My first post here and I thought I would give my (sometimes painful) lessons learned on building my first 3 CBGS. I will do as separate posts so this is called CBG#1. No doubt most, if not all have been done to death elsewhere but the more data the better?

Apart from current ( in-progress) build, all my necks are made from Oak - I am struggling to find a lighter hardwood in my area atm. Where I used wound pickup, these were a job lot from eBay ( 5 or 6 for around £10 ). I also have only just acquired a couple of real cigar boxes ( Struggling to find in UK other than expensive ones on eBay), so only CBG#3 (later post) has a 'real' cigarbox sound box.

CBG #1 


  • No fretboard or scarf joint
  • Neck-through design
  • Plywood box ( from 'The Works' in UK - £4 )
  • Wound pickup
  • Closed tuners
  • Shaped  neck using a block plane
  • Decorated with famous cigar smokers (Churchill and Groucho!)
  • Shotgun cartridge tuner/volume controls
  • I used disassembled pop rivets to protect wood on tailpiece being worn by string tension.
  • Decorative soldering iron bits used to burn fret markers.
  • Wood varnish finish all over
  • Cut sound hole trims from soda bottles

Lessons Learned

  • Not having a scarf joint requires a much thicker blank to start ( mine was only 20mm ). This meant the tension on the string drop Nut->Tuner was too slack. Had to add a 'tensioning bar' to correct ( See second image )
  • I made the neck way too wide ( 45 mm ). For the 3 strings to be 25 mm apart ( seems to be around the perceived wisdom on the subject ) Access for playing from the sides , and even barring chords, was more difficult.
  • Pop rivets worked great but best to hot glue them in.
  • Block plane is not ideal for neck shaping. I subsequently acquired a spokeshave
  • Distance from tailpiece to saddle too great, giving a shallow angle and low tension ( again!). This is primarily due to me not having a fretboard, so the saddle must sit low on the sound box to get a good low action. I added 'hold-down' screws behind the saddle to improve and this worked fine.
  • Decoration - I made the mistake of shading my graphics in with permanent marker rather than acrylic paint. When I added varnish it acted as a solvent and caused bleeding - Acrylic in future!

CBG #2 (Beatles tribute)


  • Second attempt much improved -  (maple) fretboard over oak neck,  AND scarf joint
  • Used a CBG specific adjustable bridge 
  • Simple sound holes cut with aluminium mesh hot glued underneath
  • Side dots using 1.5 mm plastic rods (China/eBay) 
  • 'C' shape neck profile achieved by spokeshave

Lessons Learned ( over first build )

  • Scarf joint is worth the effort, Table saw made a reasonable job using a homemade (14 degrees) jig after studying a few YouTube clips (e.g
  • Sound holes - Used a slow turning flat bit and results were remarkably smooth considering it is  a plywood box (again!). Hot-glued aluminium mesh underneath holes,  to stop foreign bodies entering the box!
  • Decoration - I created high contrast versions of Paul and John from stock photos, then drew onto the box using a tracing app called Projector ( iOS only sadly) - Coloured using acrylic.
  • Finished using Danish oil - Much prefer this to varnish, and quicker to get multiple coats on than tung oil
  • Adjustable bridge is probably only really worth buying if you want to have quite varied string densities I e.g Low E , D, and high E. Otherwise reasonable  intonation gained from a standard bridge/saddle. But happy with the results. NOTE - If using this type of bridge I STRONGLY recommend viewing Chickenbone John's clip on this first.
  • Guitar sounds great - Though i guess my amp contributes much of the quality!

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Keep on keeping on mate you only learn by your mistakes remember there’s no rules in CBGs. If you in the UK look up Chicken bone John , good luck with your next build . 

Regards Bones . 

Thanks. Yes, Chickenbone John is an excellent font of CBG knowledge. My later ones are already benefiting!

Nice job! If you make the rivet holes undersized and press fit  no glue needed What do you need for cigarboxes? I get them free or a couple dollars apiece for my CBGs for Warriors project. Don't know what shipping and bribes(for customs)  would cost you, but hey! I'd be willing to box you up a half dozen or so!

Thanks for that - Really appreciate it. I managed to acquire a couple in Spain where tobacconists still exist! But will bear in mind if I use those 2 up, many thanks

I'm in East Yorks, so I'm with you on the Cigar boxes. Silly prices generally in the UK. I make all my own boxes from plywood and anything I can find. I use Poplar for all my necks, It's hard enough for 3/4 strings & can handle the tension, I've not had one bow yet. You should find offcuts or reasonably priced lengths at your local woodstore. I don't add fretboards neither, but fret straight into the neck. It's easy to work with compared with oak. I make the neck and headstock (apart from the "ears") from one piece using carefully planned measurements and without scarf joints.  You'll find fretboard blanks on e-bay &/or if you're on facebook join UK Cigar Box Guitars (group) for build tips & local supplies. ~  ~ CBN is the best resource on the planet for building CBG's explore the posts & features. Lastly, you've done a good job for a first, I like it and it's better than my first, (which was similar) but every build is a learning curve, most of all have fun! :D

Hi - Thanks for the comments. I will definitely look for poplar in future. I am creating reasonable scarf joints now on a table saw with the headstock cut laid on top of the neck for extra strength ( the other way is headstock turned and laid underneath neck which i think is less strong).  

Also thanks for FB tip - I use it rarely but sounds promising - Posting my much improved build today!

No problem Steve. I'll look for your latest build :)) ~ Regarding poplar, I go to a woodstore neaby that makes fencing & sheds. I've been so often they supply me with 4mtre by about 4" lengths, cut it into 4 X 2mtre by 2" pieces and only charge me £5!

#2 is very nice, I love the headstock design! Nice one Steve :))

Thanks Dennis. 

I must admit that finding cigar boxes is getting to be difficult here in Canada too.

But we have plenty of wooden wine boxes at pretty much every charity sale for 1$ or less. It might not make them officially "cigar box guitars" but I think the only important thing really is to capture the gist of it.

I think they would be equally nice - And if not you have invented a whole new thing - WBGs!

They are going on the list for scavenging for me. Thanks


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