Cigar box guitars are an old American tradition. This form of antique guitar construction
spans back well over 150 years in our country's history.  Since the mid 1860's up to the
early 1950's and before musical instrument mass production brought the cost down, it
was common for people to make their own guitar or stringed instrument out of old cigar
boxes and scavenged or found wood.

My name is John McNair, I have been playing and repairing guitars for about 27 years.
I grew up in New Orleans, Louisiana. Me and my family now live and I have a small work
shop in Sparks, Nevada. I build and sell cigar box guitars world wide.
If you see any guitars on this site that you like, and you would like to buy one, email me.
I have many cigar box guitars for sale, email me at
This is where the "Blues" all started.
An old used cigar box, reclaimed wood made into a guitar neck, and homemade music.
This painting below is of "L. Rupert" 1868 at the G.D. Flynn Brewery New River Falls, MA
Photo provided by Shane Speal - Circa 1880
The first Bo Diddley guitar
circa 1945
now owned by Hard Rock Café
Everybody was in on it!  Homemade is part of America's past and present.
Long before the Gretch Guitar Company machine made and mass produced Bo Diddley's
legendary square guitar, Bo made his own guitars himself.
He did it with his own hands and with some simple hand tools. He made them in the true
spirit of "Americana." He never kept count but my best guess is Bo made between 25 to
30 homemade square wooden guitars.  Bo was the original Do-it-Yourself Rocker!
If you have always played standard 6 string guitar,
You would love the refreshing change of playing a 3 or 4 string Cigar Box Guitar.
You should give it a try, it's much easier to play and it's a lot of fun.
Plus your music sounds really authentic and vintage with very little effort.
The oldest known photo of a Cigar Box instrument is actually hand drawn art by Edwin Forbes
It is of Union soldiers at a Civil War encampment 1863-64.
This photo is dated 1865 at the "Siege Of Charleston."
I have filmed and editing the most complete How to Build
a cigar box guitar DVD available.
I will show you what to do, everything is covered from
start to finish. It doesn't matter if this is your first time
building, or your 10th.
If you would like to build guitars that get that old-time
vintage 1880's to 1930's sound, I will show you how I
make a guitar achieve the tone and how I build that part
into the guitar.

In this DVD you will learn exactly how to make your
guitar sound like it stepped out of the past with a vintage
an authentic sound of early Americana.
This DVD will save you many hours of trying to learn on
your own.

This hobby is very easy and alot of fun,
You can make one too,
click here.

If you already make cigar box guitars, after you study
my work, you can take your guitars to the next level.
This DVD is from A to Z, the complete start to finish
and this video is full of many secrets that can only be
found on a Red Dog Guitar. The best part is you too can
build a guitar just like the ones on this website by
watching this DVD.

If you have questions email me
If I told you the guitar above has a homemade bridge made from a Popsicle stick that was
cut down and painted black. I then glued a small piece of white plastic on top to support
the strings...
Would you believe me?   Well It does, and it sounds fantastic!

If you want to try to make your own cigar box guitar, I have a DVD that shows you
everything from A to Z.  Everyone tells me at some point, "Cigar box guitars are just as
much fun to build as they are to play"  Why not give it a try?
If you would like me to send a copy
of this DVD to you in the mail,
I will mail it
worldwide anywhere  click here
There are many pages on this site, wait for the pages to load correctly.
There's allot of photos of guitars for sale on this site
Playing a cigar box guitar will take your music back in time to the 1880's. You can create
vintage music with a sound from long ago.  email me at
This 1865 "Arrows & Talons" is one of my all time fav-o-rite works.
Inspired by my Dad's "Old West" Time Life book collection I read as a kid.
I really enjoy drawing Old West and Native American art.
Email me at
Homemade instruments really became popular during the
1920's and 30's Great Depression of America.
Poverty did not stop people from wanting to enjoy music
and having fun with family and friends, in fact it made the
desire even stronger. Music is free!
People who were poor made their own instruments from
old stuff they found in their house, shed or barn.

