Build-Your-Own Tremolo…for Scaredy Cats!

Hi, just saw Shane Speal’s feature article on the 1957 tube driven tremolo plans. Pretty cool! But frankly, high voltage stuff scares the bejeezus out of me… that and my brain can only handle super simple electronics circuits. Other wise it becomes a fog of confusion.

More my speed is a simple little stomp box circuit I found on called “The Tiny Trem”: Continue reading “Build-Your-Own Tremolo…for Scaredy Cats!”

Cool Cigar Box Amplifier Mods!

by Shane Speal

I’m an electronics idiot. There, I said it! I suck when it comes to soldering and breadboards and all that crap. I couldn’t wire my way out of a paper bag, if the truth be told.

…But then C. B. Gitty came out with a pre-wired cigar box amp kit and I just had to dive in and try one out. And then another and another.

The Gitty amp kit a simple 2.5 watt amp that delivers living room volume in a tiny package. Most of their pictures show a standard cigar box with a hole cut in the middle and a speaker with some sort of grill or cover.

I figured if I was going to build cigar box amps, I might as well use as much found-object stuff on them to make them look otherworldly, just like some of my best cigar box guitars. Here’s three examples that used the standard Gitty kit and the parts I used to mod them: Continue reading “Cool Cigar Box Amplifier Mods!”

How to Build an Electric Guitar – Historic 1959 Plans (Free Download)


The Strat and Les Paul were only several years old when Mechanix Illustrated magazine published these plans, penned by Captain America creator and artist, C. C. Beck in their September 1959 issue.

Like many how-to articles from this era, the article is somewhat vague in carving and building techniques and instead puts most of its weight into the diagrams with measurements.

Continue reading “How to Build an Electric Guitar – Historic 1959 Plans (Free Download)”

Build a “Throbbing” Tube-Driven Vibrato – Vintage plans from 1957

From the archives,

Build Your Own Vibrato

Make like Elvis with an “electronic” throbbing guitar

These vibrato (actually tremolo) plans were first printed in the Popular Electronics December 1957 issue. We’ve taken all text and re-typed it and provided good resolution scans of all schematics.  Everything is compiled in one PDF document below.  Download and print out.
Continue reading “Build a “Throbbing” Tube-Driven Vibrato – Vintage plans from 1957″

Build a One-Tube Cigar Box Amplifier (Vintage Plans from 1954)

We love vintage plans, especially ones from the Eisenhower Era.  Here’s another one to drool over and explore: a One-Tube cigar box amp!  The plans were first published in Science and Mechanics, Feb. 1954.  We’ve taken a scan of them, cleaned them up and put it all together in one downloadable .pdf file below.

Continue reading “Build a One-Tube Cigar Box Amplifier (Vintage Plans from 1954)”

How to Transform a Gold Foil Pickup into a Vintage Top Mounted Pickup

The C. B. Gitty Gold Foil acoustic pickup is one of the most versatile and easiest magnetic pickups to mod for cigar box guitars. At only $14 each, they’re deliciously cheap and I always have a half dozen of them in my woodshop at any time. (It should be noted that these suckers have such a gloriously trashy 1960’s vibe to them, just like Hound Dog Taylor’s guitars.)

I recently used a Gold Foil in a cigar box guitar and I radically modded it to look like a rusty old Harmony/Teisco top-mount pickup. Here’s how I did it. Continue reading “How to Transform a Gold Foil Pickup into a Vintage Top Mounted Pickup”

Henry Wood’s Cigar Box Violin – 1940’s Historical Account

From A Sawdust Heart: My Vaudeville Life in Medicine and Tent Shows – by Henry Wood as told to Michael Fedo:

Near the end of the book, Henry Wood talks about performing in the famous WLS Barn Dance in Wisconsin back in the 1940’s. As master at the musical saw, Wood went on to describe the act he created for the Barn Dance:

“Sometimes Mr. Statz would tell the audience that I’d taken over everything in the barn — cowbells, pitchforks, tin cans, milk pails, saws and chains to make music with, and there were no tools left for work. He said he fixed me. He’d lock them all up.

Well, I’d go into the audience and see if anybody had a cigar box. We’d have a plant there ho did, and I’d borrow the box and cut a hole in the top. I’d get a broom handle and attach it, then string a wire across the whole. I’d snatch a violin bow from one of the fellows int he band, and I’d play that one-string fiddle while Mr. Statz would try to make his announcements.

It always brought down the house, or more accurately, the tent or barn. When he’d grab my fiddle and break it, the band would start in and I’d still have the stage, doing a comic jig or buck-and-wing dance. ”

Shane Speal – Seduced Into Crafting: My Life as a Sound Searcher

Shane Speal was recently invited by the business community of York PA to deliver a PechaKucha* speech on the art of crafting.  He used the opportunity to express how the cigar box guitar changed his life.


Source:  York:Crafted, a series of events featuring brief lectures on what it means to be a craftsman in York, PA.

*PechaKucha speech format allots for 20 slides/20 seconds per slide.

York:Crafted official Facebook


CAROUSEL uke kit

2015 Sound Hole Contest Winners Announced!

This carved "world tree" sound hole adorns the back of a custom Appalachian-style banjo built by Logan Maxwell.
This carved “world tree” sound hole adorns the back of a custom Appalachian-style banjo built by Logan Maxwell.

Congratulations to Logan Maxwell of Shinnston, WV for the winning entry!!!

Maxwell won the $100 C. B. Gitty gift certificate for his Tree of Life soundhole design.  Maxell says about his design,

“I used curly maple for the neck and walnut for the body as well as the fingerboard. The sound hole for the back of the banjo is my rendition of the tree of life.  I free-handed the outline then cut it on a scroll saw; then I took a dremel and rounded the edges. I did not keep track, but up to that point I probably already had about 3 hours in it.  I’m sure I at least doubled that on sanding, by hand, making sure all the previous grit or cutting marks were taken off.”

More Winners & the Torturous Judging Process:

To say that judging this contest was a torturous process is an understatement.  We received 54 amazing entries (see all of them here), each one unique and pushing the boundaries of homemade instruments.  From scroll saw art to eye catching design work, each one could have been a winner.

But we could only pick three top winners and three honorable mentions.  Sigh…  These results will surely cause discussion and debate.  Good art does that. 

And this is good art.

Second Prize:  $75 C. B. Gitty Gift Certificate is awarded to The 57 Chevy Flames by Jim Derrenbacker of Floral City, FL

Jim Derrenbacker’s 57 Chevy Guitar with Flame Soundholes

Third Prize:  $50 C. B. Gitty Gift Certificate is awarded to Jeff Cox of Fort Worth, TX and his popping skulls

Spooky inset skull sound holes in a cigar box guitar by Jeff Cox.
Spooky inset skull sound holes in a cigar box guitar by Jeff Cox.

Honorable Mentions:  C. B. Gitty added additional prizes in the final weeks, including three honorable mentions.  These builders will each receive a $25 C. B. Gitty gift certificate.

Thanks to everybody who submitted entries to the contest.  Look for a new build-off contest coming soon…

-Ben and the C. B. Gitty Staff


CAROUSEL - reso covers