Finished my first attempt at a CGB today and I'm feeling a bit let down right now - I knew there would be warts but there were more than expected. A few things that will go down as learning experiences:

1. There was too much work that happened on the neck and fretboard before gluing them together; as a result, the fretboard didn't really lay down flat on the neck and there are gaps all along the edge (despite full clamping).

2. Using small brass eye bolts as the tail to hold the bottoms of the strings didn't really work.

3. I'm guessing that the bracing that I installed in the body wasn't perfectly perpendicular; the neck seems slightly twisted in relation to the cigar box body.

4. There's significant buzzing in the body when I play the top string - not sure where that's coming from

5. I spent a lot of effort to try to get the action relatively low, but I must have some bad frets because playing up the fretboard results in buzzing in places and straight-up wrong notes in others. Frets must not be even in height.

6. I'm having a really hard time getting the strings to stay in tune. Finding the "in tune" sweet spot is really hard, and they don't stay there. May be related to item 2.

7. The bottom string, the high G (I went with GDG) seemed really loose for some reason - didn't seem to have much tension at all when in tune.

8. I got a CBGitty piezo pre-wired pickup and jack, but quickly found that the walls of the cigar box are too thick for the jack - it doesn't protrude at all through the open side to allow me to attach the nut.

Those are the big ones - I'd love any insight anyone has on any of these issues. 

I have another box and plan to try another one!

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Comment by Sean Murphy on November 14, 2017 at 8:59am

So I spent some time Sunday making adjustments and I'm much much happier with Effort 1!

I pulled the neck and squared up the supports and notch so the neck isn't twisted from the body.

Pulled the eye bolts at the bottom and drilled straight through; I used a larger bit on the back to create a "socket" for the string balls.

I played with the frets for a bit but finally gave up and just put a higher bridge in - the action's pretty high now but it's good for slide work (now I have to learn how to play slide...).

As far as the nut, I had actually cut grooves using a triangular file, slanted from back to front so the edge where the scale length starts is the highest point over which the strings go.

I was able to bore out a bit around the jack hole so I was able to install the piezo pickup - pretty sweet!

All in all, she's playing much better now. I've definitely learned a lot I will keep in mind on Build 2.

Top lesson learned: Mark the areas of wood you intend to remove so you don't end up going the wrong direction and removing material you didn't mean to!

Again, thanks for all the support - the great advice here got me to go back and keep working.

Comment by Hal Robertson on November 13, 2017 at 11:47pm

I'll echo some of what others have said. Right off, nice first build! Second, I'd ditch the eylets, drill all the way through the tail and string through it (ferrules or rivets too if you can - I use rivets top and bottom with a 1/8" hole). Third, raise that bridge! I like the popsicle stick idea, but washers, coins, whatever temporarily. Kalmario's fret dressing advice is good. Make sure you use really fine sandpaper - 320 or higher is what I'd use. Polish with 0000 steel wool. Tweak it, play it and get started on that second build!

Comment by Kalmario on November 12, 2017 at 8:30pm

hey bro it looks cool.

A) remake the nut. make sure there is an angle which is highest at the zero fret mark.  it looks by the photo to be nearly flat which will stuff the scale length up.  best way to tell is capo the first fret and re tune. if the frets sound more in tune then theres your problem.

B) raise the bridge up by putting ice block sticks or scrap wood under it until it stops buzzing. if the playing height is ok then glue it on, if not then go to C.

C) put vivid /sharpie/permanent marker on all the frets then get a flat piece of wood and attach sandpaper to it. now sand the fretboard until there is no pen marks anywhere. your fret board is now flat. i'd suggest buying a fret file from stew mac to round the fret edges but if you are tight then you could get away with making one. the home made versions make a mess of the fretboard though and yours looks nice.

D) i use string guages 30/20/10 normally the d/g/b strings you didn't say your scale length but a 18-20 inch scale gives me a DAd tuning, with normal tension

E) remove the eye bolts on the tail, drill right through and use a rivet to stop the strings digging in.

F) the boxes lid is really thick. it will need no bracing at all and will still be quiet.

