A Cigar Box Guitar is just that…a guitar made from a cigar box. It’s a very primitive form of the guitar and a precursor to the modern day guitar that we all know and love.
This fun and unique instrument has been strictly handmade for most of its career. However, in recent years the cigar box guitar has gained popularity and a newfound interest.
An increase in interest and popularity has resulted in the birth of a few companies creating their own cigar box guitars and kits.
In this post we are going to cover all aspects of the cigar box guitar from the history of the guitar, reviewing what’s on the market, what you will need to make your own, and some frequently asked questions.
Cigar Box Guitar History
This history of the cigar box guitar can be traced back to the year 1876. An artist, Edwin Forbes showed two civil war soldiers at a campsite with one of the solids playing a cigar box fiddle.
Fast forward to 1890 and Daniel Carter Beard, who was the co-founder of the Boy Scouts of America, published plans with instructions on how to build a 5-string fretless banjo from a cigar box which is featured in the book: The American Boy’s Handy Book: What to Do and How to Do it. If you’d like to check out that book, click here: The American Boy’s Handy Book.
In the 1930’s due to the Great Depression, there was a resurgence of the cigar box guitar. The increase in popularity can also be attributed to musicians like Jimi Hendrix, Roy Clark, and Carl Perkins all started out on a DIY Cigar Box styled instrument.
Best Cigar Box Guitars
So let us take a look at some cigar box guitars and kits that are currently for sale. We will review the details and the pros and cons.
Made by the C.B. Gitty company, this cigar box guitar kit has everything you need except the neck and at a great price. In this kit you will get a paper-covered cigar box, a 3 string set of Acoustic Medium Strings, 3 guitar tuners with brushings and screws, 8 brass box corners, and a tailpiece hinge.
The neck doesn’t come with this kit because the company wants to keep down the shipping price. You will also get a 26 page assembly guide. This has all the detailed information needed for how to complete this kit.
All things included are really geared towards the first-time builder as it can be intimidating. As stated, this kit does not include the neck so if you go to a hardware store, then you will need a piece of hardwood that’s 1 x 2 x 36’.
Without the neck, this will be the most challenging aspect of the kit. You will have to decide the hardwood to use however, that will also make the cigar very unique.
This kit also works for right or left handed players. The only difference is when you string it up.
I wouldn’t say that this kit is super easy to put everything together but it also isn’t advanced level for difficulty. With instructions as your disposal and YouTube video’s, you should have enough to put this together and have it be functional.
- Affordable price.
- 26 page assembly guide.
- Comes with all needed hardware.
- Works for right or left handed players.
- Does not come with a neck.
- Moderate level of difficulty putting together.
This Cigar Box Guitar Kit is more expensive than the one we have previously mentioned. Why? Well it’s because the neck comes with this kit. The neck is handcrafted at 25’ to scale and is fully fretted.
Again made by the C.B. Gitty Company, you will receive assembly instructions complete with photos to help you know exactly what to do. This is an intermediate level kit so some woodworking skill will be needed.
In addition to what we mentioned, this kid also comes with chrome box corners, tuners, knobs, guitar strings, bridge, strap buttons, pickup cover plate, mini humbucker, and of course the wooden cigar box.
Please note that the styles do vary for the cigar box. What makes this more “advanced” is that there will be some routing of the top of the cigar box, installation of the neck, and the putting on all the hardware.
If you like a project and a fun challenge then this is a kit to look at purchasing.
- Comes with full instructions for assembly.
- Guitar neck is included.
- All hardware included.
- Fun and challenging project.
- For intermediate level woodworkers.
You will also receive the instructional book “You Can Play Blues Box Slide Guitar.” This neat book contains the history of the cigar box guitar, how to assemble and tune it, and slide techniques.
A play along CD also is included in this kid so you will be playing in no time. There are picks up inside of this so you can plug it into an amp. You can also play this acoustically but it’s more fun when amplified.
The three strings are in open G tuning and has no frets on the neck. With the slide and high action, this is meant to be played with the glass slide that it comes with.
Think of this like a lap slide guitar that instead you can play like a regular guitar. This is NOT a three stringed version of a 6 string guitar that’s fretted.
If you love slide guitar and love the blues then this is the kit for you.
- Already assembled and ready to play.
- Includes play along CD with over 20 tracks.
- Comes with a glass slide.
- Amp ready.
