WWI Cigar Box Fiddler Became a Star

Here’s another great cigar box fiddle (violin, mini cello…) story!  Private Jack Tender of Passaic NJ made his own ragtime violin while in Base Hospital 120 before the armistice and as a result, found himself doing big time on the A.E.F. circuit (aka DoughBoys) after the war was over.

Here’s the entire article for you to enjoy!

source:  Middletown Times Press, September 3, 1919


Blues Legend, Scrapper Blackwell Recalls His Cigar Box Guitar


So many great musicians started out on cigar box guitar when they couldn’t afford a real guitar. Sometimes all they needed was a stick, a box and a few strings to get those magical sounds.

In the hierarchy of blues, Francis Hillman “Scrapper” Blackwell is one of the true originators.  Among his many hits in the 1920’s and 1930’s, he wrote and recorded Kokomo Blues, the song that was transformed into “Old Kokomo Blues” by Kokomo Arnold before being redone as “Sweet Home Chicago” by Robert Johnson.

Scrapper Blackwell also started out on a homemade cigar box guitar.  In a 1960 interview with Jazz Monthly magazine, Blackwell retraces his origins and describes his first guitar: Continue reading “Blues Legend, Scrapper Blackwell Recalls His Cigar Box Guitar”

Vintage Homemade Bass & Lap Steel [the Legacy of Our Instruments]



I recently purchased this Beatle bass and mahogany lap steel guitar from two different sources.  I got them because I have a fascination with homemade instruments, cigar box and otherwise.  These two are prime examples of a person wanting a very specific instrument to play and then taking it upon themselves to build their own.

The tragedy of this story is that neither builder signed their work. Continue reading “Vintage Homemade Bass & Lap Steel [the Legacy of Our Instruments]”

How to Build an Uncle Enos Banjo [historic cigar box banjo / banjar plans]

uncle enos header


by Daniel Carter Beard  

Originally published as Christmas Eve with Uncle Enos in newspapers in the early 1800’s.  First book appearance in 1884, as printed in The Book Buyer 1884-1885.  These plans would eventually be published in Beard’s American Boys Handy Book in 1882.

Edited and expanded: December 22, 2015 by Shane Speal. Continue reading “How to Build an Uncle Enos Banjo [historic cigar box banjo / banjar plans]”

The Fascinating World of Ed Stilley’s Guitars

In the pantheon of great guitar makers, Ed Stilley’s work stands alone like a castaway on its own musical island. Imperfect, bizarre and some even un-tunable to the modern equal temperament scale, his crudely made stringed instruments would make the most adventurous guitar collector shudder. Continue reading “The Fascinating World of Ed Stilley’s Guitars”

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)”

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. ”

The Free Plans that Launched the Cigar Box Guitar Revolution

Free Cigar Box Guitar PlansThese free plans, originally written by Ivan Sucharsky and recently updated, have been the starting point for thousands of new cigar box guitar builders. Based on the original cigar box guitar plans formulated by Shane Speal, they have been edited to bring them up to date and re-published on CigarBoxNation.com.

CigarBoxNation.com is the home of the cigar box guitar and homemade/handmade music movement on the Internet, and if you haven’t checked it out (or haven’t visited for a while), you should click on over and give it a look. Also the Cigar Box Nation Facebook Page is the premier news magazine for all things CBG and homemade instrument related, with multiple news items, articles and features every day!

Jimi Hendrix playing a homemade Diddley Bow?

Jimi Hendrix Diddley Bow

An auction description for this poster stated “The Experience messing around, and Jimi playing a broom.” Who wouldn’t love to hear what that simple diddley bow could do in the hands of a master like Hendrix?

Another site states that this was a part of a 20-photo shoot done at the Seven And A Half Club in London. The club was in the process of being renovated, and the musicians grabbed some of the tools for the photo (hence the saw and hammer).