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Home Made Resonator Boxes 101, v.2.0


Home Made Resonator Boxes 101, v.2.0

Beginning Box Building. Nothing too fancy, but functional. For people who don't have easy access to cigar boxes. Other home made non-rectangular box resonator discussions are also welcome.

Location: Planet Earth, but anyone from anywhere is welcome.
Members: 172
Latest Activity: yesterday

Welcome to Home Made Resonator Boxes 101, Version 2.0


Updated: February 23, 2014

If you have ever built your 'guitar' with a home made sound box, let us know about it! Post your photos, especially any interesting construction techniques you used.

Due to my mistake of using the word "Resonator" in the name of this group, there now appears to be two groups of contributors:

1.) People wanting to discuss basic sound box construction (my intended audience):
2.) People wanting to discus building resonator cigar box guitars using metal resonators like what Old Lowe is famous for making and selling:

About This Discussion Forum


For those folks interested in building Resonator CBGs and Resonator Parts, please enter your posts under the Discussion Forum under either the "Resonator parts" discussion, or the "Placing the Resonator" discussion. Also be sure to check out my "Useful Links" which includes links to some interesting Reso-CBG related topics and photos (see below).


Most of the rest of this Discussion Forum is dedicated to people interested in discussing the various methods and styles of box building, including woodworking techniques, joinery, decorating and the like. Maybe we can have a different discussion forum for each style of box (rectangular, circular, octagonal, etc.) We'll see how the group evolves.

Useful Links:

  1. Basic Woodworking
  2. Basic Box Building
    • Project #13 "Boxtrot - Anything I Can Do (you can do)" by Mag Ruffman, the ToolGirl. In this article she shows how to make small wooden boxes complete with box joints using just a small fine toothed saw, a chisel and a few other simple hand tools to cut the box joint "fingers" and "holes". This is a very interesting article.
      [Broken Link]
    • Tom Hintz & - Building Basic Boxes (using power tools). He has many other articles on woodworking, too.
    • Gluing the Box Frame: Here's a diagram showing how to use two lengths of angle iron, several clamps and a web clamp to glue-up a box so that it will be nice and square. Read more about it in the Comment Wall, below.
    • Harbour Freight also sells a nice web clamp ideal for box building. They describe it as a 1" x 15 ft. Ratcheting Band Clamp, Item # 66220, and it sells for only $5.99. Here's a photo: What's nice about this web clamp is that it includes 4 corner pieces which means you don't need the two pieces of angle iron used in the box jig above.
    • Tony Hyman's Cigar History Museum - Types of Cigar Boxes has a lot of interesting photos of old cigar boxes that makes for some interesting viewing & reading, especially if you decide you want to decorate you home- made wooden box like an old cigar box.
  3. Advanced Box Building
    • Testing a box for bridge placement - a link to an interesting Cigar Box Nation discussion in the Super Advanced Cigar Box Building group that was started by a question posed by John Maw. The best solution was the idea of building a diddly bow in which to test your boxes for sound quality and optimal bridge placement. [Fixed link, 9/19/2011]
    • Here's a challenging box design ideal for a real cool Cigar Box Guitar:
    • Sound boxes don't have to be square or rectangular.They can have any number of sides. But remember that the corner joints must be cut at an angle appropriate to the number of sides the box will have. Here is a summary of that data:
      Num. of Sides = Corner Angles
      3 sided = 60 degrees
      4 sided = 45 degrees
      5 sided = 36 degrees
      6 sided = 30 degrees
      7 sided = 25.71 degrees (26 is okay)
      8 sided = 22.5 degrees
      9 sided = 20 degrees
      10 sided = 18 degrees
      11 sided = 16.36 degrees (16 is okay)
      12 sided = 15 degrees
      15 sided = 12 degrees
      16 sided = 11.25 degrees (11 is okay)

