I finally found my “Holy Grail” of boxes – the half-moon shaped Artesanos de Obelisco.  Since I saw Kevin Brown’s build of one of these back in February, I knew I had to have one.  Here’s his: I searched all my regular cigar stores for months, but everyone said they weren’t made any more, or they had never seen one.  Long story short, I finally found one in an out-of-the-way shop I had been to only a couple of times, and whined and begged until the owner relinquished it from his personal collection.

 My excitement since getting it home has been tempered a bit as there are several issues I will have to deal with to make this into a playable instrument.

 

As rare as these boxes are, they are not very well made.  The circular section is made with the grain running vertically - easier to bend to shape, but much more prone to cracking.  I have two cracks that will need to be repaired, and plan to add kerfing and bracing inside to stabilize and support the wood.  Unlike most wooden cigar boxes, they used butt joints instead of nice tight finger joints.  Also, the top on mine is warped, but I think I can get a tight fitting closure if I move the latch off-center.

 I’ve decided to use the bottom (deeper) section of the box as the top.  Since I’ll have to refinish the whole thing due to the cracks, this gives me more options anyway.  I liked Kevin’s use of the label shape for the soundhole and the shape of his bridge, but other than that (and obviously the shape of the box) I don’t believe mine will look anything like his.  I considered a similar headstock shape, but instead I’ve decided to use half a set of mandolin tuners: 4 in-line on a scaled down “Scorpion” style shape.  I have some ideas for the tailpiece that I think will be unique.  I also plan to use a rod piezo with an active pre-amp.

I have a lot of work ahead of me.

 

6/13 - 6/15/12

Some progress.

Rough shaped the neck and headstock.  The final shape sort of evolved as it went along.  The new "fingernail" router bit I'm using is great for rough shaping the neck profile, though it's a bit tricky.  I find if I shape the area that will be directly behind the headstock only, then cut the scarf, then go back and finish the rest of the neck, it's a lot easier.  I also make my headstocks from 1 x 3 or 1 x 4 stock to avoid having to add "ears" and having extra glue lines.  Haven't decided on the headplate yet.

I  love the neck joint transition the new router bit gives me:

I've decided to attempt a bolt-on neck for this build which will create it's own set of challenges due to the curve of the box.

Here's the interior neck block shaped, drilled and glued into place: It's made from 1 -1/4" cherry.

 

The next real challenge will be aligning and drilling the holes for the neck's screw-in inserts.  I'll have to devise some sort of jig to hold the curved end of the neck/heel square against the box while drilling.

 

Monday, 6/18/12

Two Steps Forward, One Step Back.

Yesterday , I glued up the heel block and blended it into the neck.  Added a red/black/red lamination and cherry heel cap, all shaped up nicely.  Drilled the holes for the threaded inserts and screwed them in.  Then came that sickening sound: CRACK!  So today I'll saw off the heel and try to build a new one, blend it in, and align it with the body again.

 

Wednesday 6/20/12

Cut off the cracked heel and made a new one.  Drilled the hole for the threaded inset a tad larger so there would be less pressure on the wood to split.  Works so far. 

I had originally planned to use a wooden bridge with string pegs, and a rod piezo with an on-board active pre-amp.  After playing with this combo, I didn't care for the look so I've revised the mechanics to include a hardtail bridge and a mag pup wired like a Fender Esquire with tone and volume controls and a 3-way switch.  I've also revised the shape at the end of the fretboard as I thought the original looked too busy.  BTW - I'm using a maple pre-slotted radiused fingerboard from Stew-Mac that I had laying around that I trimmed to size.

New layout should be something like this:

The moon-shaped inlay/sound hole will be mother-of-pearl as will the knob inserts.  I'm also going to make my first attempt at binding the edges of the box.

The mailman just delivered some prizes so I can continue.   More to come...........

