Handmade Music Clubhouse

Cigar Box Guitar Headquarters - CBG HQ

Upcoming Book: 'The Cigar Box Guitar Book'. Help Me Write my Book.

Hi, I'm David Sutton and I'm writing a book which is tentatively titled "The Art of the Cigar Box Guitar" for Fox Chapel Publishing. Fox Chapel publishes books about woodworking primarily but they're branching out a bit.
I'm looking for short (1 sentence to two paragraphs?) comments from clubhouse builders on the subject of what building and/or playing cigar box guitars means to you, what has it brought to your life and why you do it?
Be advised that I intend to publish some of these comments, so whatever you write could end up published. If you post here you are implying permission for me to use the quotes.
You may choose to identify yourself by name or by initials, just let me know what your preference would be.
If you have any questions let me know, and if you'd like a couple of solid references talk to Ted Crocker or to Diane in Chicago. Please tell your friends if you think they might have something to say.

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David, That banjo JoJo created took first place in a challenge here to use something from your kitchen in a build. Jo used a jello mold
Check all the insane entries here.

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Hey David, First of all, best of luck with the book - I dont envy you having to fit all you see and hear here into just a few hundred pages!! My name is Ben Moor and I am one of a growing number of British based builders. Probably the most northern actaully, being based in the Scottish Highlands. Often its so cold and wet here that my stuff either freezes to the bench or requires floats..... I got into building CBGs about 2 years ago, though I was already messing about with 'normal' guitars long before that. I knew the minute I saw one that I wanted one. I bought one, took it apart to see what magic was inside it (turns out nothing - its just a box and some strings!), and set about building my own. Since then Iv become a true addict. Why? Simple. Accessibility.
Everyone can build a simple instrument, or play a simple tune, when there are no rules or boundries. There is no right or wrong, just enjoyment. Which is very refreshing when the 6 string world is so full of b******t (can I say b******t??) about having to have the
right guitar, made in the
right factory, using the
right wood.... Add to that a busy online community that is always there to impart words of wisdom, or to barely raise a communal eye-brow at your latest hair-brained idea, and there is only one outcome.... I now have nearly 100 builds under my belt, from CBGs to diddly bows, custom amps to drum machines, I have a website and send my creations all over the world, and most importantly, I have an outlet for all those weird ideas I have in the middle of the night! I am not a proffessional luthier by the way. I have basic skills, basic tools, and a few ideas. I dont play so good either. But I think I, and the many like me, have struck a chord (no pun intended!) with the musical youth. Music should be fun and available to all.... and stuff the big name money machines! A customer of mine summed it up nicely in a recent email; "I will be selling my Gibson Les Paul this weekend to make room for a Randy Roosters" Proud? You betcha! All the best with the book, Roosterman PS feel free to use anything you can from my website
www.randyroosterscigarboxguitars.com, or from my pages here.


Let's hear from you, I'm sure the Clubhouse has lots more stories and amazing pics...
"Gip's Place" is an authentic juke joint in Alabama that's been rocking every Sat. for 50 years and in the years I've been going, I've seen Burnsides, Kings, and other legends. I've even had the opportunity to play with a few. But of all the experiences there, the first time I was there had the most impact on me as a player and an artist.

I've known "Sweet Lenny Madden" for years, but he started the night off playing some stompin' hill country blues on a contraption I'd never seen before. It was a cigar box that had 2 broom handles sticking out of it, a bass string, and 3 guitar strings. Sam Lay from Howlin Wolf, Muddy Waters, and Bob Dylan fame was the headline act that night. He put on an amazing show and is every bit as talented singing and playing guitar as he is a drummer..... but all I could think about was that cigar box guitar. It infected me. I couldn't even wait to order parts. I went home and stripped a perfectly serviceable guitar from my collection down for parts, collected scrap wood from around the house, and made my first instrument. I've had the privilege to play a lot of fine instruments over the years, but NOTHING beats playing something I crafted from scratch.

Randy Webb
(pictures from that night are below, click to enlarge)
Lenny On Stage

A shot I took another time.

