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
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
Cigar box guitars are part of the past,  but still part of the present.

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
to play.
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
this website.

What about you? Where do you stand in life?  I have heard all kinds of stories of great happiness
by playing a cigar box guitar. From veterans to retired people looking for a new direction in their
life, when people see or hear one of these homemade guitars 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!
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
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?
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
or barn.
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 these Old Timer guitars I build I prefer to "old school" strait wire the pickups 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
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 this 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 on 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."

Those humble beginnings of slide and early Blues are what eventually gave this little known
instrument a home in music history. 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
It wasn't long after the invention of the portable "cigar box" in the 1860's that people figured
out that they were the perfect size and shape to make a great sounding instrument. This
tradition of making and playing a homemade guitar from an old or used cigar box continued
from the late 1800's 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 cigar box guitars have faded into obscurity,
some Blues and Rock musicians still enjoy playing them today.
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.
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.
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 guitar below is a homemade 2 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. If you look closely you
can tell it was really well made, someone put a lot of time into building it.
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 yeah, 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!
Here 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 cigar box guitar music at home. You only need 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 cheap electric 1970's 3 string guitar and amp combo
Press play and watch this video below - Art by Dave Lynas

Just remember, stay on the trail!
The Old Timer Cigar Box Guitar.  This is perhaps my trademark guitar or the one
that I am most fond of. It's my most popular guitar that I make and sell.
I make it in many different ways and colors, but it's always the same - a worn and
weathered 3 string cigar box guitar with the Old Timer cigar box label art etched
into the pickup cover. This art is original hand drawn art that I custom etch into the
pickup cover.
If you would like one of these guitars   email me at
Cigar box guitars are super fun to play! ...have a listen
Email me at
I can send you a list of current guitars that are for sale
Email me and I can mail you a guitar anywhere in the world!
email me at john@reddogguitars and I will send you a list of my current guitars for sale.
Rover plays a Red Dog...and so can you!
Email me at
Would you like to hear a recording of some old fashioned acoustic cigar box guitar?
No amp, no electricity, and nothing fancy
...just a microphone recording right in front of a 3 string cigar box guitar.
Have a listen
Old Sepia Photo circa 1890

Charlie Christian, Muddy Waters and even the great Lightnin' Hopkins,
They all played the cigar box guitar.
Here is a short video that will take you back to farm life along time ago.
             Look familiar?

During the 1950's and 60's, there were lots of How to build your own Cigar Box
Amplifier "how-to's" in magazines and books.
Homemade guitar amplifiers built into cigar boxes, small radio bodies and other
vintage electronics is another fun avenue of exploration.
It is easier than you think!    - check out

The short history of the Pignose is that it was just a simple homemade amp
made into a small old cologne box using old radio parts....
and as they say the rest is history!
Listen to this short video of a 3 string cigar box guitar played thru a Pignose.

This is an analog recording, there is NO digital effects or pedals used. It's just a guitar plugged
into a Pignose amp and recorded naturally in the open air.
( Guitar > Amp > into a hand held microphone >
placed about 4 inches in front of the speaker )
's all there is. It's ruff, raw, and a simple form of music anyone can make at home.

recording is really just open strings ringing out, and then sliding a glass slide a little bit here
and there on the strings.
I just let the unique sound of the guitar and the amp WORK for me.
I let the natural sound of the open strings "fill the music background," and give a fullness to the
recording.  In fact, you don't need to play too much or too many notes to achieve this style of
music...this is a super simple form of music anyone can learn.
With a little practice anyone CAN play a three string cigar box guitar and sound great!  
If you would like to see the current list of cigar box guitars I have for sale email me at
Let's take a rusty ride into the past!
It's Lo-fidelity analog at its best...have a listen
I have guitars for sale  email me at
Here is a soldier with his homemade cigar box mandolin, and check out his friend too!
I do have guitars for sale on the next page - or email me at
Old homemade guitars turn up all the time in many countries. As attics and
barns are searched,  history is uncovered when people find antique cigar box
instruments of all types around the world.
It's exciting to see new stuff when it shows up for sale in flea markets and
online ...ebay is king for finding old photos and instruments.
Russian soldiers in World War One - 1917 with homemade guitars
This photo is from Jacksonville Florida 1891
Something old and something new......
Something fancy and something blue!