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.
You may be thinking that plans published in a guitar mag in 1976 aren’t quite old enough to qualify as “historic”. These plans are special though, because these are the ones that Shane Speal used to build his first cigar box guitar… and from that first cigar box guitar, he went on to jump-start the entire modern cigar box guitar revival.
This article on how to build a cigar box ukulele comes from the June, 1917 edition of Popular Mechanics. In it S. H. Samuels walks the reader through the basics of constructing a uke, which in 1917 “was made at a cost of 30 cents, by careful selection of materials from the shop scrap stock.”
Learn a little bit about how Furry Lewis made his first guitar out of a cigar box! Continue reading “Blues legend, Furry Lewis describes his first cigar box guitar”
This story first appeared in The Book Buyer: A Summary of American and Foreign Literature in 1884-1885. It was written by Daniel Carter Beard, who also founded the Boy Scouts of America. It tells the story of a Christmas Eve where the boys Tom, Dick and Harry discover that their beloved Uncle Enos has built himself a banjo out of a cigar box and broomstick. Continue reading “Christmas Eve with Uncle Enos (with Cigar Box Banjo Plans) – by Daniel C. Beard – Circa 1884”
This excerpt from the book “Creative Music for Children”, written by Satis Narrona Coleman and published in 1922, describes the author’s work with teaching music and musical instruments to children. In this section she describes how the children crafted their own instruments, including a cello and violin, from various materials including cigar boxes.
The following excerpt is from the book “Creative Music for Children”, published in 1922, and describes the author’s work with teaching music and musical instruments to children. In this section she describes how the children crafted their own instruments, including a cello and violin, from various materials including cigar boxes. Continue reading “Cigar Box Cello and Violin built by Children – from “Creative Music for Children” 1922″
Shane Speal recently discovered a rare appearance by a cigar box guitar in a vintage film clip, this one from a 1942 music video recorded for the Spike Jones song “Pass the Biscuits Mirandy”. According to the Youtube video post, this short film (which really is a precursor to modern music videos) was called a “Soundie” and was made for playing on special jukeboxes. Continue reading “Cigar Box Guitar in 1942 Spike Jones Music Video”
Step-by-step instructions from the early 1900’s, including a detailed diagram, on building a cigar box Ukulele. Continue reading “Cigar Box Ukulele Plans by Charles A. King (circa 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. Continue reading “Cigar Box Violin (Jazzolin) – Popular Science Monthly, July 1920”
This clipping from a 1928 newspaper that gives instructions on how to make a one-string violin using a cigar box, a few scraps of wood and a string. Continue reading “Cigar Box Violin Plans – 1928 Newspaper Clipping”
Here’s a cool old patent from 135 years ago, showing a double-necked dulcimer with a rectangular body. These “double” dulcimers were meant to be played by two people at once, usually seated on either side of a table.
In this series of posts, we feature various U. S. patents from the last 150 years, which were either historically significant in the development of modern musical instruments and instrument-building methods, or which present something interesting or just plain cool. We hope that these historical curiosities will help give cigar box guitar builders some context for their work, and hopefully also provide some inspiration. Continue reading “Gibson’s Guitar Truss Rod Patent from 1923 – US Patent #1446758”
This video from December 4, 1928 shows a young African American (likely identified as “CoCoMo” Joe Barthelemy) playing a homemade drum kit consisting of a wooden box, tin cans and cake tin cymbals. As he plays, two other boys dance. This type of homemade instrument was a part of the New Orleans “spasm band” tradition, which began in the late 1900’s on the streets of the city, playing a variety of Dixieland, skiffle, jug music and other forms of early jazz forerunners. Continue reading “Homemade Drum Kit being Played, filmed in New Orleans 1928”
A collection of photographs from across the years, showing a variety handmade instruments and the people who played them. Thanks to John McNair of Red Dog Guitars for allowing us to repost many of these photos. John has spent years collecting historic images of homemade and handmade instruments, and we are honored that he has agreed to let us host them here.
This article ran in the September, 1923 edition of Popular Mechanics, and gives a fairly brief overview of building fiddles, mandolins and guitars using cigar box resonators.
The first “spasm bands” were formed on the streets of New Orleans in the late 19th century, playing a variety of Dixieland, skiffle, jug music and other forms of early jazz forerunners. Usually the term “spasm” was applied to bands, often made up of children, which crafted their instruments out of cast-off items and junk. Drum kits made out of wooden boxes and tin cans, cymbals made from pie plates, horns made from old pipes and parts of other instruments, and of course guitars and fiddles made from cigar boxes and other items. These spasm bands were not just one of the forerunners of what we know as jazz… they are also a key part of the history of homemade musical instruments.
Click the image below to visit the University of South Carolina page where you can watch the full video, which is itself a series of excerpts from a longer film.