What This Country Needs is a Good 5-cent Guitar

Last week Kathy gave me a really great gift: a subscription to MAKE magazine.

MAKE is an amazing magazine that really appeals to the tinkerer in me. It covers making everything under the sun from woodworking to electronics. Every issue is packed with tons of fantastic projects. So, a really awesome feature of the subscription is that you get access to the electronic archives of every issue so far.

I dug in immediately, jumping through a bunch of issues to see what caught my eye. There it was in issue 4: plans for a cigar box guitar. I thought it would be an excellent first MAKE project: simple, cheap, and musical! We went to Home Depot and got everything I would need (except the cigar box which came from a local cigar store). I decided that this guitar would be a practice one, so I skipped both the electronics and the frets.

The assembly was straightforward, and once I had everything laid out and sanded it came together pretty well in just a couple hours. I had a few issues which I want to resolve my next time around:

  • I didn’t read the instructions closely enough and drilled the wrong size holes in the tail, thinking they were the same size as the holes at the other end. Duh. That was the end of that piece of wood. Which brings me to…
  • The second-choice piece of wood I used for the neck was a bit warped from being piled up at Home Depot, resulting in a very high action. So high that I can’t really hit the first half-step on the neck.

It sounds OK, nothing great. I played it through my amp using the SoundChecker I sometimes use with my ukes. I think the sound would be better if I used a bigger cigar box, and ran the neck through it rather than resting on top as the MAKE plans have it.

Next time around I may use the plans at CigarBoxGuitars.com, or CigarBoxGuitar.com, or the Yahoo Cigar Box Guitars Group. Maybe something with real guitar strings and tuning pegs. I’m kind of torn, though. I sort of like the crappy, thrown-together look of the MAKE one.

April 8, 2007 | Posted in: Music, Wood | Comments Closed

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