Hey all,

I am currently working on my first CBG. I built a soprano uke from a kit a few months ago, and then I started on a restoration of an old family banjolin. Needless to say the luthier bug has infected my entire person. In attempting to restore the banjolin I mistakenly bought a mandolin tailpiece which wont work on a banjo body. So my idea is for my next build to be a mandolin from a home made box. 

I want to make the box style for multiple reasons, first I don't have the tools or knowledge to bend wood for the sides of a traditional mando, and also because I think these cigar box guitars are very unique compared to the cookie cutter instruments on the market, they all seem to have the same shape and even paint scheme.

Here is my problem:

There are no luthier suppliers in my area that I know of so I am unsure of where to get the wood to make the box. I am an ok wood worker but my tools are limited to hand tools and a jig saw and dremmel. I found nice looking pieces of mohogany, oak, cherry etc. at menards here but they are all 1" thick. A planer machine seems to cost way to much $ as well as pieces of instrument grade "sound wood" online.

So the short question is what are my options to thinning wood to the proper thickness for an instrument or what other wood options are there?

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That's the way mate, awesome. I love the pretty exotics as much as anyone but there's a lot to be said to salvaging for sure. My brother works at a big warehouse like that, I can't believe how much nice wood goes in their bins

If you don't have the capability to resaw and plane 4/4 stock, another option is to buy resawn stock. Hobby stores that cater to model railroad, boat, and airplane builders usually have stock that's anywhere from 1/8" to 1/2" thick. You'll pay a premium for it, but it's an option. You can always apply a veneer if you'd like a specific species of wood for a finish. Some home improvement stores carry it too.

If you look at an all-wood cigar box, you'll easily see what it's made of. Generally speaking, they're made of plywood. Some have a nice veneer covering them, some are painted, and some have parts made from solid wood, but overall they're made of plywood of some sort. The bottoms are usually made of luan plywood - the same stuff hollow core doors are made of. Most of the big box home improvement stores carry 1/8" luan plywood (sometimes it's called Door Skin,) and some carry 1/4" luan plywood.

When I finally get moved and start making my own boxes, I plan on making the ends and sides from 1/2" FAS cabinet grade plywood. I'll use 1/8" FAS cabinet grade plywood for the lids and 1/4" FAS cabinet grade or luan plywood for the bottoms. I have the tools to rip a full sheet of 1/2" into stock for sides and ends, and a full sheet will make LOTS of stock. I can also apply veneer to lids and sides if I want something exotic.

I come from a cabinetry background, and these boxes are very similar to a cabinet drawer box - with a lid added to it. I can't tell you how many hundreds of drawer boxes I built over the years. This will be very similar.

http://stores.ebay.com/THE-LUMBER-STORE?_rdc=1   great seller to get woods for making boxes

Thanks to all the great advice, I went back to Menards (they seem to have the broadest selection of wood around here).

I looked a bit harder this time and found some decent looking 2'x2', .24" thick oak and birch plywood. I decided to get one of each and use oak for bottom and sides and birch for the top. I also found some .5"x.5"x36" pieces to use for bracing.

I also had a scrap piece of 2"x2" poplar I had lying around to use for a neck. I found some good plans for a ukulele neck from http://www.ukulelehut.com/build-make-an-ukulele/constructing-the-uk... I measured the dimensions on my wife's soprano uke and sketched out some simple plans based on it and the directions from the site. I will post some pics of the project as I go.


If you are looking for high quality plywood, (aircraft grade) these are two good sources I have dealt with back when I was working in vintage aircraft restoration and maintenance.



Built this box out of some oak baseboard I pulled out of a 110 year old schoolhouse. The back was some 1/4" from 1950's bungalow remodel. I run all my own neck material through a sawmill from whole logs. I am ALWAYS on the hunt, be it on the jobsites, old barns, trash day, or the local lumberyard. There is a lot of good useable material out there for the taking. Like Pick says, don't limit yourself to a certain box style. I have found some cool boxes at the thrift stores, antique shops, dumsters..........I will say that if you want to invest in some tools you might look at a miter box and small table saw. You won't regret it. I have been up to your area in Rapid City and there are quite a few sawmills local for you, a few in the Custer area also if memory serves. They'll mill whatever you want for a fraction of lumberyard prices. I have built some awesome boxes out of western red cedar and South Dakota has TONS of cedars. 


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