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 have a small work shop in Sparks, Nevada. I sell these guitars world wide.
If you would like to buy one of the guitars on this website, email me.
I have many cigar box guitars for sale, my email is firstname.lastname@example.org
|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 next page of this
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!
|If you have always played standard 6 string guitar,
you will enjoy the refreshing change of playing a 3 or 4 string Cigar Box Guitar.
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
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 email@example.com
|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?
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
|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 love Old West and Native American art.
Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org
In the early 1900's it was common to see many street
musicians with a wide variety of cigar box
instruments,homemade violins, cookie tin banjos,
mandolins, cigar box ukuleles and guitars made from old
cigar boxes and reclaimed wood.
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. Music is free!
People who were poor made their own instruments from
old stuff they found in their house, shed or barn.
|Cigar Box Mandolin circa 1930
He's holding that thing with pride.
|Sometimes a little is allot.
A simple and clean "traditional" style cigar
box guitar plays and sounds exactly like
music did a 100 years ago.
Why? ...because it's made like homemade
guitars were a 100 years ago!
email me at email@example.com
|Just plug in and play!
Some guitars I "old school" strait wire the pickups...no knobs, no frills...just fun
It's easy to get a great old time vintage sound.
News flash - It's just a stick running thru a cigar box!
Email me 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.
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.
...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. I cover everything about building 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 is of Ry Cooder's song "Billy The Kid."
It is performed 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.
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 have many vintage themed guitars, email me email@example.com
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.
|Shall I repeat myself? Cigar box guitars are very easy to learn to play.
email me anytime at firstname.lastname@example.org
Here is a homemade multi-track recording using a glass slide and a old
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 because they are both built the same.
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 just jump up to the next
string and there is that same note. The 4 string will just give you an access to a note either
higher or lower up and down the neck at a different position on the neck.
But they both sound and play exactly the same....easy as pie....do you want to try?
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. They are just
hand made and homemade.
There are so many beautiful cigar boxes and ideas that can be brought to life.
I also make and sell Tobacco and Americana Cigar Box Guitar pickups for your own
projects. They are easy to add to any homemade guitar.
If you build cigar box guitars and would like to add a vintage and unique look 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 email@example.com
In the late 1800's, homemade guitars were usually just simple crude instruments
that usually 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 cigar box guitar was just old fashioned ingenuity at work.
|Padron 1926 4-string guitar
You don't need to be a great guitar player to play a 3 string guitar. They are
super easy to learn to play!
Let me mail you one today. I can mail you a guitar any where in the World.
email me at firstname.lastname@example.org
The guitar above is from the early 1900's. It's 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. Imagine the
wonderful music it must have made!
This video above 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" of the background notes.....can't forget, and 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 try to image where the notes are on the
fretboard, you will hear this is a real simple and easy to play type of music.
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 2 months!