Archive of Free Musical Instrument Plans: Cigar Box Guitars, Ukuleles, DIY Instruments & more

Enjoy the free plans and how-to info below, and be sure to check out the ever-growing Cigar Box Guitar How-To Knowledgebase:!

From the simple 3-string cigar box guitar instructional that started the Cigar Box Guitar Revolution to historical plans dating back to the 1800's...we've collected them all. Scroll down and discover something new today. Keep checking back for new plans.

Three-String Cigar Box Guitar (Easy)

Eight-page set of plans walks you through building a simple but fully playable 3-string cigar box guitar from scratch. Well-illustrated in an easy to understand method to build your first cigar box guitar with minimal effort. Written by Ben "Gitty" Baker.

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Three String Cigar Box Guitar - The Pro Plans (Moderate)

Essential!  The cigar box guitar plans that started the modern movement.  Designed by Cigar Box Nation founder, Shane Speal, these plans were then adapted and improved by Ivan Sucharski. 

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Advanced Cigar Box Guitar - Free book download (Advanced)

Joshua Gayou's 179 pg guide covering the complete design and construction of a top end solid body electric cigar box guitar. 

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Uncle Crow Cigar Box Guitar - Video Lesson: Build In One Hour (Easy)

Uncle Crow shows how to make a simple, yet great sounding cigar box guitar in less than an hour.  He includes step-by-step video instructions.

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$20 Cigar Box Ukulele (Easy/Moderate)

These cigar box ukulele plans by Shelley Rickey of the Mourning Glories offer some of the easiest methods for constructing your own playable uke.

The design requires no fretting tools (the frets are black zip ties!) and utilize a simple stick-through-box construction. Features demo video. >> Read more...

Piccolo Cigar Box Guitar - (Moderate) 

A short scale modification to the 3-String Pro Plans that will bring your sounds into the mandolin and ukulele range.  Features demo video.

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Cigar Box Dulcimer (Moderate/Advanced)

Build a timeless sounding Appalachian dulcimer with this guide.  Experienced cigar box mountain dulcimer builder, 'Diane from Chicago' shares photos and discusses some of her methods for creating these beautiful instruments..

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1884 "Uncle Enos" Cigar Box Banjo 

The oldest known plans for a cigar box instrument, the Uncle Enos Banjo plans were written by Boy Scouts founder Daniel Carter Beard for a childrens magazine. The finished product is a very playable 5-string banjo. Includes photos of a completed banjo made from the plans.   >> Read more...

1886 Cigar Box Banjo Plans

Originally published in 1886, these cigar box banjo plans are some of the earliest ever discovered. They bear a striking resemblance to the Daniel Carter Beard plans originally published two years prior. This instrument utilizes the same broomstick neck with a separate one-piece fretboard/headstock. >> Read more...

1917 Hawaiian Cigar Box Ukulele

From the June, 1917 edition of Popular Mechanics. S. H. Samuels walks the reader through the basics of constructing a uke, which in 1917 “was made at a cost of 30 cents, by careful selection of materials from the shop scrap stock.”.

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1920 Cigar Box Ukulele

Another great set of plans with beautiful diagrams.  Originally published in 1920 by Charles A. King, these have been archived straight from the scan so you can see them exactly as they ran almost 100 years ago.  

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1920 Cigar Box Jazzolin (Diddley Bow/Fiddle)

From Popular Science Monthly, July, 1920.  Author Frank W. Vroom gives fairly brief instructions for constructing a “Jazzolin” using a cigar box. This is another take on the classic one-string Vaudeville fiddle

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1922 Five-String Cigar Box Mandolin

A  solid 5-string mandolin made from a wooden cigar box. From the lost files of cigar box guitar history, we present these plans which were rediscovered by John "Reddog" McNair.

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1923 Cigar Box Violin, Mandolin & Cheese Box Guitar

These plans have been archived here and re-typed out in an easy-to-read format.  Straight out of a 1923 edition of Popular Mechanics. 

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1936 Pitchfork Fiddle (aka Viking Fiddle)

A patent (with full diagrams) for a musical instrument formed from a pitchfork, tightened string, resonator drum and an interesting slide/resonator box. Similar to the "Viking Fiddle" used by Ida Rindlisbacher of the Wisconsin Lumberjacks band in the 1930's.

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1940 Cigar Box Violin

"Anyone who loves music and is handy with tools can make a cigar box violin that is capable of producing really good tones. The violin may be designed for either two strings or four, depending on the maker's ability as a craftsman and aspirations as a player."  >> Read more...

1949 One-String Cigar Box Violin (aka Vaudeville Fiddle)

The one-string fiddle was a staple of the Vaudeville circuit in the late 1800's and early 1900's.  In fact, Larry Fine of the Three Stooges was a master of the Vaudeville fiddle.  

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1955 European Rebak Fiddle

The rebak is the father of the violin and was introduced to Europe by the Persians.  We have archived these set of plans -- including making the bow -- in a downloadable pdf. 