      Much above 16 sides and you may as well go with a circle. What ever number of sides you decide upon, the angle size can always be calculated by dividing 180 by the number of sides you want to have.
    • Block Rim Construction is a series of YouTube videos produced by Richard Brown (aka "bordertownbrown") detailing how to build round bodies as for banjos and similar instruments. Many of the techniques he shows are also applicable to the regular polygonal sound boxes described above. There are 7 or 8 videos and all the video files are named "block rim video partX.mp4" where "X" is the part number between 1 and 8. Use the search feature on the YouTube website to search for the additional videos of the series.
    • How to bend wood to form rounded sound boxes? Check out these two web pages set up by Jim Varnum: "Travel Guitar"and "Appalachian Mountain Fiddle". Both articles describe in fair detail the process of bending wood by soaking them in near boiling water for 30 to 45 minutes.
    • Also, on the Friends of the Mountain Dulcimer (FOTMD) website, there's a discussion entitled "American Cittern (Strummer) Building Discussions " which details how one builder (Bobby Ratliff) builds his round bodied stick dulcimers. It includes photos of the form he uses and mentions that he uses a propane torch to heat and bend his red oak sides; rather than soaking them in steam or water).
    • Another good source of information about bending wood is the Veritas® Steam-Bending Instruction Booklet, which is a free download - just click on their link "View as PDF" near the bottom of the page.
    • The folks at have a very extensive list of links for folks interested in building guitars. I'm sure there are a lot of techniques explained in these links that are applicable to building box guitars.
    • (stub)
  4. Resonator Cigar Box Guitars
  5. Interesting Threads on Reso-CBGs
  6. Resonator Cone Makers/Sellers
    • Mike Lowe (Old Lowe) High quality 6" brass, copper or aluminum cones for CBGs ($25/ea). He also is now making matching coverplates ($30/ea). Also check out his tail pieces and sound hole covers. I especially like those with the lone star motiff.
    • Republic Guitars has a nice 5.75" resonator cone ($25) and cover plate ($25) which they sell in a 4-piece kit that additionally includes a biscuit and a bridge ($55). Republic also handle the large 10.25" cones and cover plates should you be interested in converting a full sized guitar. They also have a few tail piece offering.
    • National Reso Phonic Guitars has resonator cones for Ukes and CBGs priced around $60, including the biscuit/bridge. They also have large reonators cones (9.5" and 10.5") for full-size guitar conversion projects.
    • Delta Resonator Cones (UK) Cones for Ukes and CBGs (£40.00). They also have a large resonator cone thats 10.5" for full-sized guitars.
    • Pete Moles (Molanator Guitars / Tasmania) Aluminum 'Molo Cones' for full sized guitars
    • Klangbox (Austrian) 4.7" brass cones... are no longer available.
    • Ben Moor's (Roosterman) Homespun Candy Cones for CBGs (£6 or £15 for 3). Measure 5.25" in diameter.
    • Ziggie's Music (on E-Bay) sells a complete set of hardware for home-made resonator guitars: 7" spun aluminum cone, stainless steel cover plate, tail piece and soundhole cover all for ($75). Three patterns are available: Slot Pattern, 50's Pattern and Star Pattern.
    • Note 1: Plus Shipping Charges
      Note 2: Klangbox also makes an interesting low profile magnetic pickup called the "Flatpup 3 Humbucker", which has been well received by some CBN builders.

  7. Guitar Builder's Glossaries


Discussion Forum

Box for three string reso

Started by Michael Fred Johnson. Last reply by Michael Fred Johnson Apr 10. 9 Replies

This is the design for a three string using a uke resonator cone and cover along with a photo of the finished result…Continue

Tags: resonator, string, three

Notes on Making Sound Boxes for Metal Resonator CBGs

Started by Rand Moore. Last reply by Rand Moore Apr 8. 7 Replies

Hi All...For a long time I have wanted to build a resonator based string instrument, but I've put it off for a long time because of a poor success rate on prototype builds. I had lots of excuses. Chief among them was the difficulty of cutting an…Continue

Tags: resonator, reso, sound box

Where do people find solid wood stock for soundboards?

Started by Barsymes Cratchnee. Last reply by TN Twang Mar 5. 5 Replies

So I've seen a number of builds on the site with solid wood tops such as spruce and was wondering where people get that kind of lumber.  Buying thick stock, joining and planing?  Online site with soundboard material?  Just curious of people's sound…Continue

Most useful power tool for CBG

Started by David Ford. Last reply by Barsymes Cratchnee Jan 9. 14 Replies

I'm struggling with space vs buying up for yet another hobby vs common sense. I currently have:a router and table.  a japanese hand saw.  a drill press.  a rotary saw seems like making the neck, adequately,  requires more power tool than I currently…Continue

Tags: saw, power, tools

My CATBRO Resonator

Started by Tom Walters. Last reply by Rand Moore Jan 2. 7 Replies

I realized I posted this in another discussion on piezos.  Sorry for that.I am building a resonator guitar for my neighbour from a cedar box that had salmon in it (and a painting of a salmon), an old guitar neck and a cat food bowl.....hence the…Continue

Building your own box that opens? Anyone done this?

