How to Make a Simple Cigar Box Guitar (Metric Included)

Here’s the ultimate beginners guide to make your own 3 string cigar box guitar

By Glenn Watt

Do you wonder how difficult it would be to make a cigar box guitar?

Are you worried that you don’t have the tools or experience to do such a thing?

Look, not only can you make a cigar box guitar, but you will with this easy-to-follow plan.

This plan starts out by listing the tools you’ll need.

Then you’ll see the resources and hardware that you’ll use.

After that, you’ll follow a clear, step-by-step plan filled with crisp, colorful images to build a 3 string, fretless, cigar box guitar.

Enough with all the talk. Let’s do this!

Continue reading “How to Make a Simple Cigar Box Guitar (Metric Included)”

How to Notch a Fretted Cigar Box Guitar Neck for a Nut

Fretting directly onto a guitar neck is a great option to showcase the natural beauty of the wood you have chosen for your neck, rather than using a fretboard. However, this does make using a traditional nut a bit more challenging. This article shows you one way you can install a bone (or hardwood) nut blank onto your fretted cigar box guitar neck.

Fretting directly onto a guitar neck is a great option to showcase the natural beauty of the wood you have chosen for your neck, rather than using a fretboard. However, this does make using a traditional nut a bit more challenging.

This article shows you one way you can install a bone (or hardwood) nut blank onto your fretted cigar box guitar neck.

Tools you will need:
Handsaw or File
Square or ruler
Pencil

Determine the Location for the Nut

The first step is to determine where the nut is going to sit on the neck. This is determined by the scale-length of your instrument but it is usually placed right at the end of the head stock.

If you are using one of, the nut has already been marked out, making this step of the installation a breeze.


Click Here to see C. B. Gitty Crafter Supply’s Selection of pre-fretted necks, available in 5 different wood types!  They also have the Bone Nut used in this article!


If you plan on fretting the neck after the installation of the nut, you will likely already have the correct spot placed for your nut relative to the scale-length that you have chosen for your guitar. 

Draw an outline

Once you have determined the location and have drawn a line across your piece, place your bone nut blank so that it is flush with your position mark for the nut and trace a line on the other side.



Now using your square, mark a line about ⅛” down on both sides from the top of the neck. A little over or under is okay, as we are going to cut short of this mark. Connect your lines so that you have a basic outline of the channel that will house your nut.

Creating the Slot

Now, using your file, carefully start creating the cavity where your nut will sit. It is recommended that the dimensions of this slot be slightly smaller than your desired nut. It is easier to remove material than it is to correct too much taken out.

If you are using a saw, you will need to make several small cuts to the top of your 1/8″ line, one just inside each of the lines and then spaced regularly throughout the slot. The thinner you can make these pieces, the easier it will be in the future. This is easily done with a thin saw. From there, if you got the pieces small enough, you can break them and clean out with a file.

Check the Fit

Keep in mind that you will want a snug fit, so that the nut does not move around during playing, which will affect your intonation.

When the slot gets wide enough, check the fit often, making sure that your cut remains level, and that the channel doesn’t get too wide. If it does end up a little wider than you want, you can always use glue when installing the nut, to help snug it back up.



Once you are sure you have a good fit, set the nut aside until it comes time to shape.

Thank you for reading this how-to article on installing a nut blank into a pre-fretted neck.

Have you used a bone nut with one of C. B. Gitty’s pre-fretted necks? How would you go about installing one? Let us know in the comments below!


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How to Pick the Right Strings for your Cigar Box Guitar

One of the most frequent questions we hear from new cigar box guitar builders is what strings they should use on their cigar box guitar, and how they should tune it. This can be a very mysterious for a builder, especially folks without much of a musical background. While it is often said that there are no rules when it comes to building CBGS (and that is often true, which is one of the great things about this hobby), it can be very frustrating to hear when you just want a simple answer to a question. In this article, we’ll try to demystify some of the theory behind strings and tunings, and also give some straightforward clear answers for those who just want to know what to do.

Southbound Strings Open G 3-string SetFirst, we’ll give a clear answer for those of you who just want to know what to do: at C. B. Gitty Crafter Supply we consider a “standard” cigar box guitar to be a 3-stringer with medium-gauge acoustic strings tuned to either Open G (for slide playing), or G-B-E for fretted playing. The strings used are equivalent to the three highest-pitched strings on a standard six-string guitar, and the scale length of the instrument (the distance from the nut to the bridge) is around 25 inches.

This happens to be the most popular set of CBG strings we sell in our shop – our C. B. Gitty 3-String Acoustic Medium Open G/Standard Set. If you are building your first cigar box guitar and have no idea what to do or what you need, start with these strings. These strings are based on a “medium” weight set sold for a standard 6-string, but includes only the 3 highest-pitch strings (the smallest/lightest ones) from the pack, so you don’t have any leftovers. It can be tuned either in “Open G” tuning for slide playing (G-B-D), or if you have a fretted neck it can be tuned like the 3 highest-pitch strings of a standard guitar (G-B-E).

