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

More Moon Pix

Here are two more moon pictures taken during a very brief moment last week when it was both clear and not too cold.

Each picture is actually a composite of 2 photos, which themselves were made by averaging several hundred frames of video. Some time I’d like to do a composite of the enitre moon. I wonder how many images that would require.

The first one shows Mare Crisium on the moon’s eastern limb. The second is centered on Mare Serenitas, which is more toward the north-east-center of the moon. If you want to put these features in context and see much more detailed pictures (or perhaps find out the names of those Mister-Bill looking craters), check out the Full Moon Atlas.

Mare Crisium
Mare Crisium

Mare Serenitas
Mare Serenitas


Friday night, I finally got a band I’ve waited a long time to see: Black Sabbath. Well, they weren’t calling themselves Black Sabbath, they were calling themselves Heaven and Hell (why do I think Sharon Osbourne is somewhere behind that?) but it was Black Sabbath. I had tried to see them last year or the year before at Ozzfest, but they cancelled at the last minute.

I met up with Sean and some guys from nerdnyc.com and we headed in. The security lines were looooong and policies were randomly enforced – one of the nerds had a wallet chain that the security dudes insisted was. not. allowed., but they couldn’t say why or whether the policy was stated anywhere. Of course, once inside we saw people with wallet chains. Whatever.

There was no opening act, which is fine with me – on with the main event! The stage set was just what you’d think it should be – sort of half cemetary and half church.

Dio was on vocals, Tony Iommi on guitar, Geezer Butler on bass and Vinny Appice on drums. Dio was entertaining as always, a little heavy metal elf in a puffy shirt. He had tons of energy, talked to the crowd in between almost every song, and threw many a devil horn. The rest of the band played it cool. No one else said anything even when egged on by Dio. I don’t think they even really moved around.

The band sounded great and Dio’s vocals hit every note. I don’t think they even changed the keys of the songs, which is impressive considering the songs were recorded over 25 years ago. It was a little disappointing that they didn’t do any Ozzy stuff (which they did on Live Evil) but the show was great. Computer God, The Mob Rules, and Heaven and Hell were all standouts for me.

The show was being recorded for a future DVD release. More details, setlist, and photos on Blabbermouth.