Hi All, I have just joined and have yet to build my first Cigar Box guitar. At the moment I am doing the research and I have some questions I hope the expert can help with.

For a 3, 4 and 6 string cigar box guitar:

  • What is the length of the fret board? What is the recommended number of frets
  • Do you ‘radius your fretboard’
  • Do you put any type of angle on the neck as some people do for better action? Some cut the rear neck thickness a little more than the front slot so that the tail is raised a little causing the neck head to angle down just a little
  • Do I insert a ‘truss rod’ into the neck

Thank you in advance

Cheers

Rich

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Firstly, the scale length you choose dictates the fretboard length? 3-4 stringers are anywhere from 12-21 frets but 6 strings are always either 21-22 frets, not too many radius 3-4 string necks if unfretted & you’re playing slide? you answered your own question on neck angle & lastly 3-4 stringers with shorter scales(shorter than 25”)will be fine without truss rod,depending on hardness of wood? but a 6 string or long scale definitely needs a truss rod? I would start out on a 3 string & work your way up, it’ll start to sink in during that build & you’ll be on your way :)

Hi Brian,  thank you for the advice.  I have not started the build yet.  I am in Thailand and looking to build a workshop.  Once I have started to build I will share

Cheers

Rich

The neck angle also helps acoustically when no pick ups are used. It requires a higher bridge which causes more downward tension and thus more volume. I think.

Hi JD,  Thanks for the response I will work on this

Cheers

Rich

1. Don't worry too much on your first build. You will begin designing your second build midway through your first. It just works that way.

2. Fret board length: Some end it at the beginning of the box, some extend it a few inches over the box. No need to extend it farther than you could comfortably reach to depress or slide frets. In the end, it's something you will develop a preference for over time.

3. Radius fret board: Not really necessary on a 3~4 stringer. Definitely not needed if you are playing slide (think about it). For our builds, a radiused fret board is more work than it is worth.

4. Angle on the neck: I think you are talking about the head-stock angle (around 12~15 degrees). You can create an angle over the nut by thinning out the top side of the neck (behind the nut) or you can cut angles on the head stock and neck and glue up a scarf joint. I prefer the scarf joint since it is common on so many acoustic guitars. But, either approach will get you where you want to go.

5. Truss rod: Unless you are using soft wood or very heavy strings, there is no value to a truss rod on a three or four stringer. Hard maple makes a great neck. Mahogany is also great. You can also use Oak from HD and not have bending problems. I wouldn't worry about a truss rod. 

I have tried to be very specific to your questions to avoid confusion, but it still happens. In the end, build your first guitar, enjoy it for a while, then design the next one.

Good Luck

Hi Tom, thank you for the very in-depth response and this has answered all the questions I have at this stage.  I am in Thailand so looking to build with Mahogany or Teak, both very hard woods

When joining the scarf joint to you glue and pin this with dowl rods?

Once I am underway I will share the results

Once again, thanks for the very detailed and quick response

Cheers

Rich

Hi Rich.

I've tried a lot of different approaches to creating a stable scarf joint and I'm sure there are many YouTubes on the subject.

I have used a jig that holds everything at the correct angle and distance. Works fine, but a bit of overkill.

I've read about sprinkling a few grains of salt on the glue before joining pieces. The salt is supposed to hold thing from sliding. Worked for me (sometimes).

The challenge with a scarf joint is keeping the two pieces from sliding when pressure is applied. Here is what I currently do.

1.Line up the joint dry and drill a tiny hole through the top piece and into the bottom piece.

2. Apply and spread the glue on both pieces, but don't flood it with glue.

3. Allow the glue to become tacky before mating and clamping surfaces.

4. Join the two surfaces and insert a sharp tack in your hole to prevent sliding (a package from home depot will last the rest of your life).

5. Clamp the pieces snugly, but don't go overboard. A snug clamp with two or three C clamps will hold things just fine.

6. Once the glue has set up, pull the tack and toss it. You can fill the hole with wood glue if you want, but I usually just put the fret board over that area and not worry about it.

It is actually a lot easier than we all usually make it. Do a few test glue ups with scrap and you'll learn everything you need to know.

Hi and welcome Rich, all good info here but I would add one important issue to consider for better neck stability, and t is grain orientation.

I always use quarter sawn timber, which means straight as possible grain going from the top to the bottom of the neck. The top being the surface the fingerboard is glued to. It does mean I have search through the wood stack for longer to find the most suitable samples, Tasmanian oak in my case.

As an experiment I used a pine neck on a three stringer but inlaid a hardwood reinforcing "bar" in it under the fingerboard, it has remained flat.

Also Rich as you are new to this game I should mention that the word "rod" may be misleading. Truss rods come in a few styles, trussrods are normally adjustable (adjustable against the pull of the strings). Some are a combination of two rods, and another is one a single rod that has to be installed in a way that will cause it to be able to pull or keep the neck the way you want it.

I would always go for "reinforcing bars" in my CBG's, if I needed one, a bar of a material than will not bend between my thumbs. The bar has most resistance to bending if higher than it is wide, 1/2x1/4 say.

 Taff 

Hi Taffy, Thanks for the very detailed response.  I am in Thailand so looking to build in Mahogany and Teak.  Both hard woods

Cheers mate

Rich

lucky bugger. Mahogany has been the most preferred timber for acoustic guitar necks, very stable. But times are a-changing.

A scarf joint if done correctly should only need glue to hold. Nice clean well mated surfaces and good clamping practice should do it. There are recent discussions on the subject on here.

Taff 

Hi Again, here's what I mean about hunting through the wood pile, found this lot on the weekend,

all 1/4 sawn. some better than others. Less likely to cup or bow.

Taff

Rich, I believe you are asking about a back angle. I'm fairly new to this addiction and all of my builds have a back angle of approximately 3-5° for the reason of string height from the box top. Welcome to the Asylum! Just to let you know I'm jealous of your access to the wood. Anytime you feel like shipping any my way please feel free to do so! Del Puckett back angle video(click here)

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