1965 Hawaiian Lap Steel Guitar Plans – Full Size PDF Download

hawaiian header for cbg

We recently received these plans from “Hubcap John” Hayward which were originally featured in Practical Wireless Magazine in London in 1965.  The plans feature a lap steel guitar with full schematics.  They were scanned from the original and sent in eight different parts.  We did our best to match them up into one complete PDF.

Download a copy here.

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Building Cigar Box Mountain Dulcimers

A Trio of Cigar Box Mountain DulcimersIf you are looking to expand your cigar box instrument-building repertoire beyond the basic 3 and 4-string cigar box guitars, then consider taking a look at a classic instrument of American folk and roots music: the mountain dulcimer. A unique strummed/plucked instrument that is distinct from the hammered dulcimer, the mountain dulcimer is well suited to building with cigar boxes. In this article, experienced cigar box mountain dulcimer (CBMD) builder Diane from Chicago shares photos and discusses some of her methods for creating these beautiful instruments.
Continue reading “Building Cigar Box Mountain Dulcimers”

Canray Fontenot: From Cigar Box Fiddle to Creole Legend

WritteCanray Fontenot

Written by Shane Speal, www.shanespeal.com

“So, we took some cigar boxes…In those days, cigar boxes were made of wood. So, we worked at it and finally made ourselves a fiddle. For our strings, we had no real strings … we took strands off the screen door. We made fiddles out of that stuff, and then we started practicing.  [I visited my neighbor] to see how he tuned his fiddle. He would sound a string, and then I would try mine, but I couldn’t go as high as his fiddle; every time I tried to match his pitch, I’d break a string…. But then when he would break a string, I would take the longest end. Then my fiddle sounded pretty good. And that’s how I learned. It’s just a matter of having music on your mind.”

– Canray Fontenot
Quoted from his National Endowment for the Arts Honor

I first came across the name Canray Fontenot from the dedication page of book, Fiddle Fever by Sharon Arms Doucet.  In the book, a young Cajun boy named Felix comes of age when he falls in love with music and Continue reading “Canray Fontenot: From Cigar Box Fiddle to Creole Legend”

Cigar Box Violin (Jazzolin) – Popular Science Monthly, July 1920

Here is a short article from the July, 1920 edition of Popular Science Monthly, in which author Frank W. Vroom gives fairly brief instructions for constructing what he calls a “Jazzolin” using a cigar box. This is basically another take on the classic one-string cigar box fiddle.

Click the image above to view the full article in its original context.
Click the image above to view the full article in its original context.

Free Balalaika Plans

Free Balalaika PlansExperienced cigar box guitar builders know that studying traditional & conventional folk instruments is a great place to pick up new tricks and methods for building CBGs.

These free plans are for a 3-string, triangle-body Russian instrument known as the Balalaika. They were written by James H. Flynn, Jr. in the early 80’s and some time ago he made them freely available. This version of them are listed on www.Luth.org, the site of the Guild of American Luthiers.

Click the image to the left, or click here, to view the full how-to guide in PDF format.

How to Make a Tambourine from a Cigar Box

Here is an easy project for you to try – making a tambourine from a cigar box!

Ben “Gitty” Baker walks you through the steps he followed to build one, along with photos of some of the steps. These are “loose” plans (more of a builder’s diary, really) with lots of room for interpretation. There is no “right way” – Ben had never built a cigar box tambourine before, and made it up as he went along, and you should too! So let’s get started…

Ben Gitty with his Cigar Box Tambourine
Ben Gitty with his Cigar Box Tambourine

Here is an easy project for you to try – making a tambourine from a cigar box!

Ben “Gitty” Baker walks you through the steps he followed to build one, along with photos of some of the steps. These are “loose” plans (more of a builder’s diary, really) with lots of room for interpretation. There is no “right way” – Ben had never built a cigar box tambourine before, and made it up as he went along, and you should too! So let’s get started…

Parts You’ll Need

 

Tools You’ll Need

  • Hammer
  • Drill with 1/16” bit
  • Hole saw or jig saw
  • Long thin screws and matching screwdriver (optional)

 

Project How-To Steps

Start by finding a suitable box. A wide, squarish, flatter box is what I recommend, though a more rectangular one could work too. The one I chose was a Joya de Nicaragua “Viajante”, and measured 8 ¾” wide x 9 ½” tall x 1 ⅛” deep.

Here is the box Ben Gitty chose to work with.
Here is the box Ben Gitty chose to work with.

Cut a hole through both the top and bottom of the box. I cut a 6” hole in my box, because it seemed like a good size and I had a 6” hole saw handy. Find something round that is the right size for your box (like a saucer), use a stencil or a compass to mark your circle.