This “standard” tuning will allow you to utilize partial chords that you might know from a standard guitar. Continue reading “How to Pick the Right Strings for your Cigar Box Guitar”

How to Tune a 3-string Cigar Box Guitar to Open G GDG

In this video, Ben “C. B. Gitty” Baker and Glenn Watt show you the basics of getting your cigar box guitar in tune. Both tuning “by ear” and using a digital tuner is covered, so even if you have no experience with musical instruments or tuning, this video will help you get started. At the end of the video, Ben and Glenn even do a little bit of jamming with their newly-tuned cigar box guitars.

How to Use Capacitors with Piezo pickups in Cigar Box Guitars

In this video,  Ben “Gitty” Baker and Glenn Watt show you how a simple capacitor can help you get the most out of your piezo pickup.

From reducing feedback to improving tone, they are a cheap and reliable way to boost the quality of your build.


Need capacitors for your next build? You can find them at C. B. Gitty by clicking here.


 

How to Use Hard-tail Bridges

Hard-tail bridges are a must-have piece of hardware for building professional-level electric guitars and cigar box guitars. This article walks you through the different styles and varieties, as well as how to install them on your special build.

What are Hard-tail Bridges?

This cigar box guitar sports a gold-plated 3-string hard-tail bridge. It is a "Metamorphosis" model built by Glenn Watt at C. B. Gitty.
This cigar box guitar sports a gold-plated 3-string hard-tail bridge. It is a “Metamorphosis” model built by Glenn Watt at C. B. Gitty.

Hard-tail bridges are pieces of hardware often seen on solid body electric guitars. They combine bridges and saddles in such a way that the intonation and string action (height over the fretboard) can easily be adjusted post-install. These styles of bridges are best known from Fender’s Stratocaster™ electric guitars.

Because of how they are made, hard-tail bridges work best when used with magnetic pickups (the sort seen on solidbody electric guitars) as opposed to piezo-style pickups. They help with achieving a professional intonation, maintaining a nice low string action, and increasing sustain (due to their solid metal construction).

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This 6-string hard-tail bridge has an opening for a single-coil pickup. This item is available ready-to-install from CBGitty.com.

Some hard-tail bridges also include openings for pickups such as Fender-style single coils and humbuckers. The basic versions just have the bridge and saddle components.

Although they are best known for use on solid body electrics, hard-tail bridges also work great for cigar box guitars. There are now 3 and 4-string varieties available, which make them even more suitable for electric cigar box guitars that have magnetic pickups.

Varieties of Hard-tail Bridges

Continue reading “How to Use Hard-tail Bridges”

How to Use Sealed-Gear Guitar Tuners

Learn about the “sealed-gear” varieties of guitar tuners/machine heads, and some useful tips, tricks and advice on how to use them properly.

What are Sealed-Gear Tuners?

Sealed-gear tuners (also known as machine heads, tuning pegs and other names) are the type often seen on electric guitars, especially Fender Telecaster™ and Stratocaster™-style guitars.

They are designed so that the mechanical gears of the tuner are sealed into the base, as opposed to open-gear tuners where the worm and pinion gears are visible.


Click here, or on any of the images in this article to see the selection of Sealed-Gear Tuners available from C. B. Gitty Crafter Supply!


Continue reading “How to Use Sealed-Gear Guitar Tuners”

How to Use Strap Buttons

What are Strap Buttons?

Basic chrome strap buttons from C. B. GittyA strap button is a piece of hardware mounted to a guitar or other instrument, as an anchor point for attaching a strap.

A strap allows the instrument to hang from the musician’s shoulders, making it more comfortable to hold and play, especially when standing up.

A strap allows an instrument to hang comfortably from musician's shoulders while standing.
A strap allows an instrument to hang comfortably from musician’s shoulders while standing.

While strap buttons are optional on a guitar, including them will make the instrument much more appealing to a person used to performing on stage, and can lend more of a professional, finished look and feel. We recommend that builders always put them on their cigar box guitars. Continue reading “How to Use Strap Buttons”

Introduction to using Magnetic Pickups

A typical humbucker magnetic pickupIf you have been thinking about using a magnetic pickup in your next cigar box guitar build, but aren’t sure about how they are different from piezo pickups, then here is a quick overview for you. Magnetic pickups can be a nice addition to most any cigar box guitar, but they do require some different handling and some knowledge of their unique properties.

Be sure to check out magnetic pickups and other great gear (all at great prices) over at C. B. Gitty Crafter Supply!

