and then do this...


We want you to use your imagination & creativity to build a stringed instrument that could have been given as a gift 100 years ago.  Here's a few ideas (they are not required...only suggestions):

  • Use an antique cigar box to make the instrument look authentic
  • Build a historic instrument from our Free Plans Page
  • Use 100 year old stories from your area to influence your instrument
  • Be inspired by the instruments of the Cigar Box Guitar Museum (photos here)


Top three entries will win $125 gift certificates to

Five runners-up will receive $25 gift certificates to

Judges:  Ben "Gitty" Baker & Shane Speal

Here's the rules:

1.  Build your own stringed musical instrument inspired by the past.  If you lived 100 years ago and were short on money, what stringed instrument would you build as a Christmas/holiday gift?

2.  Post three (3) photos below.  Optional: You can add one (1) demo video, too.  Don't forget the instructions for posting pics.  This is an old website and it can be a little temperamental!

3. Add a one (1) paragraph description with your photo entry.  This is where you can influence the judges on why you think your entry is a Throwback Holiday type of instrument.

3.  Shake, stir, repeat.  (Yes, you can submit more than one entry!)

4.  Submissions that won previous Cigar Box Nation contests are ineligible.  

5. Contest runs Nov 12 - Dec 31, 2021.  Winners announced Jan 7, 2022 on the Gitty Gang Show broadcast.


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The ACME Corporation  1918 TWANG-A-GONG  Diddly bow .

100% period materials .  Including the string .

Dear Father ,  I hope this gift finds you well  , I hasten to voice my concern of trust  in the new  pony express   replacement   “Parcel Post “ service. Nonetheless ,  I am anxious to exclaim my start of a new business venture  in my own guitar company .  Do accept this prototype model  as a Yuletide gift . Mother is beside her self wondering where the badge went from the ACME stove .   and it breaks my heart  to witness her confusion  as to why the  clock won’t chime anymore .  Yet  I can’t bring myself to tell her  .. lest I make the 100’s of dollars  I expect from this business  when it catches on.    OH goodness  , I must bid you farewell, Mother  has just now noticed the keyhole cover missing  from the front door. 

Best Regards ,

Lil Pick


Antique box

Clock Gong  (Finally found the secret to making this work well and sound like church bells)


Acme badge from  period stove.

 Hand made tuner…carved  wood and a  bolt.

ALL  SCREWS ARE PERIOD  ( slotted and Robertson . only available at the time .)

Pop rivit is period.

Even the string is period  material . (catgut and silver plated steel,  I believe were the only strings available at the time .)  I happen to have a pack of silver plated Martin strings .   so I used one on this .

No pickup or any electrics ( not available at the time .)  the  gong  coil makes its own reverb and reso .

acme swamp witch twang a gong must hear from Swamp Witch Guitars on Vimeo.

Aside from the story, a fine looking didley there T.A.P ,intriging  solution for the spring bridge Pick, my compliments ! great looking , i will now listen to your sound sample!

It sounds like a gong from a old clock, I was saving this for a build !  nice one RoadRunner !

I like that throw back build!

Thanks AD . The secret of the gong bridge is to only use one string    it needs actual contact with the coil. and nothing else . another string will dampen the effect ,   even the sound  mounting ring should be the only thing attached or in contact with the box. the coil is strong enough to "float"  without touching anything on the other end of the bridge . (suspended on one side) . (as first pic in video) .   I've installed these inside guitars before , and they dont really do too much without actual  direct contact .  

Belgium 1916. First World War. The front line between the German troops and Belgian-French soldiers runs straight through 'Flanders Fields'. A battlefield between Nieuwpoort and Ieper, which will be fixed for a few years. My grandfather lives along that line. As a child he lived there with his parents on a small farm in German occupied territory. In that area people are obliged to give shelter to German soldiers.
There are also a few German soldiers staying on my grandfather's farm. Grandfather is afraid of those men. They speak a strange language and make a lot of noise, especially when they are drinking. Only Hermann will remember grandfather forever. Hermann played 'Teufelsgeige' (see photo) and sang very beautifully. On Christmas Eve of the same year, my grandfather's mother cooked rabbit with prunes, also for the German soldiers. There was also bread and beer. Out of gratitude Hermann gave my grandfather a guitar, he had made the instrument from what could be found in the destroyed environment.
A few weeks later, Hermann left and never returned to the farm.

I built a Christmas present for Shane Speal's grandfather

In 1900, Mr. J. A. Mandours, owner of several hotels, opened the Mandours cigar company in Shenandoah, Pennsylvania. Shenandoah is in the anthracite coal region of Pennsylvania and so he felt it was important to use Anthracite coal for warming and powering his factory. Hence the "We Use Anthracite" prominently displayed on the box, along with the 5 cent price common for cigars in the early 1900s. I can imagine Shane's great grandfather building a Christmas present for his grandfather using this locally available cigar box. I also incorporated a 100 year old piece of walnut for the neck that came from my own great grandfather's barn (you can see the dents and wormholes it's accumulated over the years). The tuners are bought off eBay and are from the same time period - a bit on the small side for modern guitar tuners, so maybe off a child's toy guitar. The item that is not 100 years old is the pickup, which I guess Shane's grandfather could have added later.  It's a Gittybucker covered with a thin sheet of brass that I've aged nicely to match the rest of the guitar.

My Grandfather's fiddle

I built this imagining what my great grandfather might have built for my grandfather 100 years ago. Great grandfather emigrated from Sweden in the early 1900's. The family arrived through the port of Duluth, Minnesota and acquired some farmland in northern Wisconsin.  Great grandfather had a very small farm with a barn, one cow and several chickens that I remember having for Sunday dinner and learning the meaning of the phrase "running around like a chicken with it's head cut off." I built this fiddle from a cigar box that originated in Tampa where they made a lot of cigars.  The back has the indentation of a seal dated 1887, but that's probably when Tampa was incorporated. The price is two for 5 cents, so the box is from the early 20th century. The neck and bridge are from a surviving piece of maple from great grandfather's farm which I hand carved and added a pre-built ebony fingerboard and tailpiece. 

Being "magically" transported back in time 100 years, I thought it only right that I "magically" have some say as to my particular position in life.  Would it be that of a poor, struggling, desitute individual forced to scavage the streets and back alleys searching for discarded fruit boxes, wire, string, nuts and bolts in an effort to find materials suitable to construct  a "poor man' guitar"? Or... Would I be fortunate enough to have been plopped down in  more fortunate circumstances allowing me to stroll down to the local "guitar parts emporium" and purchase one or two  . . . or maybe even three items to help  facilitate the construction of  said  guitar.  Being the slacker I am, I opted for the latter. This is the results.  The box is an old Asa Nova box.  How old I don't know, but it was really brittle and had to be "repaired" a few times during the build.  The rest of the build is not  "vintage" in any sense of the word, but I tried to find materials that look authentic to the time.   If I do say so myself, it looks real "purdy" on the wall and sounds really good.  A real authentic example of fake folk art.  --Tim Ludwig, Minot,ND


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