Started by Barsymes Cratchnee. Last reply by Rand Moore Jan 2. 9 Replies

Was thinking about building my own box and one of the things I like about some of the cigar box builds I've seen is the ability to open the box when the strings are off.  Seems silly, but a nice option if you want to swap necks (screwed, not glued),…Continue

Alt. box material

Started by Bert the Welder. Last reply by Mike Strehlow Dec 5, 2013. 3 Replies

Was reading a post here discussing paper mache(?) as a body material. Occurred to me that maybe cloth or paper Micarta might be something to play with. For how it's made, look up diy micarta on youtube. Used for knife handles. One could just make it…Continue

Tags: to, wood, alternative, material, board

Problem with home-made box - warbling/distorting sound

Started by Richey Kay. Last reply by Richey Kay Nov 9, 2013. 13 Replies

Hi all,I finished my first build with a home-made box a few weeks ago, and have been enjoying it immensely. I made the box from 1/8" spruce for the soundboard and 1/4" spruce for the back and sides, all solid wood.…Continue

My New "Thin-Walled" Sound Box Design

Started by Rand Moore. Last reply by Rand Moore Nov 4, 2013. 6 Replies

Hi All.Over the past few weeks I've been developing a new "thin walled" sound box design. My inspiration came from professionally-made instruments which usually have very thin sides (usually 1.2 to 1.5 mm thick). I usually make instruments with a…Continue

Tags: soundbox, thin side, thin wall, thin-walled, sound box

Advice on first box build

Started by Richey Kay. Last reply by Richey Kay Nov 4, 2013. 6 Replies

Hi all, I've decided to have a go at building my own boxes as cigar boxes are so scarce in the UK and I've not been too happy with the tone on the basic plain craft boxes I've tried.I've found a supplier who does sheet wood in spruce and sapele and…Continue

Comment Wall


You need to be a member of Home Made Resonator Boxes 101, v.2.0 to add comments!

Comment by gary sheldon yesterday

My Gitty uke kit arrived today.  It looks real good.  I may start putting it together tonight.


Comment by gary sheldon on Tuesday

I see.  : )   .

I got my neck drop and new tailpiece working.  I love the bridge break angle much better than before.

One think I forgot about the neck angle is that I didn't account for string tension. I probably lost about a half a degree when I strung it up.  I didn't check.

Anyway, I have one more useable guitar now.  I'll start retrofitting the others any day now.


Comment by Michael Fred Johnson on Tuesday


 I have no experience of Gitty's uke kit,was not even aware of it.Just had a look at it on the electric interweb and it looks amazing value for money,you can't go wrong.Trouble with me is I like to make things myself.

Comment by gary sheldon on Tuesday

Thanks, Michael.  No, I am not using a uke resonator.  I am experimenting with a "doggie bowl" thrift shop resonator.  But I got side tracked with the neck drop project.  I jsut have to drill the tailpiece, screw it in and string it up.  Tomorrow.  Oh, and relieve the top of the neck inside the box with the belt sander.

BTW, have you had any experience with the Gitty Uke Kit?  I just ordered one.  I can't buy the parts retail for the $38 they charge.  I should recieve it later this week.


Comment by gary sheldon on Tuesday

Hi guys:

  Another late night rant and possibly some useful information.

I am following some of Rand and Michael's suggestions.  Neck drop and tailpiece design.

I took my guitar #2 and removed the neck from the body.  I wasn't that impressed with the cigar box.  I am putting the neck into another cigar box.  This box was a reject.  I built a neck for it and eventually loaned it to customer to try out.  He returned it a couple of days later saying he hated it.   Not much sound.  It sat around for several weeks and one day I decided to figure out why it was so mute.  After a lot of head scratching I found that the cover was made of MDF.  Like papier mache.  It is the artificial wood that they make base boards and interior trim pieces out of.  Medium Density Fibreboard. That top was lined with paper on the inside and had a beautiful veneer on the top. I carefully cut the top off and replaced it with a decent piece of thin birch plywood.  But I digress.

I am rebuildong guitar #2 with a very small neck drop.  Probably only 1 1/4 degrees or so.  I can always increase it later.  By the way there are two building methods which will cause one to use a taller bridge/saddle.  One is neck drop and the other is a raised fingerboard.  Since I use raised fingerboards, I figure the neck drop doesn't have to be so much.

