Cigar box guitar

Building Your Own Cigar Box Guitar

Cigar box guitars have a rich history dating back to the mid-19th century, when they were often crafted by impoverished musicians using whatever materials they could find. Today, these unique instruments continue to captivate enthusiasts with their raw, bluesy sound and DIY charm. If you’re interested in building your own cigar box guitar, here’s a step-by-step guide to get you started.

Materials Needed to Build a Cigar Box Guitar

To build a cigar box guitar, you will need the following materials:

Cigar Box

The most crucial component of a cigar box guitar is, of course, the cigar box itself. You can find a variety of cigar boxes in different shapes and sizes, each one contributing to the overall tone of the instrument.


The neck of a cigar box guitar can be made from a variety of materials, such as hardwood or even repurposed lumber. The length and angle of the neck will affect the playability of the instrument.


Strings are essential for producing sound on a guitar. Cigar box guitars typically use three or four strings, but you can experiment with different gauges and tunings to achieve your desired sound.

Tuning Pegs

Tuning pegs are used to adjust the tension of the strings and tune the guitar to the desired pitch. They come in various styles, such as friction or geared tuners.

Bridge and Nut

The bridge and nut of a cigar box guitar help to support and guide the strings, ensuring proper intonation and string height. These components can be made from various materials, including bone or acrylic.

Building Process of a Cigar Box Guitar

Now that you have gathered your materials, it’s time to start building your cigar box guitar:

Preparing the Cigar Box

Begin by preparing the cigar box, which involves removing any hinges, labels, or hardware that may interfere with the sound of the instrument. You can also paint or decorate the box to give it a personalized touch.

Attaching the Neck

Next, attach the neck to the cigar box using wood glue, screws, or bolts. Make sure the neck is aligned correctly and securely attached to the body of the guitar.

Installing the Strings and Hardware

Once the neck is in place, install the strings and hardware, such as tuning pegs, bridge, and nut. Adjust the string height and intonation as needed for optimal playability.

Tuning and Playing the Cigar Box Guitar

Finally, tune your cigar box guitar to your desired pitch and start playing! Experiment with different playing techniques and tunings to discover your own unique sound.

Variations and Customizations of Cigar Box Guitars

Cigar box guitars offer endless opportunities for customization and personalization:

Different Types of Cigar Boxes Used

Experiment with different types of cigar boxes to achieve varying tones and aesthetics. Some musicians prefer vintage boxes for their warm, nostalgic sound.

Unique Designs and Decorations

Add your own flair to your cigar box guitar by decorating it with paint, decals, or inlays. Let your creativity shine through in your instrument’s design.

Additional Features such as Pickups and Amplifiers

Enhance the sound of your cigar box guitar by installing pickups or connecting it to an amplifier. This can help you achieve a louder, more electrified sound.

Famous Musicians Who Play Cigar Box Guitars

Many musicians have embraced the raw, bluesy sound of cigar box guitars:

Shane Speal

Known as the “King of the Cigar Box Guitar,” Shane Speal is a prominent figure in the cigar box guitar community, advocating for the instrument’s versatility and DIY spirit.

Seasick Steve

Blues musician Seasick Steve has gained worldwide recognition for his soulful performances on the cigar box guitar, showcasing the instrument’s emotive capabilities.

Justin Johnson

Multi-instrumentalist Justin Johnson is renowned for his virtuosic skills on the cigar box guitar, pushing the boundaries of what the instrument can achieve in the hands of a master.


What is a cigar box guitar?

A cigar box guitar is a homemade musical instrument that typically consists of a cigar box as the body, a wooden neck, and one or more strings. It is known for its raw, bluesy sound and DIY charm.

Can I use any cigar box to build a cigar box guitar?

Yes, you can use any cigar box to build a cigar box guitar. Different boxes will produce varying tones and aesthetics, so feel free to experiment with different types of boxes.

Do I need musical experience to play a cigar box guitar?

No, you do not need prior musical experience to play a cigar box guitar. The instrument is relatively easy to learn and can be enjoyed by musicians of all skill levels.

Can I add pickups to my cigar box guitar?

Yes, you can add pickups to your cigar box guitar to amplify the sound. This can be especially useful when performing or recording in a live setting.

What tuning should I use for my cigar box guitar?

There are no strict rules for tuning a cigar box guitar. Experiment with different tunings to find one that suits your playing style and desired sound.

How can I achieve a unique sound on my cigar box guitar?

To achieve a unique sound on your cigar box guitar, experiment with different playing techniques, tunings, and setups. Embrace your creativity and let your individuality shine through in your music.

Building and playing a cigar box guitar offers a unique and rewarding musical experience. Whether you’re a seasoned musician or a curious beginner, exploring the world of cigar box guitars can open up a world of creative possibilities. So why not challenge yourself to create your own signature sound and start a musical revolution today with a cigar box guitar?