- Comes with strings.
- Pick-up included.
- Meant for slide guitar.
- High action.
- Fretless neck.
It’s really designed to be the easiest kit to build. Includes all hardware and of course the neck and instruction booklet.
You will only need a screwdriver and a small hammer to assemble this guitar. Gear towards those novice builders and a great project for a parent and child.
At a little over 3 pounds and at an affordable price this is the perfect starter kit. The neck has the fret markings on it and is held in place to the cigar box by two screws.
Designed for both left and right handed guitar players. The online instruction video will make this nice and easy for you to assemble in no time.
- Complete kit that includes everything.
- Affordable price.
- Includes instruction booklet.
- Perfect for first time builders.
- One screwdriver and hammer are needed.
- Fun to play.
- May need to stretch strings to prevent from going out of tune.
This is an already built and ready to go cigar box guitar. It has a stunning New Orleans French Quarter themed design.
Made in the USA by hand these are easy to play and sound great! Plug right into an amplifier as these are built to plug in and play.
Even though this says a cigar box, it is really a craft box. The finish and quality of this guitar will really stand out.
The action really set up well so this will make it perfect for you to play on. At a very affordable price (considering the craftsmanship) and a beautiful handcrafted look, this guitar would be a great addition to your collection.
- Made in the USA.
- Beautiful French Quarter Design.
- Easy to play.
- Built in pickup.
- Superior craftsmanship.
- Made from a craft box as opposed to a cigar box.
Cigar Box Guitar Buyers Guide
From the reviews above you can pretty much get the gist as to what a Cigar Box Guitar is. However, it’s different from your typical 6-string guitar. So let’s take a look at some questions that will help you understand this unique instrument a little better.
Why do they only have 3 strings?
Most cigar box guitars have 3 strings because cigar boxes are lightweight therefore more tension (additional strings) will make it hard for the box and neck to sustain. The wood and boards used are not that stiff so the adding of more strings just increases the stress on everything.
There are some 4 string cigar box guitar models out there as well.
How do you tune a cigar box guitar?
There are a few different tunings that can be used for Cigar Box Guitars.
Most 3 and 4 strings guitars are in open tuning.
For example if tuned to A then you will tune it to: A – e – a or A – e – a – c#.
If tuned to G then it would be G – d- g- or G – d – g – b.
Are they easy to play?
That would depend on your definition of easy. It’s easier to play than a traditional 6-string guitar. The Cigar Box Guitar is also great to learn how to use a slide. Scales would be easier to perform along with chords.
Due to the fact that you will be able to use one finger to fret to create chords then that will help you learn fast and build a foundation if you would eventually like to graduate to the 6-string guitar.
How many frets does a cigar box guitar have?
Most of them have somewhere between 18 and 21 frets. The 21 fretted box guitars are less common. That is due to the fact that attempting to reach the last 3 frets is challenging on a 21 fret cigar box guitar.
There is no cutaway or anything that assists with you reaching those frets.
Can cigar box guitars be amplified?
If the cigar box guitar has a pick-up then yes it can be plugged into an amplifier. If you are looking for an inexpensive amplifier then check out our article on the best guitar amps under $200 here: Best Guitar Amps Under $200.
Are cigar box guitars easy to build?
As we have seen with some of the kits above, some are already assembled and some require a little skill to assemble. Then there are others that require a more advanced skill set in the world of woodworking.
They can make really great parent-child projects as it’s very gratifying to take pieces and build it into something special.
Luckily there are lots of resources out there from detailed instructions to YouTube Videos, everything you need will be accessible to build a proper Cigar Box Guitar.
A Cigar Box Guitar is a very unique and affordable stringed instrument. It has a lot of rich history that dates back to before the electric guitar.
With the increasing popularity, we will start seeing more guitars and kits being developed. These kits will vary in difficulty levels and will really make for a fun project.
Cigar Box Guitars are great to have in your arsenal of stringed instruments. I don’t think it can be a primary instrument if you perform live or are in a band, but to have around the house to play and to create some cool licks is something that it’s perfect for.
Make sure that whichever one you pursue, is not overly difficult to where it doesn’t become fun to put together.
If you have any woodworking friends, then seek them for advice if you get stuck with a particular area.
Let us know what you think about Cigar Box Guitars or if you have one, share your experience with us.
As always thank you for checking us out and remember to HAVE FUN!