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1959 The Historic Electric Guitar Plans

The Strat and Les Paul were only several years old when Mechanix Illustrated magazine published these plans, penned by Captain America creator and artist, C. C. Beck in their September 1959 issue. 

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1961 2x4 Bass Guitar

God bless the writers of science magazines back in the 1960's. Everyone wanted to be a rock star, so they found innovative ways to make the instruments!

Archived plans in a downloadable PDF file  >>

1965 Lap Steel Guitar

A comprehensive set of plans to make a classic lap steel guitar.  Includes pickup construction along with a full discussion group for lap steel guitars.

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1976 Two-String Cigar Box Guitar

The article that inspired the modern Cigar Box Guitar Renaissance.  These are the plans that Shane Speal used to build his first cigar box guitar… and from that first cigar box guitar, he went on to jump-start the entire modern cigar box guitar revival.  

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1976 One-String Box Bass (Acoustic Whamola)

Very simple instructions to build a one-string bass with a "whamola" style lever as the tuner.  The plans come from a 1970's children's book.  

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1976 Rawhide Violin & Bow

Make a playable rawhide violin.  Also gives instructions for making a homemade violin bow.  

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2x4 Lap Steel Guitar

This lap steel was made from an extra 2x4 I had in my shed, with just a few saw cuts to the wood. I even used a pre-wired acoustic sound hole pickup, so there was no wiring needed. Anybody can build this lap steel guitar!

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Mailbox Dobro Guitar

"This guitar was never built to be a gimmick.  I made it simply because I wanted a steel bodied Dobro guitar, but couldn’t afford one. "

See how this poor man's dobro was made, including a demo video.

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Seasick Steve "3 String Trance Wonder" Guitar

Get all the set-up secrets, specs and string choices to convert an old electric guitar into a Seasick Steve "3 String Trance Wonder." Features info culled from Steve's closest friends.

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Traditional Appalachian Banjo

Figuring out how these things fit together was a right old game, but I've managed to do it. It's got a few neat bits...double action trussrod, and a method of adjusting the tension on the head...but the internal pot is a simple 6" cake tin, and the skin is a drum head, as they... >> Read more...

One-String Electric Shovel Guitar

Video lesson on how to build a heavy metal one-string shovel guitar, as played by Youtube sensation, Rob Scallon.  

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Les Claypool Style "Whamola" Bass (Primus instrument)

Les Claypool's one-string Whamola is the mutated and high voltage bastard-son of the washtub bass.  Using a lever tuning/playing system, the instrument delivers globular, freak-out sounds.    Just watch this video to get an idea...  >> Read more...

Wood Snare Drum (Cajon Style)

Johnny Brooke of Crafted Workshop has created a great step-by-step lesson on building your own snare cajon drum.  The project was made with mostly scrap material and common snares from a snare drum.  We have a parts list and a link to detailed photos.

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Blue Man Group "Tubulum" (Tuned PVC Pipe Instrument)

If you've ever seen the Blue Man Group, then you know all about the Tubulum.  This instrument is built from a series of PVC tubes that are whacked at the end with flat rubber slappers, similar to cheap flip flops.  >> Read more...

Musical Washboard Design & Setup

Washboard virtuoso, Ronn Benway shows how to set up your own musical washboard.  This episode of Cigar Box Nation TV includes design, layout and percussion choices.

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Cardboard Rocky Mountain Dulcimer

Great cardboard-topped 3-string dulcimer plans!  Link contains an entire downloadable booklet with photos and more plus demo video.

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Russian Balaika

These free plans are for a traditional 3-string, triangle-body Russian instrument known as the Balalaika. They were written by James H. Flynn, Jr.

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Nail Violin

The nail violin is a musical instrument was invented by German violinist Johann Wilde in 1740. It consists of a semicircular wooden soundboard with iron or brass nails of different lengths arranged to produce a chromatic scale when bowed with a violin bow.

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Traditional 5-String Gourd Banjo

Traditional style gourd banjo featuring a special features such as a double action trussrod and a method of adjusting the tension on the head The internal pot is a simple 6" cake tin, and the skin is a drum head, as they... >> Read more...

Fretless Bass

These plans are archived as a downloadable PDF file, perfect for printing.  In them, author "Bill" shows his schematic for making a primitive homemade bass guitar

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Styrofoam Cooler Ukulele

This has got to be the most alien-looking uke you'll ever see...  BUT IT SOUNDS INCREDIBLE!  Simply put, the Styrofoam Cooler Ukulele is nothing but a neck without a body and a huge cooler screwed to the butt end. 

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Funky Electric PVC Bass Guitar

Make Magazine originally published these plans for a great working "Strung Out" PVC bass in 2009.  We recently discovered that they archived the plans and info so that everyone could build their own.

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1x3 Upright Bass

Check out this cool DIY upright bass from Brian (YouTube name, bmiranda2645).  It features a 1x3 plank from a hardware store.

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The Essential Pages

New to Cigar Box Nation? How to Play Cigar Box GuitarsFree Plans & How to Build Cigar Box GuitarsCigar Box Guitar Building Basics

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