I'm thinking of building a 3 string guitar, or perhaps diddley bow for the first one, and I'm wondering about tone.  Instead of waiting around trying to find the right cigar box, I decided to perhaps build my own box.


I went to a specialty lumber store and bought some 1/4" multi-ply birch plywood for the sides and bottom, and for the top/lid I got some 1/4" mahogany ply.  I checked all the plys and this one "rang" the best then I thumped it.  The guy said it wasn't mahogany all the way through, unlike the birch, but just the skin.  Middle was mystery wood, maybe lauan. 


But, as I'm looking at some of the common designs, the neck is either glued to, or butted right up against the top/lid, so, any ringing the top might do is going to be muted by the neck.Or am I wrong?  Is it still a good idea to have a quasi tone wood for the top?


Is it not a good design to have the top float above the neck, with bridge transferring the vibrations to the top?  I've read that trying to make cbg's acoustic is not the best way to go, unless it was a reso.  So, maybe more solid wood all around will contribute to the sustain.


Perspiring minds want to know!

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I can't answer any questions about wood, but as far as the neck, it's certainly not a bad design to float the top. That's how I do all my builds now. Although I don't think it's really that detrimental to have the neck contact the top. My first two, I didn't have all the tools to properly notch the neck. It was a real pain, and I quit as soon as I could get the lid closed. So those two have the neck touching the lid, and they sound great.


If you're building your own box, you might want to check out this group: http://www.cigarboxnation.com/group/HMRB101

1/4" ply is really thick, it's fine for the sides, and the back at a pinch, it will work, but you want around 1/8" thick..Masonite works just fine too as top and back.

Hello David,


You might find this video helpful:


Enjoy your build, Keni Lee


Thanks guys.  I went with 1/4" (really 5.2 mm) because of the pressure it would be under.  

Would 1/4 work for a bass?  

Anyway, I'll check out the pointers.  Thanks.

For the floating top, which sort of pickup did you use?

Plywood is quite stiff compared with unlaminated wood of the same thickness, and 1/4 inch is really thick - just look at an acoustic guitar, you'll see the top is only about 2mm thick (around 1/12 inch)..I know they have braces as well, but 1/4 inch will be bomb-proof.
"The Woodsmith Shop" series on PBS recently ran a show on box construction. You can probably find it at their website. Refer to the instructions on this site for neck construction.

Got any photos of your construction process, Kevin?

I have yet to see any online plans for an acoustic box, at least not any details.  Seems like every one I've seen is going towards the solid body or semi-solid approach.  I did see one where the neck was carved out under the lid, but no other details.  I'd be most interested in how neck integrity is preserved, etc, etc.

And, cigar boxes don't have thin lids, which is what most everyone who don't build their own box is using.  So, if you know of any online details for construction of a box with a suspended top, I'd love to see it,  Maybe I have not looked enough yet, but, at least for the free plans on this site, I haven't seen one, not yet anyway.

Thanks for your feedback.  Love to see whatever you might be able to share.




Kevin, looked at your photos.  Good work.


When you say you used 1/8" birch top and bottom, was that birch ply, or birch sheet?  And where might I go to get some thin non-ply sheeting?

Kevin O'Connor said:

I think you might be surprised at how much "accoustic" you can get from a CBG, but not with 1/4" ply. You also might be surprised at how much vibration the box and sound board get from the neck, it doesn't hurt to have the neck or fret board touch the box. I play my CBG without the amp more than with the amp. I also made my own box, it measures: 10 1/2" x 8 3/8" x 2 3/4" deep and it has a lot to offer in the accoustic catagory, but I used 1/8" birch top and bottom.

Go to my profile page; you will see my only photo album to date, Oily's Guitar Lounge. There, you will find, photos of my home built boxes. I used 3/16" lauan plywood for sides, bottom and top, with 1/2" pine support beams as an interior frame. My necks are also made from laminated double thicknesses of 5 - 8 ply lauan (what they call Phillipine mahogany in the trade ) plywood; they work just fine, and thes boxes resonate very well acoustically. Also, I relieved the necks inside the box so nowhere do they touch the top.

Hope this helps,

Here is a quick sketch of the cross-section of the neck in the box for my first build:
I think this CBG has a good sound and I think leaving the top free to resonate may contribute to that.  I also think having a bit of neck at full thickness to support the ends of the lid is a good idea.  I laminated a 1/4" alder fretboard on a 3/4" oak neck so I have almost a full 3/4" of oak end to end so the neck is pretty stiff.  I used a belt sander to create the relief under the top.  Next time I think I'll add a piece of 1/4" to the tail end of the box to hold the neck in position just to make assembly easier.

thanks Jim.


I may be a little late you've probably finished by now,there are some datailed photos of box construction which may be of help on my page.There is also a series of photos of one of my builds on the group recommended by Ryan Rose


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