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 a small work shop in Sparks, Nevada. These guitars are
for sale world wide and I can mail you one anywhere in the world.
If you would like to buy one of the guitars on this website, I have many cigar box guitars
for sale, email me for the current price list my email is email@example.com
|This is where the "Blues" all started.
An old used cigar box, reclaimed wood made into a guitar neck, and homemade music.
This painting above 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
now owned by Hard Rock Café
Everybody was in on it! Homemade is part of the past, but still part of the present.
Playing a homemade guitar provides a happiness that cannot be found on a store bought guitar.
Many times people have emailed me and said that just by hearing a video of a cigar box guitar or
seeing a photo of one of these instruments online has helped them find a new direction in life,
either coping with serious illness, trauma or some type of sadness. It helps them find a new
hobby and pastime and helped them find a sense of inner happiness.
Not to mention all of the people who have wanted to learn how to play a regular guitar in the
past but never could learn all that fretboard math and fancy music theory. Once they discover
how easy it is to play a cigar box guitar, a new hobby and spark in life is ignited in many people.
Anyone can learn to play a cigar box guitar. These guitars are real simple to understand and easy
Just another reason to NEVER bury your desires or give up on your dreams of learning to play
guitar, It's never too late!
The point is with that statement, even 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 topic on the following pages of
What about you? Where do you stand in life? Once again, I have heard all kinds of stories of
great happiness. From veterans to retired people looking for a new direction in their life, when
people see or hear a cigar box guitar for the first time, it really helps them open a new chapter in
their life. I have heard many true life miraculous stories that the cigar box guitar has brought
real life health and healing miracles into people's lives!
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 all of the research I have done shows
that Bo possibly made between 25 to 30 homemade square wooden guitars.
Bo was the original Do-it-Yourself Rocker!
|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."
|If I told you the guitar below has a homemade bridge made from a Popsicle stick that was
cut down and painted black with a small piece of hard white plastic glued on top to support
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?
Homemade instruments really became popular during the
1920's and 30's Great Depression.
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.
People who were poor just went out and made their own
instruments from old stuff they found in their house, shed
Cigar Box Mandolin circa 1930
Not only was taking a photo a big event back then,
but this street musician thought highly enough of
his instrument to show it off with pride!
|Just plug in and play!
On most guitars I build I prefer to "old school" strait wire the pickups
...no knobs, no frills...just fun
This way it's easy to get a great old time vintage sound.
Email me to see my new guitar models list at firstname.lastname@example.org
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.
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.
...and guess where? Yep, right at home!
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. Give it a try, make one, you will have a blast.
If you just want to buy a fully built guitar. I do have cigar box guitars for sale, after the next
page, at the bottom of the page the current models and prices I have for sale are listed.
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 by the player would take a glass bottle neck and run it up and down
the string while plucking the opposite end 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 is a sound recording of Ry Cooder's song "Billy The Kid"
Preformed by Billy Gibbons of ZZ-Top
He is playing a homemade guitar built by Kurt Schoen and this song is an excerpt from
a Mark Maron interview from You-tube of a previously recorded 2015 Podcast.
It is presented 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.
I like to try to make my art look as old and authentic as possible.
Most of the art is inspired by Tobacco brands and store advertising from the past.
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. However, 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 homemade multi-track recording using a glass slide and a cigar
box guitar plugged into an old vintage 1970's Pignose Amp.
What is best for a vintage sound? A 3 string guitar or 4 string guitar?
They both sound the same because they are both built the same way.
The difference is how they play, on a 3 string guitar, to find a certain note, you will have
to slide up or down the neck one or more frets, but on a 4 string guitar to get that "same
note" you can access that note on the next string below or above. The 4 string will just
give you an access to any one note at a different position on the neck.
The 3 string guitar just has less repeating notes, but as for th actual "sound" or "tone" of
the guitar itself, they both sound the same.
These guitars are all made by hand. In this photo below 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.
These guitars are just hand made and homemade.
This guitar above is a 4 string cigar box guitar played through a 1940's Silvertone Radio that
has been turned into a retro Atomic guitar amplifier.
I like to convert old radios into homemade guitar amps, but I also like regular guitar amps
too. I like small and low powered vintage amps because of the compressed and unique
sound they have.
Of course I have to say this, cigar box guitars sound just heavenly with a vintage tube amp.
The glass tubes will have your guitar sparkle in the air!!!!
...those old Fender Champ amps and Blackface models from the 1970's are terrific!
Choosing the amp you play thru is another fun part of the puzzle.
In the late 1800's, cigar box guitars were usually 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 early Bluesmen, this was an exciting new world of possibilities.
Making music on a homemade guitar was just old fashioned ingenuity at work.
The photo and guitar are from the early 1900's.
The guitar is a White Owl 4 string cigar box guitar. It's a wonderful piece of
history. I would love to have heard it being played back when it was new.
I can only imagine the wonderful music it must have made.
This video above is a very simple recording of a 3 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" of the background notes.....and I can't forget to mention,
a little dash of slide to boot!
As the old saying goes, "listening is learning," so listen to the video above closely.
BUT, don't just listen passively, pay attention and also watch where the notes are on the
fretboard. You will hear and see this is a real simple type of guitar and easy to play.
Blues music is a primitive form of music and simple by its nature to learn.
If learning to play the guitar has always given you problems, you'll enjoy the freedom of a
cigar box guitar. Instead of spending years trying to learn on a regular guitar, with a cigar
box guitar you'll sound like a champ in just a few months!
I can also mail you a Compact Disc of this music ( a CD album) they are on the
last page of this site. If you have questions or need help with downloading,
contact me at email@example.com
Do you like early 1900's old time blues and slide guitar?
Listen to these tracks for free right here, all this is cigar box guitar music and NO
regular guitars, No singing, NO bands....this music made with only cigar box
guitars. These songs will take you back in time to a time long ago in the past from
the 1880's to the 1920's and 30's. You can relive those long and lost sounds that
were once played on homemade cigar box guitars.
These two albums are also for sale for $14 each and if you want you can download
them so you can listen to them later at work or in the car or walking and on any
digital phone or computer,
Have a listen, ( If you would like to buy them, click on the blue word "buy" )
|Here below is an antique cigar box guitar from the 1930's.
It's made from an "Old Virgina" Cigar Box.
It's a lot of fun to record music at home. You only need a cigar box guitar, a small amp
and some type of hand held recorder or microphone. For an amp, the legendary Pignose
is one of my all time fav's! You can find one at just about any pawn shop or music store.
I also enjoy using cheap and old vintage electronics and playing thru old radios. They
give off this raspy sound that is super awesome.
Did you know you can hack into an old radio and use them as guitar amplifiers?
Have a listen to this simple home recording. Yes, you can do it too!
I am always building new guitars, if you would like to see the new cigar box guitars I
have for sale, email me for the current prices and models at firstname.lastname@example.org
|Yes! In the 1930's even Mickey got his start on the cigar box guitar.
What kinda party would that be with him?
Here is a 2 string cigar box guitar made from an old broom stick and a cigar box.
If you look closely you can tell it was really well made, someone put a lot of
time into building it...perhaps Mickey made it??? Ha Ha