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Right around the year 1840 cigar makers switched over from shipping cigars in large crates to smaller boxes of 20-50 cigars. And just as swiftly as that change was made, the amateur luthiers set to work making guitars from these resonant, little boxes of tobacco.
Fast forward to present day and your house is littered with them. You’ve made shelves out of them. You’ve used them for cacti and succulents. You’ve used them as picture frames. You’ve given them to your wife for her jewelry, makeup, and seemingly endless supply of knickknacks. Or you haven’t done any of those things. Either way it’s time to create the coolest incarnation of the DIY cigar box project and it’s not nearly as hard as you think. Here are 8 reasons why you should get off your ass and into the tool shed.
In between puffing and pondering, there’s always room for a simple, sweet melody. Why not develop a new, skill. You can be as lazy or diligent about it as you want.
Is your toolkit still nestled inside the cellophane? Liberate that hammer and pliers and get some battle scars. Building something with your bare hands is one of the most satisfying things you can do and it will help you retain your “man card”.
There’s been quite a bit of research in this area and it shows that playing music can improve vocabulary, motor skills, and nonverbal reasoning skills, among other benefits. Playing music has been described by neuroscientists as “a full-body workout for the brain”. So while you may not be hitting the treadmill as much as you’d like, at least you can exercise that gray lump of meat between your ears while you puff away.
Remember when you bought an acoustic guitar, tried really hard to make your fingers fit in between those teenie-tiny, little frets, got nothing but a buzzing sound and promptly gave up? Cigar box guitars are usually played with a slide, a metal or plastic cylinder you slide onto your finger. So there’s no need to attempt any painful finger-yoga. Simply slide the tube up and down the strings and you have all your chords right there.
Aside from choosing your favorite cigar brand’s box to be the body, there’s an infinite of options when it comes to making this kind of guitar more personal. A quick Google Images search will yield some interesting inspiration. Use a miniture Jack Daniels bottle for the bridge? Why not?!
It’s true that these guitars are heavily tied to blues and folk music, but at the end of the day an instrument is an instrument. It’s got the same 12 notes as any other and with the plethora of teachers and tutorials on Youtube, you’re sure to figure out how to play a few of your favorite tunes.
Technology is great and all, but do you ever get a little tired of always seeing everyone walk around with their heads glued to a screen? Much like cigar smoking, playing a cigar box guitar is a simple pleasure, a relaxing escape from the complexities of the modern world.
The first people to start making these weren’t master craftsmen; they were just people with little resources and a desire to play guitar. Don’t overcomplicate it and just go for it. Carnegie Hall will be there when you’re ready.
So now that your eyes are shifting feverishly from this article to that big, resonant, aching-to-be-transformed cigar box in the corner of your room, you ask, “How do I do it?” Below you’ll find a few resources to get started. Soon enough you’ll be out on the porch, cigar in mouth, guitar in hand, howling at the moon.
–How to Build a Cigar Box Guitar for Around $25: This is a good, quick, 5-part series that will give you the basics of building a simple, acoustic guitar (with optional upgrades).
–CigarBoxGuitar.com: If you’d like to go further down the rabbit hole, this site has a multitude of resources.
–CBGitty.com: This should cover all of you guitar part needs. Everything else can be found at the hardware store.
If you’re pressed for time or are just a stickler for authenticity, you can try to make one the way they used to in times of old: a cigar box, a broomstick, and a few strands of wire from the screen door. Bonus points if you go the extra mile and make a washtub bass.