Hi Folks:

So far I've built a variety of CBG instruments: 3 & 4 string guitars; bass guitars; and various ukes.  Most have turned out pretty decent. I would really appreciate hearing opinions, however, on the "top woods" found on various boxes.

Do you generally leave them "as is" - as some are thin and others quite thick?  Or, do you make an attempt to thin them down some? What about using an actual piece of spruce intended for use as an instrument soundboard? I have put pickups in some (piezo and / or single coils)... but I like the natural sounds as well.

I would really appreciate hearing what your experiences have been in working with them. Most of my instruments have turned out looking pretty good, and playing decent as well. But the sound volume / projection can really vary a lot - even using the same construction techniques (well, as "same" as any two can be ;-) )  Thanks to all!

Peace,  

 Chaplain Will  

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In some cases, you could turn the boxes over and use the bottom of the box as the top as the bottoms are sometimes much thinner.

I've used a few boxes of various sizes and with various tops. Some have been vintage cedar boxes, some cheap ply and the Behike boxes are almost half-inch thick MDF. I leave them all 'as is' and don't bother thinning them, unless thinning is needed to fit a pickup or such like. I am often surprised by the tone.

The problem, in my view, is one of consistency, as you point out. Unless you make every build exactly the same, you have no idea what changing one variable (such as the thickness of the top) has made. Changes in tone could be attributable to the thickness of the top, or the construction and attachment of the neck, or the size of the box etc etc. My advice would be to do what you feel like and experiment. If you want to thin the top down, go for it. If not, leave it alone and it'll probably work. Other opinions are available.

well yes opinions will differ, but I always leave the original lid on, I've never  found any benefit in thinning as the top is only part of the resonance and sound of the guitar, also they look mighty pretty ! ;-)

 

..and if you go electric, type and thickness of wood have very little to do with the sound you'll get from the amp.

sorry to disagree but it does!  size and type of box make a big difference to the sound, the recessed flat lids work the best - I've tried em all :-)

keep em tight and light !

Hi Will, this is something I think about quite a bit... I've made CBGs with thick lids, thin lids and made my own soundboards like you mentioned.

I think what's important here is whether you are after acoustic volume or sustain - the two are kind of mutually exclusive. The thicker/more rigid the guitar's soundboard, the better the sustain but the quieter the instrument.

I use pretty much exclusively magnetic pickups in my builds so I do tend to go for the latter:

Here's one I just finished. I used 1/8" spruce for the soundboard and braced the inside quite heavily with 1/4" spruce strips. Good sustain, low acoustic volume (no sound hole either)

On this cigar box build the lid was very thin, so I removed the paper from the underside and added some fan bracing as you can see. Volume was decent, but still hardly loud, but sustain was good.

Good luck!

Folks - great info so far!  Please keep them coming.... I do appreciate your comment very much. 

I've built a Punch box using the lid (MDF/Cardboard) as the soundboard, and I made two using an inverted box with the nice wood bottom as the soundboard.

- The Punch has no sound holes, it has a mag pickup and sounds the loudest.
- One has three 3/4" sound holes - it's not as bassy as the Punch, but has a nice jangly sound.
- The last one I built has six sound holes of varying size from 3/4" to 1/2". I thought I went overboard, but it turns out to be comparable to the last one with three holes. This one is the only one with acoustic strings - the others have electric strings.

This week I begin a pair of Punch boxes. I will see what the result is, but I feel like they will be comparable to the first one I built in sound, but one, I will add a sound hole or two. My main theory is that the soundboard contributes to Tone more so than Volume - not that they are mutually exclusive - but not sure if this applies to CBG's as well. Future builds will explore this. I've a large jewelry type box made of various woods I would like to use as a resonator one day soon.

Somewhere there is a photo of a REALLY nicely done soundboard thinned out with bracing. I cannot recall where though. 

Manny - thanks! I really appreciate the information and look forward to hearing more.

Here's one version, but I know the one you mean:

http://www.cigarboxnation.com/forum/topics/wagner-safetplaner-thanks

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