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I'd been toying with the idea of building a cigar box guitar for a long time now, but only recently have found the means and time to do so. I was at a flea market the other day and I spotted a beautiful cigar box that I thought would make an even more lovely guitar. So I bought it and was on my merry way.
The box itself is rather large, part of what drew me to it being inexperienced with this sort of project. It is 11 1/8" L x 6 5/8" W x 2 3/8" H on the outside.
However, once I got home and I started reading about how to go about building one, I came across an interesting note on one of the plans I found regarding lid thickness. I forgot to consider this when buying the box, having been smitten with its good looks and wonderful smell.
This particular box has a very thick lid, on the order of 7/16" thick. The back is more typical of a guitar, being about 3/16" thick. I couldn't find any more specific information regarding this topic, and I was wondering how I should go about working with this. My minimal knowledge of acoustics leads me to believe this will kill my high end and volume, and since I would like this to be able to be used without amplification, I'm trying to work around that.
Are my concerns misguided and I should carry on building on the top side, switch to the back, or just ditch the box all together? I'd consider swapping the lid out for a thinner one, but since the markings were part of the reason I was drawn to the box so I'd like to avoid that if possible. Granted, putting some new wood down for the lid does allow me to build the tailpiece directly into the box since there is a bit of a lip on either end.
Thanks in advance for your help, and I'm look forward to building!
I like my box lids to be in the 1/8 vicinity. A quarter inch or greater won't vibrate as well. If I was going to put a magnetic pickup in it, it would be OK. But acoustically and/or with a piezo, you may have trouble getting enough sound out of it. If you like the box, then maybe going with the back as the sound board will be the way to go.
Can you post some pics of the box?
Yeah, that was my concern. That was what I was leaning towards, so unless you think it might sound better if I were to replace the top, then that's probably what I'll do.
And here are the pictures. I already made a few measurements, as you can see by the pencil markings.
You try making it thinner by removing some of the wood from the underside of the lid.
That was my thought as well... resaw the lid on the bandsaw, thinning it out then plane it down by hand or run it through the thickness sander.
Or break out the router thinning down the inside section leaving a strip the full thickness around the edge. That would help brace the top where it sits on the box. Also some say that you can tell the acoustic qualities of the box by tapping on it, so maybe do a series of small runs taking a little at a time and tap test until you find a nice sound. I like nice sounds.
Most people just utilize the box as is...but possibly re-enforcing the sides and replacing the top with a piece of wood similiar in characteristics to an actually guitar's sound board, would greatly improve tone. I appreciate builders who research and experiment to build higher quality. I encourage you to keep going in this direction. Enjoy, Keni Lee
I have two of that exact same box. I was going to make an amp out of it instead of a guitar. The lid is just too thick for me, and I didn't want to go through all the messing around trying to thin it.
I suppose you could stick a piezo inside the lid with double sided tape and run the wires out to a loose jack socket. You could then use a tuning fork as a source of resonance to see what type of sound you get. If it doesn't work, you haven't done any harm to the box. Other than that, you could thin the top as suggested or use a piezo and a mag pickup. Using the back as a soundboard may give better results, but I'd want that logo to be visible.
I build my own boxes using 3/16" lauan plywood, which is the same thickness as the bottoms of many of the wooden cigar boxes out there. Any thicker, as Dan Sleep has said, and the box top won't vibrate near as well; many builders realize that the tops are often thicker than the bottoms, so they just flip the box over, and use the bottom as the soundboard. Or they replace the original box top wiht something thinner (something I'm going to have to do on one of my upcoming builds, because the original box top is too warped to use). Some previous Discussions onthis topic:
There are also a number of build blogs and pics here on CBN that show how people have used a router to rout out a thick top from the underside, as Peter Greed has suggested. Some dedicated Searching should allow you, with patience, to find these; there's a lot of info on this website to dig through. Good luck on your build.
I have a few of these Undercrown boxes and was planning on doing exactly what Peter suggests... a couple of passes with the router to make it thinner. Seems like it would make a really nice CBG.
I'm with Peter carve some out from the inside like a violin you may even find that it enhances the resonance as the sound will be bouncing off a curved surface rather than sproinging its way around the inside of a box.
Tough call. Really nice looking box! Thinning the lid would work, but you run the risk of ruining the whole thing. Flipping it and using the bottom as the top would allow it to open when strung up so you can enjoy the cool graphic inside and on the back, and would be a lot less work.