Cigar box guitars are a little known American tradition. This "lost art" and long forgotten
form of 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 well before musical instrument mass production
brought the cost down, it was quite common for poor people to make their own guitar or
banjo and even Electric guitars out of different types of cigar boxes and scavenged or
My name is John McNair, I am from New Orleans, Louisiana. I have been building
homemade guitars as a hobby since my teenage years in the mid 90's. I am fascinated by
early American history and Folk music of all types; Blues, Country, Bluegrass, Rock and
just about any form of self taught Folk music from early America.
I guess most people are happy with the "industry standard" electric and acoustic body
styles made of rare and exotic woods. As for me I enjoy working with recycled materials
in a pursuit of an authentic Blues and Country sound that they achieve. I find it
challenging to find and use old furniture and reclaimed old growth American hardwoods
for necks and braces, not only are they much more stable woods, but they are usually
much better looking and I believe it adds a charm and character that you can't get from
the "run of the mill" at the local lumber yard.
|Look for my Trademark and super
fun to play 3 string guitars.
They are my passion to build and play!
|They have a vintage tone
that is strait from the South!
|This is where the "Blues" all started,
the American Southern Delta, a cigar box,
a stick and homemade music!
This photo is dated 1868
"George D Flynn Jr. Fall River, MA"
Painted by, L. Rupert
Traditionally, cigar box guitars had only a
few strings. Most had 3 or 4 strings due to
the simple nature of being homemade.
Check out the Cigar Box Guitar Museum
online to see and learn more about the
history of these homemade guitars.
|The first Bo Diddley guitar
now owned by Hard Rock Café
|Flash ahead almost a 100 years, early Rock pioneers were still doin' it.
Homemade is still cool!
Long before the Gretch Guitar Company machine made and mass produced Bo Diddley's legendary
square guitar...Bo made his guitars himself!
He did it with his bare hands and with some simple hand tools. He made them in the true spirit of
"Americana." He never kept count but it is said that he made well between 25 and 30 homemade
square wooden guitars.
Bo with his 50's Gretch guitar, notice that even
though it was factory made, he still added his own
art and chrome embellishments.
Bo was a true Folk artist and Do-it-Yourself Rocker!!!
Bo's "Red Dog" 6 string guitar
His guitars were made using recycled wood, whatever he could find, and he made them most often
simple and crude, they were after all "homemade." The nicer ones he doodled and finger painted art
on them for the individual owners whom he often "gifted" them to. The most famous one of all is
the wooden one he gave to Dick Clark after being invited to "American Bandstand" which helped
launch his career to the next level.
|If you have always played standard 6 string guitar,
I know you would love the refreshing change of playing a 4 string Bottleneck Dobro.
You should try, it's much easier to play and it's alot of fun!
Truthfully, I've never considered myself much of a "guitar builder," but just a ordinary
guy with a passion for music, history and art, putting them together for an original
formula for creating guitars. I'm a "craftsman" so to speak?
I love to make these antique inspired guitars , it's my passion and they would pile
up to the celling if I didn't do something with them. So, here I am sharing them. This is
a life long hobby I have had and I can't keep them all, so, from time to time, I do sell
them. Would you like one? Made from scratch, I can whip you up one!
The fact that you are here on this site, means you have the same similar interest that I
do. I greatly appreciate your interest in my craft. You can contact me and If you want I
can send you a guitar, I build both Left and Right handed guitars and whether you are a
Blues, Country, Bluegrass, or Rock guitarist, I'm sure to have the perfect guitar for your
style. email me at firstname.lastname@example.org anytime, or if you want to talk on the
phone send me your phone number.
If you have any questions on something you've seen on this site, contact me. Don't be
shy!!!! My wife says I can be a real chatter box sometimes, look how far you had to read
to get to this spot on this page!!!!!...sheeez.. I'm tired of typing now!....so no worries, if
you have any questions, we can email or talk on the phone, I will blabber your ear off
about how fun and creative cigar box guitars are to play!
Well, since you're here, feel free to browse the gallery of guitars for sale and viewing.
I've been making them far longer than I have been using the internet, and while it
wasn't possible for me to show you all of the guitars I've built, I've tried to select some
interesting and colorful designs to give you an idea of what I enjoy making.
As for the History Aficionado, check out the History archives on this site. It's filled
with history of American Folk music and the Blues. I have spent many years scouring
Libraries, the Internet and basically any and everywhere for the history of the cigar
box guitar. It is vast and I have collected an array of historical photos not found
anywhere else in the world.
I have seen many online art galleries and libraries and I have noticed they all were
hard to navigate because you needed to open many pages just to view one photo
after another, click n' load, click n' wait, click n' get bored.
