This has been niggling at me for months, and now is the time to raise this in the community. I’m guessing that many of you have, in response to some question or another, replied “I build guitars. Well, actually, when I say guitars I mean cigar box guitars...” and then apologise for not being Paul Reed Smith or Senor Ibanez. I have a friend who, after admiring one of my creations, said “So when are you going to try building a proper guitar?” meaning (I asked) one with six strings.

I’ve now stopped apologising for what I do, which is design and build guitars. The fact that they have three strings (or fewer) does not make them any less a guitar. There are twelve-string guitars out there, so has (say) Slash ever apologised for playing a six-string instrument, humbly admitting that it’s not a real guitar because it’s only got six strings? No one has a go at banjo or ukulele players- or bass players (much). The friend who urged me to try to build “a proper guitar” is herself a bass player, but did not spot the irony (well, she IS a bass player...).

I’ll write It again. I design and build guitars. Pretty much every member of CBN designs and builds guitars. We are not slavish followers of standard templates- single cut, double cut, figure-of-eight, and... er, that’s it- although most of our builds are rectangular, to be fair. Pretty much every git by every member is different, with its own problems to be overcome. I look at a piece of hardwood and then design and build a guitar around it, or I build an attractive box and then design a neck to fit. Headstock shape, depth of box, manner of tailpiece, length of scale- we design these things, people, and then we build them. And they work, most of the time, and we learn something new, and we apply it to the next one, and the next one...

No more apologies, no more qualifications, no more “well, they’re not real guitars”- I design and build guitars. We all do.

We build guitars.

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Gibson sold 0.17 cent capacitors for $200.00. Calling them vintage. They have a long history of ripping people off. Their prices reflect reality. More and more people are learning tone wood is a joke. So they have to build a guitar for $300 and sell it for 12K + to make up for lack of sales. And keep the hype alive. New management isn't going to help them. Coming to terms with reality would. Fender has been beefing up their import guitars. Because more people are buying them. They are smart enough not to put their better pickups in. Because they know people will buy the cheaper guitars and slap Fender electronics in. So making the imports better means more sales. What Fender needs to do is make an import guitar with Gibson specs. Drive another nail into the hype that is Gibson. 

CBG snobs?  A CBG will never be the sum of all it's parts. A CBG will aways be a real instrument. 

You pretty much said it in your post in the “HTF?” thread, Mr Rat- “...haven’t touched one of my six stringers in years.” It seems to be common for someone playing- but even more so, building- their first three-stringer never to go back to the heavy things with too many strings and not enough space between ‘em. That’s how to drive more nails into ‘big guitar’- just keep building three-stringers and selling/ giving them to other people (“What’s that? Aw man that is so cool, where did you get that? Your mate built it? Wow...” etc).

Btw, Fender aren’t so innocent themselves. The Wilko Johnson Signature telecaster wasn’t cheap, and the Rory Gallagher tribute strat marketed for £000s. And some one will always be prepared to pay that sort of money, and then simply hang it on a wall. I read a statistic here recently to the effect that more than half of all new guitars sold were not being played AT ALL six months later!!

Build more three-stringers and spread the word, brothers and sisters...

Didn't mean to make Fender sound like they haven't ripped people off. They just do a better job at being in business. Fender custom shop is a great example of hype to get more money for the same guitar. 

I looked at the new line ups for Gibson and Fender. Gibson had 1 model under 1k(by a dollar) and Fender had 3 Strat's, 2 or 3 Tele's, a couple of Duosonic's and a couple Mustang's under 1k.

Epiphone and Squier are selling like hot cakes for 100 to 400 dollars. Owned by Gibson and Fender. Weak point - pickups and electronics.

I've owned a Gibson and a Fender in the past and they are fine instruments, but not nearly worth the money they're asking .IMO

Lots of good brands out there and lots of shops to buy good boxes, bodies, necks, pickups, electronics and hardware. More fun to build your own anyway.

Hey Rat, Tonewood


Personally, I just never got what all the hype was all about when it comes to Fender and Gibson. It's like they are the only ones in the world when in reality there are plenty of smaller companies who make fantastic instruments. One that comes to mind is Godin. I know I'm preaching for my own province but their guitars are top notch. Most of them even better than what Fender and Gibson make. And they got the list of star clients to back it up. But as everything related to marketing, the noisiest monkeys always get your attention first.

As for me, I'm happier playing things I built myself. I like the cheap as dirt principle. Which reminds me...

