Join the Discussion: To Put Finish on a Paper Covered Cigar Box... or Not?

A Cigar Box Nation Featured Discussion. 

I am using a Macanudo paper covered box. I like the way the box looks now, I am going to use metal corner protectors. I was not going to put any finish on the box itself. Is that ok or is it preferred to put a finish on it? If it is preferred to put a finish what is the best and easiest to use? 


(Pictured below:  This is what happens to an unprotected cigar box guitar that was played for two decades.  -Cigar Box Nation staff)

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I'm new here and haven't even introduced myself, but I am doing a three box experiment with finishes now. I followed the instructions on the container and did the recommended sanding and recommended number of coats and drying times.  They have sat drying for a week.

Polyurathane spray - I did three or four light applications.  Knocking on the box feels like it has a thin, hard shell that is pleasantly resonant.  Maybe the added shell over the cardboard is a little more drum-like. It is obviously not the 'raw' cigar box surface when you touch it. I got the satin finish so it is not shiny at all but looks like a finished product up close. This is the least obvious finish of the three and the easiest to apply so if you wanted to have it look natural I would do this.

Shellac - a thicker more obvious coating. I only did two coats with a wet sand between and you can see and feel that this box has a coating on it.  It feels a little softer than the poly spray.  This went on the smallest box and may have lowered the drum tone a bit to something pleasant. Maybe reacts more like a piece of wood than a piece of cardboard.  I will have to see how shellac feels once it has cured a week.    The most work to apply of the three.

Mod Podge and Polycrylic - I wanted to try a crazy thick shiny coating and this was the way to go.   The box appears that it is obviously encased in something.  I used the glossy version of both products.  It is the most treated looking of the three.  Interestingly enough, I would not  call it obnoxiously shiny.   It turned the box into a bass drum. Thud thud thud.   I think if you added paper artwork or had to glue down a bunch of lose bits and then wanted something flashy and well encased, you be good here.   The flat version of Mod Podge looks just like I remember ;)

My conclusion is that all three alternatives are just fine and if I had only any one of the three you could easily adapt it to what you like - the differentiator then is whether you pick a flat, satin, or glossy in appearance. Whether you are adding a lot of artwork.  And whether you want it to feel plastic coated, shellacked or all tricked out.

Thanks for your reply. The spray poly sounds like what I may use if I put a finish on. I am wondering,my wife has some mod podge she used for some craft project. It is in a plastic jar and is brushed on. Is that how you applied it on the box,or do they have a spray type? 

I went in a Blix art supply store today and saw spray Mod Podge and they make something called Super Tough now.  It was $12 for a little spray bottle so I passed.  

There’s vids where I see artwork Mod Podge’d into a fretboard so maybe it eventually cures very hard. The bottle says there is a 4 week cure time.

As I understand it, the regular Mod Podge isn’t for items you are going to handle a lot and they recommend covering it with poly if that’s the case. 

i was thinking of trying something with watered down pva glue, aka aquadhere here.  probably similar to mod podge, I've seen both used for transferring images.

I typically do not spray newer boxes, but have used poly satin spray on old ones to help protect them. Some builders spray all boxes.

MadJohnShaft - I would be interested in sing some pix of your test project.

Hi, the Shellac I am familiar with is normally very thin and runny, unless I mix it to a thicker consistency. Also it has a colour blond or orange, so consider that effect on your paper.

I would go for a spray application for a more even finish, myself.


Hard to get all three showing a reflection on the surface (and not) but here ya go.... for each of the finishes I followed and did the recommendations on the labels, in terms of number of coats and sanding. 

Congratulations, Jack.  Your great discussion has been added to the Cigar Box Nation FEATURES tab and will be part of today's email blast!

We've added a top photo showing what happens when no finish is placed on a paper covered box.

Thanks for the great question!!!

This has 2 coats of spar varnish on it. I've also used water based urethane on others without any problems.

I found regular modpodge will get sticky in hot humid weather. I now use the modpodge for furniture and it holds up much better. For those of us who live in the Midwest it’s tough to use urathane in closed quarters during the winter.

Maybe wipe on poly ( regular oil based poly cut 50/50 with odorless mineral spirits ) ... Or tru oil for gun stocks..

All thow the played relic looks great to me ! if it sounds as well as it looks ! its two for the price of one , But i resently found the color version first film by ELVIS Presley , and looking at it i notist how strange his guitar looked, after some ,browsing true the Net ,i found this picture

and if you look you see that the guitar body is covered whit leather and inbossed in a artistic way ,whit leaves lettering and acorns, maybee this old time vintage way of protecting your instrument is a way to reinstall tradition whit a Cigarbox guitar !! Thanks for posting kind greeeeettssszz A.D.


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