I often found it to be too much clicking and waiting, but, this website I set up much
different and it allows you to view many historic photos easily and enjoyably. I
encourage you to dig deep and stay awhile, especially if you have a child or family
member interested in history. Some of the photos are so memorable and
impressionable you'll never forget them... some will take your breath away....But no
matter what, If you enjoy history, you are sure to enjoy them, have a peek at the
online museum link further below.
email me anytime at email@example.com
|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 below is dated 1865 at the "Siege Of Charleston"
He writes of his story of the making of a Figora cigar box fiddle in his book of etchings
"An artist story of the Great War"
But, that doesn't mean there is not an older photo yet to be found, I am always on the hunt!
This is the Ultimate How to Build a Cigar Box Guitar
From beginner to advanced, everything is completely
I have spent well over several hundred hours filming
and editing the most complete How to Build a cigar box
guitar DVD available. If you would like to make your
own, or would like to take your guitar building not
only to the next level but far beyond to get the sound
you have always wanted in a cigar box guitar, I will
show you how and what I do, everything is covered
from start to finish, If you would like me to send you a
copy in the mail, click here.
This DVD is from A to Z, the complete start to finish
of building cigar box guitars. Full of many secrets that
can only be found on a Red Dog Guitar...listen to the
guitars on this site and you will hear why they have a
sound that is iconic and original. The best part is you
too can build a guitar just like the ones on this website
by watching this DVD.
|Everyone tells me at some point,
"cigar box guitars are just as much fun to build as to play"
If you want to try to make your own homemade guitar, I have a DVD
that shows you everything , I will post this DVD link here
Red Dog Guitars are proudly MADE IN AMERICA.
All rights AVAILABLE, feel free to cut, copy and paste any guitars you see on this site...
be sure to tell 'em it's a Red Dog!!!
Do NOT use any photos or logos from this site to sell any products,
they are only available to use for educational purposes only
|There is 3 nagavation choices below, be sure
to check them all out,
Wait for the pages to load, there's alot of
photos on them all
After building guitars for friends and strangers alike, I have never changed my outlook
and I am just a guy stuck in the past, but because the power of the Internet I am with
disbelief at how popular cigar box guitars have become, if this was still the 90's and
without the world wide web, being able to share this part of American history would be
all but IMPOSSIBLE!
I remember trying to meet people in Guitar clubs and organizations by posting small
classified adds in a Louisiana newspaper and running adds and just waiting for a call!!!!
I just wanted to met like-minded people who loved America and it's history as much as
I did, I always knew I was not alone.
Man, that was a strange time before the Internet came along, and to now see how
information is now exchanging between person to person is mind boggling. Now
pictures of a house, car or even cigar box guitar can be shared instantly from the other
side of the planet at the click of the mouse!
|Here below is one of my modern interpretations of these
guitars from the 1880's. It's just a stick running thru a cigar box.
|I also build and sell cigar box guitar pickups with early American art.
All of the designs are hand drawn original art by me, nothing is copied or done
with computer fonts or programs, all my work is done homemade and handmade.
|All of my work is hand drawn or carved freehand,
NO computers are used.
It is far from "perfect," yes, it's scratchy, it has crooked lines, but it's done the
way craftsmen did it in early America before typesetters came along...and
WAY before computers and just pecking keyboard buttons
on an Adobe or Corel Art computer program.
I use to be insecure about my guitars and always think "other people's stuff is
so much better than mine" but over the years I have realized the "well known"
guitar builders use computers or CNC carving machines and I am doing it by
hand and I am how God made me.
So I embrace my flaws and do it the way it was done in the past.
Just by hand and when there is mistakes in my art, I accept it.
I start and finish all my art ideas with just pencil and paper.
|This "1857 Old Timer" art is done
with a black Sharpie fine point pen
and drawn on paper.
Once I find an idea I like, it is then
hand etched into metal on top of the
|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 have done it several times and each gets better!
Up front I tell everyone, I've never been trained in any type of woodworking or guitar construction.
I'm not educated in any form of carpentry, everything I know I have taught myself.
Everything I do is by hand and eye, pocketknife, wood file, sandpaper and chisel. It's not because I
don’t want to use power tools, but for the simple reason that I have noticed better results sanding
and cutting by hand. I think machines are wonderful and they help other people save time. But for
me, they always seem to create a lot of dust and because they work so fast they make me nervous
when they start skipping and jumping around, they always seem to cause me more problems than
I see my guitars as playable art and as "Americana," they are built by hand and they are built as if it
is my last one, my last chance to make my greatest guitar, I never wait for the next guitar to do that
"next great idea"...I do it now ....If i think of it, I do it on the spot...they are made to please me and I
am always trying to better my craft to the end.