In the early 1900's it was common to see many street
musicians with a wide variety of homemade violins,
banjos, mandolins, ukuleles and guitars made from old
cigar boxes and cookie tins.
Cigar Box Mandolin c.1930's
He's holding that thing with pride.

I sure would enjoy hearing him play
Sometimes a little is allot.
I often get asked by people if I would make
them a simple and clean "traditional" style
homemade cigar box guitar.

Made to play and sound like homemade
guitars did a 100 years ago.

email me at
Just plug in and play!
Strait wired pickups make theses guitars a joy to play.
Plus it's easy to get a great old time vintage knobs, no frills....just fun.
Do I need to repeat myself?    This guitar sounds like it is a 100 years old.
Email me at
Here is some original hand lettered art done with a $1 sharpie pen in about 2 hours while
watching TV. It's hard for even me to believe what I've created when I see my own work.
When I was younger I did not show the knack for drawing of any kind.
In fact I did not do any art at all, I did not have any interest.  I would struggle to draw a stick
figure. Truly I was not a "natural," but once I decided I wanted to learn how to draw, I read as
many books on the subject as I could find.

Just another reason to NEVER bury your desires or give up on your dreams, It's never too late!

The point with that statement is, if you are 70 and want to learn how to play guitar, Now is the
time. You CAN do it!
It's very easy to learn how to play 3 string guitar, more on that on the next page.

Anyways, Native American themes and art is part of the history of cigars and tobacco. It is
also a very important and fascinating part of American history. I could build a whole separate
website on just that subject alone!   If you didn't know, tobacco originates from America.
These cigar box guitars are built with just a few basic hand tools that most people have. You only
need a small saw, sandpaper, a hand drill, a few screwdrivers a pocket knife, and some odds and
ends, you do not need many tools at all.
On the flip-side, since you DON'T need power tools, it's kind of liberating if you think about it.
If you were to build regular guitars, you would need a whole shop of specialized tools and planes,
But anyone can build a cigar box guitar by hand with only a few common hand tools.

That is what's so fun and interesting about cigar box guitars, they are simple by nature.
You can use old guitar parts from ebay and flea markets or get creative and make your own parts
with stuff from around your house. I cover everything about build these neat homemade guitars
on this DVD below. Give it a try, make one, you will have a blast.
What is a cigar box guitar?

In the South it's common to hear stories that Muddy Waters, Lightnin' Hopkins and all those
other old-time Blues guys started playing guitar on a cigar box guitar. Not many people who
follow Blues and Country music know this, but many famous Blues and Country singers started
their career on a simple homemade cigar box guitar. One reason most Blues and Country
music has such a distinctive sound is because it was derived off of music made on these simple
The precursor to the cigar box guitar as an instrument was the diddly-bow. It was a one
stringed instrument where the player would take a glass bottle neck and run it up and down a
string while plucking the opposite end of the string to achieve the tone they where after.
Because those basic "guitars" did not have frets, that early form of crude guitar playing is what
evolved into the form of slide guitar we are familiar with today. That is what is thought to be
the creation of Delta Blues and slide guitar from the "Southern Delta."

Lightin' Hopkins, Muddy Waters, Elmore James, they were all influenced in some way by these
early homemade instruments.  Many of them following along in their career as slide guitar
players.  That's where the blues and slide guitar truly started at. On those plantations and
cotton fields, homemade guitars and 'field hollerin' went hand in hand. Blues players didn't play
Gibsons or Martins, they couldn't afford them. If you grew up in poverty and wanted to play
guitar, you had to build a guitar yourself.
This sound recording of Ry Cooder's song "Billy The Kid" is performed by Billy Gibbons of ZZ-Top
It is an excerpt from a Mark Maron interview. I have presented it here only for educational and
commentary purposes in relation to the brief discussion about of the history of the cigar box guitar.
(Copyright Law 107-Limitations on exclusive rights: Fair use section; 40)
All Copyrights for this material are the property of their respective owners.
The art and lettering on this website and on these guitars is all hand drawn freehand.
Most of the art is inspired by brands and Tobacco store advertising from the past.