This is "Gips Place" before the crowd shows up

Lenny from that night again

Me with Sam Lay

Sam on Stage

My dance partner that night lol

Hey David,

I have always wanted to build my own guitar. Not a kit, but from scratch. As I started to research luthier techniques I came to the realization that without instruction I could invest quite a bit of money and time and end up with a piece of junk.
I had known about cigar box guitars and decided to build a few to work out the issues of scale, intonation, setup etc. for a lot less money than a "standard" guitar. I built one then another then another... and now for other people. Each one different and unique with it's own voice.
It has opened up a world to me filled with like minded creative souls. A way richer experience than sitting alone figuring out the "rules" of guitar building.
The first rule in building CBG's is, there are no rules. And now I could care less if I ever build a "standard" guitar.
On left in photo. My first build. "The Gypsy King"
A few years ago. I had a student who was stumped on what kind of project he could make to complete his independent study project in my visual art class. As a high school teacher, I have to try to connect with the students on a personal level to be able to help them explore who they are and figure out what kind of art they might want to make. I knew he was a musician so I suggested he make some sort of instrument. I wanted to make sure of what options were available so I looked up handmade instruments myself. There it was on my screen. A box with a stick in it. The cigar box guitar. I knew I could build it. I knew I had to build it. Once I started building cbg's several students took interest and they built their own along side me. Two years later, I haven't been able to stop making them. Incidentally, the kid that I was originally helping never made one. Figures.
There is something about handmade instruments that whispers, "If you want to play, you are supposed to make your own." So I did. Then that nagging whisper said, "Try this, try that... make it different." I am still a newbie so my builds are fairly crude. The next one will be better. I may actually use a cigar box. Here is a photo of my first build. The box is a vintage Lane cedar hope chest trinket box. (I used tins and a mini paint sample box on builds 2 - 4.)

My first experience with a cigar box guitar was barely an experience at all. I saw one hanging on the wall of guitar store in 2005. I really was'nt sure what the heck it was other than a wall decoration. A few months later one late night I was on Ebay when I came across cigar box parts. This led my search some cigar box guitar links where builders were playing their wares. One particular link led me to a video of a musician(Reddog) wailing away on a three string guitar. The sound was primative,gritty, and mean. At the same time, it was also almost a spiritual experience. It made the hair stand up on the back of my neck. I was rediscovering music and the real roots of blues for the first time. The cigar box guitar has changed the way I look at music forever. There was a time in my life that I wanted to be a luthier. I'm glad that did'nt happen. There is a freedom and excitement to building and playing a CBG knowing that almost anything can happen when there are "no rules". In the world of art - rules are meant to be broken. This instrument and thier creators do just that.

I wanted to play something I built and I wanted a sound I couldnt get from store bought. What I got was a lesson in what I could do with some simple handtools, odds & ends and untapped creativity I never wouldve guessed I had. Building is something that brings Me peace and is a neverending process of progression, idea sharing and comraderie with the members I speak to in the clubhouse. Its hard to say whats more enjoyable: the build or playing something Ive built - its all cyclical.
Prohibition guitar is another custom build by master luthier Godzilla. Godzilla used a 1930’s era Scotch Whisky crate that Al Capone would have recognized. The tailpiece in an authentic 1930’s Gibson, the bridge saddle an antique skeleton key of the same time period. To complement this build Godzilla used a Bob Harrison 1930’s art deco pup. Godzilla reported that the pup sounded hotter than a Mississippi pepper spout but was as smooth as shot of 12 year old Scotch. Great work Godzilla, This guitar is Americana at it's finest.

Prohibition guitar is another custom build by master luthier Godzilla using found items and a custom made Bob Harrison pickup..

Okay...I have always had an interest in building something that was playable, something that I could call my own.  It wasn't until I moved to East Tennessee, a place with a very rich history in homemade instruments during the depression era, that I really became serious.  With the internet, something that wasn't available in the not-to-distant past, I was able to find something that really spoke to me.  It was a picture of a 1920 cigar box violin.  Several failures later I had something cool.  About 15 months into this I have a business and have been commissioned to build guitars by Devon Allman, son of Gregg Allman, and have a fast growing following via Facebook.  People are simply looking for something different, more grass roots, and Cigar Box Guitars are it!  ---SlackJack

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