Hi all,

On my current build, I decided to construct my own box with some quality wood. But I was curious to know if anyone had suggestions on joinery for the best sound and strength. I went with dovetails just for the fun of it, although I know cigar boxes traditionally use box/finger joints. Any suggestions or ideas would be welcome.


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I haven't deliberately put together a bad box to experiment with it, but it seems to me that so long as your corners aren't weak and don't rattle (resonate together as one unit, like the frame of a drum) you should have no issue, nor do I see how a soundwave is going to significantly propagate differently through a firm joint regardless of how it's put together (barring something sound-damping like rubber cement!). In that regard, it seems that any robust and solid joint will do.

I see a lot of folks who seem to prefer using finger-joined corner cigar boxes. These are going to be far more robust than two sides butted together and stapled...But there are also some very well-known makers using the latter. A well-glued and anchored joint is a well-glued and anchored joint, apparently!

I can tell you I haven't seen a single person using a dovetail joint on a cigar box to date, myself! Sounds awful pretty but perhaps overkill. Pics?

Thanks for the thoughts. That makes sense. Here is one pic I’ve got of it. Just the box without the cut-out for the neck. I built a pretty deep box to try to get more amplification out of it, so we’ll see how that goes. My joints are tight in some places and loose in others, so glue will be needed!


The dovetails will give you a strong box and you won't need to brace the corners.

You will get a better sound with a thinner top and back.

Unlike John above I have made a deliberately "bad box" which works well.

Show off your craftsmanship it's nice to see!

Rough box pinned and glued corners,it's the through neck that takes the stress.

Very nice Chris!

Box joints are traditional and are easier make.  Although I read/saw several tests that revealed the box joint was stronger, the dovetail joint was not bad, so should be fine for cigar boxes.  It concerned about this, you can brace the corners.  Using dovetail joints, especially hand made, puts the box into the realm of fine joinery and craftsmanship.

Good call on the bracing. Might be considering that depending on how well this glues up. Thanks gents!

I love the looks of dovetail & finger joints, but I agree with John in that they're both overkill from a structural perspective.  Any construction method that is strong enough to handle the string forces without excessive deflection and without any looseness which might create a buzzing noise is going to work.  If your neck is set up to go through and carry all of the string forces then you just need to make sure you don't have any movement that can cause a buzz. I assume you're asking with respect to acoustic playing primarily.  The top & back will be your two biggest factors so don't put a lot of stiffness there or you'll tend to kill the volume & tone quality.  My recollection from reading about mountain dulcimers is that a deeper box tends to emphasize the bass end while the shallower you build the box the more the bright treble tones come through.  

Super helpful, thanks!

To put forth my six pennyworth, I have made three 'box' guitars, a few years back now, but all were three string. I had no idea where I was coming from at all, just an idea....   I planed up at great effort, bevels on all corners, glued them together making a weird triangular shape, but with four sides..???   I actually sold them very quickly, so no pictures unfortunately. I had the sides tapering downward as well, not too much though. I suppose these guitars could be likened to short, fat coffin shaped. I then strengthened the corners with mildly planed quadrant moulding sections, glued into place. These were more than adequate for normal use, but as Tennis rackets, they were rather weak to be honest.

I cannot be into joints at all, just glues on a prepared surface is all I use....!!!!

That’s a really nice box, nice to see another dovetail, I haven’t seen one here for quite some time? It shows that you don’t mind the extra work, which I like :) Some use thin strips like purpling along edges of top/bottom for bracing, but mostly on thinner boxes, also anything from angle molding to square scraps to brace the corners? Your box looks pretty beefy, so I doubt you’ll need much bracing, gonna be a nice one? cheers :) 

Purfling- dang predictive text :)

Thanks for all the ideas, thoughts, and insights. Sounds like the joinery is overkill, but it certainly is fun to add some details like that here and there. My next project will probably be a custom box build with box joints as they definitely are easier to cut. I’ll give the bracing a look as well. Thanks again!


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