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 Sutton surname has been part of the mountains of western North Carolina for over 6 generations. Even today, you can find several businesses including a real estate firm and an antique store with 'Sutton' in their name. When you're in the area, be sure to browse Sutton's antique store. Besides a terrific selection of old hardware parts which can be used in CBG builds, you will probably find a few old home made fiddles, diddly bows and banjos.

This one reportedly dates back to the early 1920's. Looks like it may have been refurbished a time or two in the intervening years. Reportedly it was built in Cataloochee by Dude Sutton. The story goes that when he and his Pa were returning one fall after a trip to Waynesville where they sold a wagon load of their apple crop, Dude heard some music coming from the colored cemetery. Pa kept going but Dude jumped off the wagon to investigate. There he met a stranger playing a home made 4-string guitar. Perhaps with money from his share of the apple sale he purchased it. Or perhaps the stranger showed Dude how to build one like it and Dude scrounged the pieces from the farmstead.

In 1934 the residents of Cataloochee were evicted to make way for the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Not too much remains. 

my entry for the contest, im not great at storytelling, but the wood that i made the entire with, wit the execption or the walnut for the neck, came from a really old cedar fence i tore down and built a new one for a customer. i wanted it to look super "homemade" thanks for looking

Hi, Thought I would enter another instrument in the competition, mainly because I built every thing myself in this one, except the bridge and pegs, I will make a bridge more period in style later.
This style fits in with the early fiddles back in the day, before the “F” hole was used.
This build is not supposed to be a copy or replica of an old fiddle, it's just what I thought would work [and it does] if I needed to build/play one. I did not want a square box, so I curved the sides in, this served two purposes 1- it looks better and 2- it allows for a better-bowing action.
It should have gut strings of course, but they were too expensive for just a fun build. The neck I made out of New Guinee Rosewood, as it had the fiddle back grain pattern found in good violin necks. The pegs are ebony [didn’t make those] but I did have the proper tools to fit them into the pegbox.
The fingerboard I made out of a piece of hardwood and stained it; the body is from a packing case that had some interesting figure. As the top is not arched for strength as in a violin, I was unsure of its stability, but it has held up perfectly. I did fit the traditional bass bar brace and used a soundpost under the treble leg.
Finally, I made a tailpiece out of rosewood and stained it black. Fiddles of this time period did not use a chinrest, but I fitted one I carved out of Mulga.
Looks too new? Well, the Stradivari Messiah violin is 300 years old and I understand it's still as new as the day he finished it.

Thanks for looking Cheers Taff

Hi, here are some photos of the bow I built in the same vein as the fiddle.

Proper bow hair is used but not the modern-day bow fittings.


I really enjoy the idea of using found or recovered materials for builds,  especially old wooden cigar boxes.  I built this instrument after being inspired by the 1922 Newspaper article which includes its instructions.  I loosely followed those plans (featured on the "Free Plans" section of this website),  changing a few things, such as using old ukulele tuners instead of hand wittled pegs, real fret wire, a homemade brass tailpiece, different bracing, and a bolt on neck instead of neck through construction.  Most of this was due to just using what I had on hand.  After completing the woodworking (Bracing the box and making the neck)  I gave the neck a coat of medium brown leather stain, and sanded/scraped it to achieve a sort of distressed look,  I had never done this before and I'm quite happy with the results.

As it stands the results are a completely playable instrument that not only sounds great but also (hopefully) looks a hundred years old.

It is almost Christmas of 1937 and times are kind of hard.   My grand daughter, Molly Bee is living with us and she loves music.  My buddy Willie, plays banjo and he got two machine heads off an old broken banjo and he helped me make this banjo to give Molly  for Christmas.   
(The Woodward Candy Tin is kind of a family heirloom and I did not cut into it to make the banjo).   
Please watch the video link for more: 
Nice work

Thanks, Keith.  I had fun doing it.

Stained using teabags and finished with beeswax polish The neck is a branch found when walking the dogs. The box was a Montechristo reskinned with very old stock silver ash veneer. All the hardware came from my "that might come in handy" pile of stuff. a two string chugger.

Looks awesome, very vintage and creative. 


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