughter an acoustic guitar for a birthday present, but he didn't feel right about parting with one of his vintage beauties - and besides, they were too large anyway. "I had heard about cigar box guitars, so I thought, Hey, why not just build her one?" says Sutton. "I was stunned to find that there was hardly anything on Google about building a cigar box guitar. That really surprised me."

There was one site, however, that offered useful information on how to build a wooden cigar box guitar. Sutton followed the instructions and built not one, but two guitars, one for his daughter and one for himself. "The whole experience really got me excited," he says. "I knew I wanted to spread the word."

Sutton contacted Fox Chapel Publishing about putting together a book on cigar box guitars. He figured that he wouldn’t hear anything at all, and if he did, it would be a rejection. But the next morning, a rep from the company called to say they were keenly interested – and when could it be finished?

“I was so unprepared for that,” says Sutton. “But I think I threw them when I said I wanted to do a book with three separate components, the first showing people how to build straight-up acoustic models for slide, the second for fretted electrics, and a third and last chapter for six-string electrics. Before long, they realized that the three-section approach was the way to go.”

In reaching out to fellow cigar box guitar builders, Sutton was more than impressed at how the movement had grown in the time since he had first thought of crafting a model for his daughter. “It exploded almost overnight,” he says. “All of these people are building cigar box guitars. They’re totally into it, and they’re very into helping one another out and creating a community.

“The guitars people are building range from simple, cardboard diddley bow-type instruments to wooden box electric six-string models that are just as good as something you can buy in a store. At first I was fascinated by the guitars alone, but then I got into the folks making them. Their stories are incredible."

Sutton insists that the makers of cigar box guitars aren't luddites; rather, they're discerning craftspeople who yearn for a personal connection to their instruments. "They occupy a niche, but they're a growing niche," says Sutton. "Mass market guitars exist for many people. For others, there's something else - and that's beginning to mean cigar box guitars."

Cigar box guitars: a photo gallery of homemade greatness
Simple, fretless acoustic cigar box guitars
The La Flor

Costing next to nothing, many of the simple, fretless CBGs can be built in a single afternoon. But don't underestimate their sound!

Cigar box guitars: a photo gallery of homemade greatness
The La Flor
Bridge detail

The bridge wood might be Corian, a material that's easy to work with but offers nice density for transferring sound.

Cigar box guitars: a photo gallery of homemade greatness
Fonseca
One-string acoustic made from a broom handle

Check out that fancy soundhole!

Cigar box guitars: a photo gallery of homemade greatness
Fonseca
Headstock detail

The tuning key is held in place with a bent nail.

Cigar box guitars: a photo gallery of homemade greatness
Tin cigar box guitar
Three-stringer built by Al Hamilton of State College, PA

Part of the Shane Speal collection.

Cigar box guitars: a photo gallery of homemade greatness
Tin cigar box guitar
Headstock detail

Three-on-a-plate tuners, installed forward.

Cigar box guitars: a photo gallery of homemade greatness
Tin cigar box guitar
Bridge detail

This one features an integrated string anchor and bridge.

Cigar box guitars: a photo gallery of homemade greatness
York Imperials
Three-stringer built by Al Hamilton of State College, PA

Part of the Shane Speal collection.

Cigar box guitars: a photo gallery of homemade greatness
York Imperials
Headstock detail

Three on-a-plate tuners, installed forward.

Cigar box guitars: a photo gallery of homemade greatness
York Imperials
Neck detail

Indian head pennies are embedded in the neck and tailpiece.

Cigar box guitars: a photo gallery of homemade greatness
Fretted guitars
"Hitone" Onyx

Four-string fretted electric with whammy bar.

Cigar box guitars: a photo gallery of homemade greatness
"Hitone" Onyx
Tailpiece detail

A gate hinge folded and put to work as a saddle/string anchor.

Cigar box guitars: a photo gallery of homemade greatness
Double neck
Made from a Fuente box

Six-string split neck, there's a standard set of strings shared between the two necks.

Cigar box guitars: a photo gallery of homemade greatness
Double neck
Tailpiece detail

Complete with nickels!

Cigar box guitars: a photo gallery of homemade greatness
Casa Torano
Three-string acoustic/electric with piezo pickup

Rosewood fretboard over an oak neck.

Cigar box guitars: a photo gallery of homemade greatness
Casa Torano
Tailpiece detail

A heavy brass hinge works beautifully.

Cigar box guitars: a photo gallery of homemade greatness
Six-string electrics
Daddy Mojo six-string Delorosa model

Violin-style f-holes and a mini-humbucker.

Cigar box guitars: a photo gallery of homemade greatness
Delorosa
Headstock detail

Maple neck with rosewood fingerboard.

Cigar box guitars: a photo gallery of homemade greatness
Steampunk Elizabeth
Made from a First Act Strat-copy neck and two Tabak cigar boxes

The thing on the right that looks like a spike is actually half of a chrome shoe horn.

Cigar box guitars: a photo gallery of homemade greatness
Steampunk Elizabeth
Headstock detail

Decorated with a heart-shaped locket and a button from a pair of jeans.

Cigar box guitars: a photo gallery of homemade greatness
Steampunk Elizabeth
Bridge detail

Gears from a radio-controlled car and a pocket watch complement the steampunk aesthetic.

Cigar box guitars: a photo gallery of homemade greatness
Smokehouse Cohiba
Built by Josh Hayou of Smokehouse Guitars, Southern California

Hey, wait...are we talking genuine Cuban Cohibas?

Share this Article
Google+

Most Popular

Edition: UK
TopView classic version