I have a big cigar box, which is too big for a standard CBG.  It measures 26.5 x 11 x 5 inches - photo attached with wine bottle for scale.  I've been thinking of making a dulcimer and would be grateful for any advice on construction, scale length, number of strings, tunings etc.  Also, if you can think of something better to make with it, I'd be happy to hear that, too.  Many thanks.

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Hi, first thing I thought of was a stand up acoustic bass.


I did a lot of research on Tennessee Music Box Dulcimers & based the builds on what I found I've made a few take a look at my pics on my page. It made a change from CBG's for a while. The research I did included these links which you may find helpful.




Hi, good resources there Dennis. A dulcimer looks like the way to go. I've built many a dulcimer over the years and my second thought was as I looked at the thickness of that lid, its a bit thick for a lightly strung instrument to get the best tone and volume out of. If you could thin it (from the inside so as not to lose that old patina) it would be great.


Yes I see the top is quite thick. That said, those I've made especially the late 1800's style one have a 1/2" thick top.  I was amazed at how loud it sounds acoustically :)

Thanks for the replies, Taffy and Dennis.

Yes, the lid is pretty thick but I'm often surprised by the acoustic qualities of boxes that 'should' have a poor response.  I'll read throught the dulcimer research.  However, I do have an old tail piece of a cello (I think), so an upright bass may also be possible.

At the moment, it's just clutter in the garage.  It might as well be playable clutter in the house :-)

A Tennessee Music Box is looking like a good candidate as my cigar box is the correct traditional dimensions.  I may scallop the fingerboard to bridge the logo on the box.  I also have an Elmar Flatpup that may be added.

I then need to decide whether to have one melody string or a pair, as on a dulcimer.  Then I need to find some suitable staples for frets.  Today's search drew a blank.

Thanks again for your help.

I made the staples as I couldn't find suitable ones either. I made them from rivet rods. A tedious job but the hardest thing was hammering them in straight. Of course you could fret the fingerboard full width if you wish as with a guitar. I made all mine with double melody strings as I like the sound and it perhaps increases the volume against the drones. That is one thing with the big boxes, the drones are loud.

Thanks for your advice, Dennis.

I've found a semi-vintage biscuit tin lurking in a drawer that can be used for the tinwork.  Tomorrow, I'll try to find some shelf support loops to use as tuning machines.  I'll have a look at rivet tails for staples, or might do full dulcimer fretting for versatility.  However, I think that staples would look more authentic.  I've found some nice oak for the fingerboard.

Yes let us know how you're doing. You might like to take a look at this too https://fotmd.com/

My brother in law gave me a huge display box for cigars. Too big for a guitar and the lid was too thick for good sound. So I flipped it over and used the thinner bottom for the top, like we sometimes do for cbg's. Like Dennis and Taffy said, I would agree with going with a dulcimer. Here is one I made with the large display box:

Wow Derek that's some cigar box, nice build as well, I assume that has a piezzo or two. i bet it's loud electrified.

Thank you, Dennis. Yes, it has one piezo and is pretty loud if needed plugged in.


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