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:

The Ed Wood

This amp started with an all wood Undercrown cigar box. I went for a 1950’s Ed Wood sci-fi movie look by using the following parts:

  • The speaker horn is actually a Jello mold that I painted with Rustoleum textured dark brown spray paint. I used a Dremel to grind out a center hole in the mold for the speaker.
  • The grill screen is just some old screen wire I had. I painted the screen with gold spray paint before mounting.
  • The dummy antennae on top is simply just a coat hanger that I bent around a broomstick for the Ed Wood space age look. Two holes drilled in the top of the box hold the wire along with a good amount of hot glue gun inside.
  • The feet are little wood pieces I bought at a craft store.
  • The brass plaque on the front was a file cabinet label holder that was put on backwards. I used letter punches to hammer my brand name on it first. (The name was “Holler Amps” which came from the title of my last album, Holler.)
  • I used a chicken head volume knob for the side knob… because, why wouldn’t you use a chicken head knob?

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The Sputnik

This amp started with an old hygenic instrument tool kit box. I mounded everything sideways to give it a unique look, similar to a 1950’s console radio. I made sure the printed front of the box became the front of the amp.

  • Same coat hanger antennae, brass plate, feet and chicken head knob as above
  • The speaker horn is an old mini pie pan. I used a Dremel to cut out for the speaker and I mounted it with a lot of hot glue gun and screws.

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The Victrolia

Oh wow, I can’t remember which type of box this was, but the top of it had a curved archtop. I used the curve for the back of the amp (hoping for it to push sound outward). Same as above except:

  • The speaker horn on this one was a mini bucket I found at Lowe’s. I used a Dremel to cut a hole for the speaker.
  • I had to add an extra foot to the bottom of the speaker horn because the weight of the bucket made the amp tip. The foot kept everything stable.

Some thoughts on all these:

Although the 2.5 watt kits only put out home practice volume levels, they still sound great. In comparing these three amps, I’ve discovered that the bucket speaker horn actually does increase the volume just a bit.

Cigar box amps can be just as much of an art statement as a cigar box guitar. Have fun with them and get funky with the mods. Got some ideas? Post them in the comments below!

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