You probably don’t have a hole saw handy in that size, so drill a smaller hole touching the inside edge of the circle you drew and then use a jig saw of some sort to cut out the hole. It doesn’t have to be perfect.

Figure out how many sides of the box you want to mount jingles on. I did it on 3 sides, and left one side (the one with the hinges) without jingles, so it could be easily gripped.

Mark out where you want the jingle slots to be. I put three on each side. When measuring and marking, leave some space on either side of the jingle so they don’t hit the sides. The amount of space to leave depends on how big the holes in your jingles are.

Create slots to hold the jingles on the side of the cigar box.
Create slots to hold the jingles on the side of the cigar box.

Use a ½” drill bit to drill a hole at each end of the slots you marked out on the box. Then use a jig saw to connect the holes, to turn them into round-ended slots. A file or rasp can be used to smooth out the shapes.

There are probably a number of methods that could be used to pin the jingles into the slots. I was going for quick and easy, so what I did was drill a 1/16” pilot hole all the way down through the center of the slot from the top of the box to the bottom.

I then tapped in a finishing nail with a little larger diameter than the drilled hole, down through to jingles, and clipped it off at the top and bottom with side cutters. I then filed and sanded the sharp points down, and called it good. On the first one actually I tried a long thin screw, but found that the threads were too grabby on the jingles. A nice smooth nail seemed to work a lot better.

Mount the jingles into the slots using finishing nails with the ends clipped off.
Mount the jingles into the slots using finishing nails with the ends clipped off.

I repeated this process for all of the slots, fastening the jingles in place with the finishing nails. If the finishing nails ended up a little loose in the pre-drilled holes, a dab of superglue sorted them out.

Once all of the jingles were mounted, I went one step further and mounted some two sets of jingles on the inside edge of the 6-inch inner hole. I used 4 jingles per. I am not sure whether I like the results or not… seems like it may have made it too clattery. Using larger jingles might help.

Extra jingles can be mounted on the inner ring of the cigar box tambourine
Extra jingles can be mounted on the inner ring of the cigar box tambourine

To make it easier to hold and play, I did some sanding to round over the edges of the inner holes, and some filing to make it more comfortable.

The last (optional) step was pre-drilling and mounting two long thin screws down through the front edges of the cigar box to hold it closed. This could be accomplished in various ways. You could even glue and clamp it shut, or just rely on the latch that may have come on the cigar box.

Ben fastened the box shut with two long, thin screws. You can use whatever method works for you to hold the box shut.
Ben fastened the box shut with two long, thin screws. You can use whatever method works for you to hold the box shut.

 

Close-up showing my screw-closure method, and also the jingles held in place with their finishing nail posts.
Close-up showing my screw-closure method, and also the jingles held in place with their finishing nail posts.

You should now be ready to be your own sweet, jingly rhythm section! I hope you take this basic idea as far as it can go – there are a lot of ways to expand and improve it!

As with any seemingly simple project like there, there are many ways that it could be expanded and improved upon. Here are a few ideas for variations:

  • Only cut an opening through the back, leave the top panel in place (should be thin plywood) – could this act a little bit like the drum head on a conventional tambourine?
  • Experiment with different sizes of jingle – higher/shriller tone vs. a deeper more ringing tone – what suits a cigar box better?
  • Reclaimed items as jingles. Washers? Random metal bits?

 

The Cajon – A short history

The cajon (the Spanish word for box) has been part of Afro-Peruvian music since the 19th century. This wonderful percussion instrument originated in colonial Peru, when the African slave drums had been forbidden by their masters.

Basic CajonThe cajon (the Spanish word for box) has been part of Afro-Peruvian music since the 19th century. This wonderful percussion instrument originated in colonial Peru, when the African slave drums had been forbidden by their masters. Undeterred and driven by the power of music they began using wooden boxes intended to hold fruits or overturned drawers to play their rhythms upon. Later the cajon was officially added to the instrumentation of the vals criollo, or “creole waltz.” It has now become a national emblem for Peruvians, and is an indispensable part of any ensemble that performs the traditional folk music of Peru.

Many stories can also be found in Cuba about how cajons can be used as musical instruments by the marginalized masses. In the early 1960’s, Fidel Castro began getting nervous about the anti-Communist rallies forming in the streets, where masses were being drawn to the beat of drums and the sound of music. As most paranoid dictators do, Fidel “forbid” the playing of music in the streets in order to control the possibility of rebellion. The clever Cubans began to make drums from fruit boxes and other crude materials that one might find on any street. When the police arrived they would only find well behaved citizens sitting atop their fruit boxes and looking for work. Continue reading “The Cajon – A short history”