Last year I was at the music store and there was a guy trying out accoustics and chatting with the clerk. He was trying them all to see which one sounded best just for the fun of it. At one point he tried a 1600$ Martin. I must say it did sound good. But I got him thinking when I asked him if he thought it sounded 1550$ better than a Yamaha. Then I told him that I believe the Yamaha sounded about 85% as good as the Martin. He was forced to admit that it was true and that based on this, the Martin was massively overpriced.

I have been known to build a guitar or two.,.,but I am notorious for gluing tomato stakes to the lids of cigar boxes and selling them to the unsuspecting public.on the internet.,.,bwahh haha.,.,. ,how many do you need.,.,?

I like to look at things differently, I'm not disagreeing with previous comments and I understand where those people are coming from.

Take Martin guitars for instance. I think to myself how would I feel, and have to react in the marketplace, if after over a 100 years of delopement, trial and error, wars and depressions l come out the other end with a product that other builders base their models on and top players still choose, only to be undercut by others.

Other countries not only copy ( or steal) design features they even copy the logos,reproduce fake warranty and other documents and try to sell as the real deal. That's not good for the bottom line, or your reputation (if you look at some of the knock offs. So you got to do some thing I suppose.

If it was not for the likes of Fender, Gibson and Martin, to name a few, doing the hard yards back in the day my journey as luthier would have been a lot harder.


Agree 100%

There is a lot of hype that comes from guitar companies . . . just like there's a lot of hype that comes from car companies, food companies, sports companies, or any other industry under the sun.  Moreover, if we're being honest, there's often a lot of hype that comes from CBG makers too. 

These are not necessarily bad things, but we should at least be honest about it.  It's simply marketing, and especially in the modern era, the loudest voices tend to win.

All this said, the products that came from these pioneer guitar firms set the standard and provided the innovation that most of us now copy. I've played some nice CBGs in my day, but I've never played any CBG that felt and sounded better than a typical Martin, Gibson (or especially, in my mind) National Resophonic. It's not even a close contest.

One of the attractions of a CBG is that it's much easier to play and/or build a 3-string instrument than a 6-string. That's not a jab against anyone, it's just reality.

And really, why should anyone give a damn about the opinions of a snob of any sort?  Such expressed sentiments are only offensive for those who care what total strangers think of them.  That's a waste of time, and is based solely on ego and/or insecurity.

True that. Traditional Acoustic guitars Take a lot of time and good materials to be made into a guitar by a extremely skilled craftsman. They have been very expensive for good ones for a long time and their quality speaks for itself.

Solid body electrics don't require as much time or as much skill to make(especially if cut out by a cnc machine). Some materials are more expensive than others and of course a business has to deal with production costs, transportation costs, operating costs and salaries. Agile is a Asian company that makes a LP style guitar that's every bit as good as a Gibson, but they can sell their product at 1/4 the price of the Gibson. Yes all those costs mentioned before are less, but something is definitely wrong with this business model.

Often an item in a collection of items becomes the moniker for the collection.  How often have you asked for a kleenex and complained if you were handed a puffs, or a great value facial tissue?

Did you worry the last time you sent a fax because you were not using a Xerox machine to do it?

Does it concern you to take an elevator that was not made by the Otis corporation?

so with the humble CBG, specifically a fretted chordophone using a cigar box for the resonance chanber, also refers in general to the artisan made instrument that is not conforming to the general industry conventions (cigar box ukulele, fiddle, harp, foot-drum/stomp-box, suitecase bass, etc).

Well thanks JL, excellent input, not least because it got the thread back on topic. So I build mostly fretted chordophones using hand-crafted boxes as resonance chambers not conforming to general industry conventions... for conversation purposes I think I might simply say that I build guitars.

Don’t get me wrong on the big names, but not being a genius musician an actual Gibson or a Fender would be wasted on me. I have a Squier Tele, but it barely gets played because it’s really heavy for a chap with a trapped nerve in his neck. Much the same thing applies to my Hondo LP copy (nearly fifty years old, and sports a couple of Zematis humbuckers!), and if I do pick up a six-string it’s most likely to be my Teisco Guyatone Imperial with its one pup and the shite paint job. Yet I still sound more like I know what I’m doing, and I have one helluva lot more fun, on something I built myself with 13mm between each string. That, surely, is what’s important. (Not so much the 13mm, more the fun thing.)

Well not to completely derail this discussion talking about Gibson and Fender(TOO Late), I'm just saying that the longer this industry keeps going, the more likely some snobbery will develop.


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