G) part of the learning curve is the fix up after its made.  I've made plenty over the years and there is always a set up tweek or two to get these playable.  hope that makes sense and don't give up on it. it looks awesome and is proberaly fixable.

Cheers from NZ


Comment by Sean Murphy on November 12, 2017 at 9:35am

Thanks for all the support! Despite my best advice to myself not to expect too much, I definitely was hoping to hit that first chord and hear heavenly notes emanating from the CBG. 

I've pulled it apart and definitely noticed a few things I need to attend to on the next build; for example the slot that I cut for the neck and the bracing was not particularly perpendicular which definitely resulted in the neck being twisted from the body. I think this also contributes to some of the buzzing and fret problems on the top string.

I'm also identifying a few frets that are standing up higher than others; gonna try to fix those.

Finally I'm pulling the eye bolts at the bottom of the body and drilling a proper socket for the balls of the strings. 

We'll see if these help much, but if nothing else: lessons learned for the next one!

Comment by Korrigan on November 11, 2017 at 8:02pm

Well it looks pretty darn good, especially on your first try.

Now I've only done 2 builds so far so take anything I say with a grain (or pound) of salt and hopefully the experts will correct me if I'm wrong but my 2 cents:

1) If you can get it to a playable state without prying it apart then don't worry about the gap for now. If the fretboard ever pops off then make the neck and fretboard parallel to each other and reglue.

2) If there's room, you could drill straight through the tail then use metal string ferrules on both sides to protect the wood from the strings. You can get them from or make them yourself from pop rivets by removing the nail part.

3) If I understand what you're saying you could try shimming between the box and neck or bracing to get things parallel.

4) Worry about this after items 5,6 and 7. You may even find it resolves itself.

5) From your pic the action looks extremely low. I think the lower your action is the more perfect your fretwork and nut/bridge alignment needs to be. I'd try raising it and see if that fixes some of the problems. Also, if your strings are across the full width of your nut that could cause buzzing, tuning and tone problems. The slots should be filed at an angle so that only the fretboard side of the nut touches the string. Maybe you already did that but I can't tell from the pic.

6) Looks like you have the tuning machines on in the right direction. You are probably right about it being related to item 2. Looks like you have your low G wound backwards but I think that is more of an aesthetics thing, probably doesn't affect tuning.

You may also have too many wraps on your strings, you don't want the wraps to overlap each other and you don't want them to go to the bottom of the post.

Also remember to tune up to pitch not down to pitch, so if you miss it and go too high then tune below pitch and back up again. And don't forget that new strings take a while to stretch and settle in so expect to have to tune several times over the first couple days.

7) What's the scale length of your CBG? You probably just need a different gauge string. The floppy G is part of your buzzing no doubt.

8) Like Bones said this is an easy fix. I encountered the same problem. I dealt with it by countersinking the hole from the outside (being careful not to go all the way through) using a drill bit just slightly smaller than the nut. Then I pounded the nut into the hole and rather then screwing the nut on to the jack, I screwed the jack into the fixed nut (so make sure you have room to spin the jack before trying this). I did my soldering after the jack was attached.

9) Whatever you do... proceed to build 2.   :  )

Comment by Blues Frog on November 11, 2017 at 7:23pm

The eylets for string holders could be the reason for not staying in tune. They look as though they might be bending inward. Some of the buzzing could be from the nut. There might be enough room in the slots for movement which can cause some of that.

Barring that, it looks like a nice git. Especially for your first attempt. I keep saying that I'm gonna go back and fix little issues like that on some of my previous builds, but instead I just build something different.

Don't worry about it too much. Have fun building them, and let the little issues be what makes each git its own.

Comment by Sean Murphy on November 11, 2017 at 5:33pm

Comment by Jeff 'Bones' Reilly on November 11, 2017 at 4:23pm
That's a bummer buddy especially for your first attempt at this ,have you glued the neck in if no toss your fretted neck and build a fretless slide reuse your box and rebuild ,the jack is easy fix you need to let it in the timber enough so the thread comes through use a small chisel or screwdriver ,I think going simpler for your first build is the best plan maybe some pics would help in telling the story ,just my 2 bits .

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