I can make you a vintage themed guitar anytime, email me
Those humble beginnings of the cigar box guitar are what eventually gave this little known
guitar a home in music history. This tradition of making and playing a homemade guitar
continued from the 1880's and for many decades up until the 1950's, but this form of guitar
construction never really went away. Many Blues musicians from the 60's, 70's and 80's
kept this long forgotten art form alive.  Even though homemade guitars have faded into
obscurity, some Blues and Rock musicians still enjoy playing them today.

Today's modern and Chinese made guitars can't even come close to the true primitive
sound these handmade guitars make. Cigar Box Guitars can be channeled into a creativity
that many musicians desire for in their playing, giving them a more authentic sound.
Blues guitarist, in particular, really enjoy playing cigar box guitars in the search of hearing
"Delta Blues" in its purest form. Today you can still find guitar players who are looking for
that raw and authentic sound from the past and they chose to play cigar box guitars.

Here is a wonderful example of one being played today, it really does take you back in
time.  Watch this video of Billy Gibbons of ZZ-Top playing a homemade cigar box guitar.
Cigar box guitars are very easy to learn to play Blues and Slide on.
email me anytime at  
Here is a homemade multi-track recording using a glass slide and a vintage 70's Pignose Amp.
These blacked out antique finished guitars are satin smooth,
they only look old, but they are silky smooth to the touch.
They play like a dream and sound like they've stepped right out of the 1930's.
What is best for a vintage sound? A 3 string guitar or 4 string guitar?

The truth is they both sound exactly the same. The difference is they both tune
and "play" differently. The 4 string guitar has an extra lower or higher string,
but a three string guitar will "sound" the same. The 4 string it will just give you
access to a note either higher or lower up and down the neck at a different
position on the neck.
Resonator cigar box guitars are super fun to play guitars.
I always have a few for sale  email me at
These guitars are all made by hand. Here is my shop table, there isn't much involved
in it's construction. They are mostly built with just glue and screwdrivers, a small hand
saw, a few drill bits, some pliers, some old or used guitar parts, a ruler for measuring,
pens and pencils, and a good pocket knife. They are just hand made and homemade!
There are so many beautiful boxes and ideas that can be brought to life.
It's like Scripture, there's a lot of parallels. Cigar Box Guitars are super fun and neat.
I also sell Tobacco and Americana Cigar Box Guitar pickups for your own projects.  
They are easy to add to any homemade guitar. I have lots of different art and the wording
and theme possibilities are endless. I have too many to list here, so email me.
If you build cigar box guitars and would like to add a homemade pickup to your own guitar,
these pickups are for sale, Let me make you something cool for your next guitar.
email me anytime, my email is
In early America, homemade guitars usually were just simple crude instruments
that most often only had a few strings. As long as some kind of "twang" came
out of them, to those in poverty, this was an exciting new world of possibilities.
Making music on a cigar box guitar with just 3 or 4 strings was just down home
old fashioned American ingenuity at work.
I have lots of guitars for sale,  email me at
I have many Native American themed cigar box guitars,
email me at
These all wooden Old Timer 3-string guitars are super fun and easy to play
I can mail you one anywhere in the World.
email me at
Padron 1926 4-string guitar

From clean to rustic and everything in between
email me at
You don't need to be a great guitar player to play 3 string guitar.  They are
super easy to learn to play!
Do you want to play like a champ?   A great sounding guitar is the secret.
Let me mail you one today.   I can mail you a guitar any where in the World.
email me at
This video below is a very simple recording of a 4 string cigar box guitar, nothing
complex is happening, it's mostly just random strings ringing out naturally in the
background with a fretted note here and there on top.
This exact recording can be done with a 3 string, a three string will only strip
down and simplify your playing.
This concept is hard to explain in words, But as the old saying goes, "listening is
learning," so Listen to this video below of a 4 string guitar,  don't just listen
passively, pay attention and try to image where the notes are on the fretboard,
you will hear this is a real simple and easy to play form of music.
The guitar above is from the early 1900's. It's a White Owl 4 string Cigar Box
I would love to have heard it being played back when it was new. Imagine the
wonderful music it must have made!