Cigar box guitars are an old American tradition. Since the mid 1860's and up to the early
1950's, it was common for poor people to make their own guitar or stringed instrument out
of used 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.
I have many types of cigar box guitars for sale, email me for the current price list.
|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
Many times people have emailed me and said that just by hearing a cigar box guitar or seeing a
photo of one of these instruments online has helped them find a new direction in life.
Many of these people were coping with serious illness, trauma or some type of sadness. There is
all kinds of people, from military veterans to wayward and lost teenagers, upon hearing the
music cigar box guitars make, it has helped them find a new path or even break out of the
bondage of sadness.
I have seen time and time again the cigar box guitar come into peoples life and led them into a
new hobby and pastime that offers a true sense of inner happiness and healing.
- 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 people discover how easy it is to play a cigar box guitar and create music they never
imagined they could, a new spark of excitement happens in their life.
These guitars are real simple to understand and easy to play. It's very easy to learn how to play
3 string and slide guitar, more on that topic on the following page of this website.
What am I saying with all this babble?
I've spelled out a clear and good reason to NEVER bury your desires or give up on your dreams of
learning to play guitar, Even if you are 75 years old, it is never too late!
|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 engravers print is dated 1865 at the "Siege Of Charleston."
Homemade instruments were popular in many regions and cultures of early 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.
People who were poor just went out and made their own instruments from stuff they found in
their house, shed or barn.
|Just plug in and play!
When I build guitars, I prefer to "old school" strait wire the pickups
...no knobs, no frills...just fun
I'm just trying to declutter my life and also the way I see the world.
I've decided in 2021 to paint my reality in broad brush strokes instead of fine tip pens.
Does that make any sense?
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. Many antique cigar box labels
and brands had really cool art. If you didn't know, tobacco originates from America.
Cigar box guitars are built with just a few basic hand tools that most people already have.
This photo is of my shop table. These guitars are mostly built with screwdrivers, a few drill bits
and some pliers, hand tool odds and ends and a pocket knife. You do not need many tools at all.
On the flip-side, it's kind of liberating if you think about it.
Hey, the body is just a cigar box and already done for you!
That is what's so fun and interesting about cigar box guitars, they are simple by nature.
These guitars can be built using old or used guitar parts or you get creative and make your own
parts with stuff from around your house. If you have read this far you should give it a try, you
should try at least once to make one, you will have a blast.
Well, I am officially at the bottom of the page. I do sell fully built guitars, and also pickups for
your own projects and other cigar box guitar stuff, it's all on the next page.
The current guitars and prices I have for sale are listed at the bottom of the next page.
In the South it's common to hear stories about famous people like Muddy Waters, Lightnin'
Hopkins, Carl Perkins and many other old-time Blues and Country musicians who got their
start by playing a simple homemade cigar box guitar. If you wanted to play guitar and didn't
have any money - you had to build a guitar yourself.
Since the 1860's people of all walks of life have made instruments out of used cigar boxes.
Cigar box guitars are part of the past, but still part of the present.
Even though cigar box guitars have faded into obscurity, some Blues and Rock musicians today still
enjoy playing them for a more vintage and authentic sound in their music.
Listen to this video below. It is a recording of Ry Cooder's song called "Billy The Kid"
It is preformed by Billy Gibbons of ZZ-Top. He is playing a homemade guitar built by Kurt Schoen.
This song is an excerpt from a Mark Maron interview from Youtube of a previously recorded 2015
Podcast. All Copyrights for this material are the property of their respective owners.
What is best for a vintage sound? A 3 string guitar or 4 string guitar?
or, How about a resonator guitar? What's the difference in that type of guitar?
Well, right up front, I can say both a 3 and 4 string guitar 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
need 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
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.
As for the resonator, those guitars were invented and played in the 1920's and 30's
before electric guitars were in use. The strings sit on a bridge that pushes down on the
body of the guitar and it vibrates the center cone when you strum the guitar.
Instant amplification, No electricity needed.
It provides a substantial volume boost when playing acoustically. They are great when
you want to play without an amp, even better as travel guitars or taking with you places
and not needing to bring anything but the guitar.
As far as the tone or "sound" of a resonator, they have a distinct bell like metallic sound.
If you are someone trying to replicate vintage 1920's and 30's music, a resonator cigar
box guitar will ring out in your hands.......and plug one in and they come alive!
In the late 1800's, if you lived in a rural area and you wanted to make music, first you
had to make an instrument. 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.
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 musicians,
that must have been an exciting new world of possibilities.
Making music on a homemade guitar was just old fashioned ingenuity at work.
This video is a very simple recording of a 3 string cigar box guitar.
In this song, 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 closely.
BUT, don't just listen passively, pay attention and also watch where the notes are on the
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.
It's a lot of fun to record music at home. You don't have to be some high level recording
artist or have a lot of expensive gear. You can just pick up these guitars and start
playing and record yourself right away.
Have a listen to this natural acoustic recording, it was made with nothing but an acoustic
cigar box guitar and a hand held recorder sitting on the table in front of me.
|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.
The Electric Guitar Ampilfier - The one piece of the puzzle you don't want to overlook.
Did you know you can hack into the back of many old radios and use them as guitar
Homemade guitar amplifiers built into small radio bodies and other vintage electronics with
speakers is another fun avenue of exploration. It is easier than you think.
To learn more check out the website - radio-guitar-amps.com - on that subject alone.
Vintage electronics have such a raspy and scratchy sound that it gives your music a charm
and rustic vibe of days long ago that modern amps just can't produce.
Long before digital chips took over our lives, it was glass tubes & radio transistors that ruled
Since the 1990's and the invention of online forum and auction sites, these old
homemade guitars have been turning up in many countries around the world.
As attics and barns are searched, lots of new history is uncovered.
It's exciting to see new stuff when it shows up for sale online ...ebay is king for
finding old photos and instruments.
|Have a listen to this old public domain recording from the 1930's.
This is history to your ears.
These old fashion guitars provide a world of recording possibilities.
Let's take a trip into the past...
|Watch this video. Just remember stay on the trail!
- The art was drawn by Dave Lynas, His art is a treasure and so is he!