I was wondering how I am going to locate the back of the neck in the box without a through hole.  I decided to put a glue block on either side of where the neck should be.  That is when I discovered another trick.  Rather than measuring and marking where the blocks should be, I decided to use scrap, factory planed wood to temporarily lock things into place.  I got lucky and used 2 pieces of oak neck material and one piece of plywood on each side of the neck.  It was a perfect fit!  Will, once again try to send a photo.  

Comment by Michael Fred Johnson on Tuesday

Hi Gary 

I assume Your question refers to the guitar using the uke resonator.

The cone sits in the well formed by the ply rings glued to the underside of the sound board(see "Box for three string reso").The cover does not touch the cone it is there to protect it from damage.These spun aluminium cones are extremely thin and very easily damaged if they are deformed in any way they will probably collapse under the string tension.

The plastic strip is super glued into a rebate cut using a router.I haven't had the router long so previous to that I cut the rebates for guitar bindings by hand.Score the top and side of the guitar body with a cutting or marking gauge and carefully remove the waste with a chisel.

I don't use a through neck on resonators(see the photo of the dovetail) an alternative to the dovetail is shown in this photo,slot both sides of the neck where it extends into the box  

Comment by gary sheldon on Sunday

Thanks for all that good info Rand.

Comment by Rand Moore on Sunday

Hi Gary,

I see you're "on-line" now. With regards to your last post, the recommendation for the downward angle is 2-3 degrees. If you have a long neck as compared to a short one, you'll find you'll need a much taller bridge especially with larger neck angles as you found when you did your calculations for a 5 degree downward angle. I usually don't bother with the math, and if my bridges turn out not to be tall enough, I shim them by placing a thin board under the bridge. Maybe not the most "professional" way, but its an easy solution. As you can see form our photos, the break angle is not that sharp as I might have said in the text of my earlier posts.

When building an acoustic instrument, I almost always cut away maybe 1/4" of the wood under the sound board for better vibration. The exceptions are the two mountain dulcimer instruments I made, where the fingerboard is glued directly to the top side of the sound board. I doubt it makes as much difference as some people claim, but its a fairly standard practice. With metal resonators, drums and cake/cookie tin instruments it's pretty much a necessity. Not so much for wood.


Comment by Rand Moore on Sunday

Hi Again.

Actually, on these resonator instruments, I have changed my practice, and re-routed the "thru-the-box" part of the neck downward an inch or so to avoid coming into contact with the resonator (a cookie tin lid). So, to compensate, I re-enforce the tail-side wall of the sound box with another board to better take the string tension on the tail-piece which is no longer being carried solely by the neck. Sorry for misleading anyone. When I build a regular acoustic "guitar", the neck runs pretty much straight thru the box (maybe slightly tilted to give the neck a few degrees of downward tilt) and the tail piece in anchored to the tail end of the neck so the neck carries all (or most) of the string tension.

The reason this is important is so that the extra stress is not placed on the sound box, which often is built very thin (fragile) for better resonating characteristics at  the loss of structural strength. A couple examples might be my "thin walled sound box" which are built using 2mm plywood for all sizes with minimal framing to reinforce the structure; and another would be cake/cookie tin instruments which might crumple under string pressure if the thru-the neck part of the neck wasn't there to carry the string tension on the tail piece.


Comment by gary sheldon on Sunday

Rand and Michael:

  You guys are awesome.  Thanks for the comments and help.

  I went to the hardware store a little while ago and got a sheet of copper that is a thickness that I can bend, but is probably strong enough to take the tension of the strings.  I will make a tailpiece like Rand described, except that I will bend it back about 20 degrees at the top and slot it for quicker string changes.

Earlier, I drew a 5 degree angle on a sheet of door skin and measured off some inportant distances.  It has been decades since I took any trig, so I had to grunt it out.  5 degrees is huge.  The nut would drop 1 5/8"!  The tailpiece would have to rise almost an inch, and the bridge would have 3/4" added.  Like and Eifel tower.

  So my neck drop will probably be more in the 1 to 2 degree range.  I am assuming that the front of the box is the fulcrum.

  Michael, your resonator guitar is an inspiring work of art.  I don't have the great power tools like you do, but I can occasionally get some time on a band saw or drill press.  I really like your white trim.  Was it difficult?

 A couple of questions:  Is your inner cone mechanically attached to the outer cone?  If I build a resonator with 2 cones and run the neck through it will the sound be destroyed?  I want to stay with the through body design.

Another question for either of you.  I relieve about 1/16" or more at the top of the neck under the sound board to allow it to vibrate.  Do you agree with this?

I need to take my laundry out of the washer now.  I'll attempt to send some pics of my old tailpiece.




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