  1. Magnetic pickups respond only to the vibration of the strings, not the acoustic vibration of the instrument body.
    • It is the interaction between the vibrating steel strings and the magnets in the pickup that cause slight voltage to be created, which is picked up by the amplifier and reproduced as recognizable sound.
    • With a piezo pickup, which responds to pressure changes from string/instrument vibration to create voltage. So while a piezo responds to the instrument’s vibration, and as such will pick up more of the acoustic properties, the magnetic pickup responds only to the strings.
    • This means that a magnetic pickup underneath the same strings should sound the same on a Les Paul electric guitar, a cigar box guitar, or a cinder block. The acoustic properties of the instrument itself do not come into play. This can be both a good and a bad thing – if you want a CBG that sounds like an electric guitar through an amp, then it is great. If you want a CBG that sounds like a CBG through an amp, then it is not so great.
  2. Magnetic pickups need to be mounted directly under the strings.
    • While a piezo can be mounted inside the box, a magnetic pickup cannot. It has to be mounted such that the poles are very close to the strings, so that the string vibration will excite the magnets.
    • The distance from the strings can vary, but it is generally in the range of 1/4″ to 1/2″ – usually, the closer they are the more sound you will get out of the guitar.
    • Personal preference comes into play here. Getting the magnetic pickup into the right position almost always means cutting an appropriately shaped hole in the top of the instrument so that it can extend through it. Mounting it fully inside the box is almost guaranteed to yield poor results.
  3. Magnetic pickups require strings that have some steel in them.
    • Magnets are only excited by “ferrous” metals – such as the steel in standard guitar strings. Non-ferrous metals, such as brass and bronze, and non-metallic substances like nylon, will not produce any sound through a magnetic pickup.
    • Standard acoustic guitar strings, even Phosphor Bronze and 80/20 Bronze, have steel cores and will work for magnetic pickups. There are also nickel-wound strings sold specifically as electric guitar strings.
    • Usually electric guitar string sets are somewhat lighter in gauge than acoustic sets — this is because acoustic guitars need to produce a lot more sound to be effective, and heavier strings under greater tension produce more sound. Since the only thing electric guitar strings need to do is excite the magnets, they can be lighter in gauge and still work great – keep in mind that the electric guitar has the amplifier to do all of the work of making the sound louder.
  4. There are many variations in how magnetic pickups can be combined and arranged in a build.
    • There are both single-coil and double-coil (humbucker) varieties of magnetic pickup, and they can be used singly or in matched pairs on a build. One popular configuration is to have one pickup close to the neck and one close to the bridge, with either a switch or some sort of fader potentiometer to either select between them, or blend their sounds together.
    • Some builders go even further and put both a piezo and a magnetic pickup in their build, with a switch or pot to select between them, so they get a blend of electric guitar and acoustic guitar sounds. When it comes to guitar electronics, the possibilities are pretty much wide open to experimentation.
    • There are very few hard-and-fast rules of what is right and wrong, so feel free to experiment and try new things!

We hope that this brief overview of magnetic pickups is helpful and answers some of the questions you might have in regards to using one in your build. There is a great deal of additional information out there, on sites such as http://www.CigarBoxNation.com, as well as a number of books published on the subject.

Happy building!

Master String Size & Tuning List for 25-inch Scale

bulk-strings-500pxThis article is presented by the Southbound String Company – the first brand focused solely on providing strings specifically chosen and voiced for Cigar Box Guitars and other handmade/homemade instruments!

 

This chart shows you the string size to use for every pitch from double-low B (one Octave below the low B on a guitar), all the way up to High A.

Using this chart you can figure out the strings to use for pretty much any tuning you want. These strings should work for instruments with a scale length of 24.5 to 25.5 inches, with 25 inches being the middle point.

The string gauges shown below are for a “light” string set. For a “medium” set, add .002″ to the wound string sizes and .001″ to the unwound string sizes. For example, for a medium set, for low C you would want .036″ instead of .034″. For high E you’d want .011″ instead of .010″. Increase string gauges from there to move towards “heavy” sets.

Continue reading “Master String Size & Tuning List for 25-inch Scale”

Piezo Wiring Diagrams

Putting electronic components into a cigar box guitar, and getting everything properly wired and connected, can be a daunting task for the first-timer – but it doesn’t have to be. In this article we will present several basic wiring diagrams created by Ted Crocker, and discuss each of them in some detail to help you understand what is going on.

Don’t forget that you can get most of the parts shown in this article, including piezos , jacks, volume potentiometers and potentiometer knobs , right in our C. B. Gitty Crafter Supply Web Store!
Continue reading “Piezo Wiring Diagrams”

Rod Piezo Primer

Rod and Disk PiezosWhen looking at the use of piezo elements as pickups in acoustic instruments, and specifically in cigar box guitars, there are two main types that get used – disk-style piezos, and rod-style piezos

While disk piezos are perhaps more prevalent, because they tend to be cheaper and easier to find, many builders feel that the rod-style piezos offer superior sound and tonal quality. This article delves into the differences between disk and rod-style piezos, and takes a close look at how rod piezos are put together.

Don’t forget that you can find all sorts of great rod and disk piezos in various sizes and configurations (and at great prices!) over at C. B. Gitty Crafter Supply.

First, a little bit of piezo basics. Piezoelectric elements, whatever the type, are based around layered ceramic wafers and conductive metal. Continue reading “Rod Piezo Primer”