I am looking to build my first cigar box guitar over the summer however I have very little in the way of power tools etc.

I would like to build an electric version with  a single coil pickup and two sound holes. Is there a short cut method for creating the holes (both the sound holes and for the placement of the pickup), without using a routing tool. I would like it to be reasonably neat but I appreciate a short cut method would not produce the same results as a dedicated tool. If this is too difficult without dedicated tools then would someone be able to recommend a cheap tool for the job that is suitable for beginners.

Sorry about my ignorance but this is going to be my first build!

Any advice would be greatly appreciated

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 Welcome Tom , there's all you need to know on this site  just takes a bit of searching , as to cutting pickup holes I use a fret saw , cut the hole slightly smaller and file it to fit what ever pickup you choose .

Go with round sound holds and use a hole cutter on either an electric drill,or drill press. Start on one side, then turn over and lining up the pilot hole, drill through from the other side... Minimum break out. If you are going smaller holes and a drill bit, a brad point bit will give less tear than a spade bit.

For pickup hole with few tools, trace outline on wood with stencil and carbon paper. Use a small drill and drill all round, inside the line. Cut between the holes with a coping saw... Best would be small one from a model shop ... About $7.00 for a saw handle with a set of three blades here.. .010" and .015" backsaw blades and a .023" coping saw blade and a handle. Look for a shop selling model airplane parts. Then sand or rasp out to the line. This is meant to be the budget method. I am sure there are much better ways, but this will work.


 Mmmmm is there a echo in here : )

I hadn't even considered a coping saw for some reason but it seems obvious now! Thanks David

Sound holes = big fostner bits or small hole saw for a hand drill...(tape the top and back with board under top to prevent tearout.)

pickup hole... 1) trace the hole on the top (over tape to prevent tearouts)  2) Drill series of holes just smaller than the size of the outline with hand drill (back with board under top to prevent tearouts)  3) on the material left inside the lines after the drilling, take a dremel and a small round sand drum attachment and grind out the that material.  4) keep trial fitting until the pup just goes thru hole...

Quick, easy, and (ahem) almost idiot proof.

Did you get the theme about preventing tearouts?  Nothing will bust your chops more than screwing up a top on a mostly finished CBG by ignoring simple ways to prevent tearouts.

Thanks Wichita Sam! Unfortunately  I don't currenty own a dremmel. I am probably going to get on in the future but for my first build I think I am going to try and use more simple tools.

Great advice about the tearouts, thanks!

Fostner bit... That is the name I could not think of when I used the term brad point bit. I think I am vacillating between blond moments and senior moments.

a fostner is simply a brad point grown up... only slightly different structure, but same goal.  Fostner bits come in much larger sizes than brad point bits....

It is actually called a Forstner bit.

You could also buy a FlatPup and just attach it to the top of the lid so you don't have to cut any holes. Just drill a hole for the wire.


Use a .410 shotgun, with the barrel rammed up against the top. Two shots will get you your pickup hole. A third shot from several inches away will get you several small soundholes. Plus, it will look kewl, and frighten your neighbors.


Tape the top with blue painter's tape. Trace the outside edge of the mag pup on the tape. Drill a series of holes, almost touching one another, using the largest bit you have, just inside this outline. File the edges to the line you drew, or use a coping saw to join up the holes. Make two small holes in the side of the box facing the player, no larger than a quarter, first taping the box.


Buy a Flatpup, and go holeless.

Im not sure If I trust myself with a shotgun!! Might overlook this...

Drilling a series of holes and finishing with a coping saw and I think makes perfect sense, especially for my first build! Cant believe I didn't think of doing this myself! 

Thanks Ron


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