 

 

Thursday, 6/21/12

My biggest problem is rushing my work.  I want it finished NOW!!!  Today I installed the bindings on the box, stained it and shot the fading for the "moonburst".  I haven't even cut the holes for the controls or pickup yet!  I hope I can resist the urge to monkey with it until it dries properly to handle it - at least a week, I figure.  My impatience is killing me!

Yes, I will wait to scrape the bindings clean, but here's what it looks like with the masking removed:

In the meantime I'll continue work on the neck.  I've glued the fretboard on and trimmed it and installed the side markers.  Next step will be installing the frets.  I've never curved fret before, hope it's not too hard.  I'm also going to make my own control knobs, as I haven't found anything I like that matches the color.

Well, back to work tomorrow, so I'll have to let everything dry.  I guess I can begin soldering up the electrics in the evenings.

 

Monday, 6/25/12

Impatience won out.  Did a dry mock-up of the finished neck with the half-finished body. Installed nickel-plated hinges and latch to better coordinate with the nickel-plated tuners, though the bridge, pickup, input jack and knobs will be black.  The knobs will have mop inserts to match the binding, tuner buttons, and soundhole insert.  Aligning the neck to be parallel to the top edge of the box was truly a challenge.  Now I really do have to wait until other parts come.  Here's some update pics showing the neck-to-body joint, fret markers, and paper covering inside the box:

 

Wednesday, 6/27/12

Still waiting for the hardtail bridge to arrive, so I thought I'd start building a custom fitted case for this thing. 

My first attempt at dovetails.

Shaping the foam and neck support.  All the foam will be covered in black crushed velvet.

Trial fit.

Lid installed.

Logo applied to case.  I'll be giving the edges a sunburst spray later.  Thanks to Oily "Strat-O-Nine-Tails" Fool for giving her the name: "Moondawg". 

 

Update Tuesday, 7/10/12

 

Been busy.  Fit the rest of the foam into the case and upholstered it with an almost-black purple crushed velvet.  I think it came out nice and is a good complement to the guitar's eggplant and black finish.  I've given it compartments to hold extra gear and a couple of bottleneck slides are held in with elastic.  The carrying strap is made from a thrift shop belt.

The blotch on the table is where my wife spilled nail polish remover.  I guess my next project is to refinish the top.

With the case finished, the last few parts arrived, so I was able to put everything together and finally string her up.  I need to sort out a few minor details, but for all intents, it's finished.  I really enjoyed the challenge and feel that I achieved my goal of a unique build that brought my skills up to the next level.  If anyone's interested, it is for sale, PM me for price and details.  Enjoy!

 

 

 

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Comment by Habanera Hal on July 14, 2012 at 4:15pm

Thanks to all for your positive comments!

Comment by Glenn Reither on July 14, 2012 at 5:19am

That is absolutely top notch! Well done!

Comment by jamie howe on July 12, 2012 at 12:29am

That's some really nice original work.  well done!

Comment by Uncle John on June 28, 2012 at 7:32am

Hal, I missed this blog.  I think I would not have seen the potential in that box.   Really like what you did with it - every part and the case.   But no peppers!  NO PEPPERS!   May have to call you Luna Hal.

Comment by Ron "Oily" Sprague on June 26, 2012 at 8:52am

Yeah, I like it!

Comment by Habanera Hal on June 21, 2012 at 5:17pm

Oily, this one's for you:

Comment by Ron "Oily" Sprague on June 17, 2012 at 5:03am

Hal,

 

That's gorgeous! Carve a moon for your headplate.

Comment by South Paw,Davey on June 13, 2012 at 3:08pm

A 1 Like that alot!!

Comment by Richard G Caudill on June 13, 2012 at 3:03pm

Whoa !!!!!   Man if u can make that drawing come to life on the box ,, u'll have a dead serious winner ...  iffen u do ,, just gotta enter it into the next show off  thing  ,,surely will win u some goodies !!!

Comment by Habanera Hal on June 13, 2012 at 2:22pm

Thanks, Oily!  I'm trying to come up with something on that order, but haven't been satisfied with anything I've drawn yet.

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