When I retired a few years ago, one of my goals was to learn to play blues style slide guitar. Having seen examples of cigar box guitars, I thought that building one would be fun and give me a guitar that could be played with a slide. My research led me to the discovery of the rebirth of a craft that began during the Civil War. During the mid 1800’s, most folks were dirt poor and their desire to make music demanded that they build an instrument out of whatever was handy. A cigar box, a broomstick, and wire from a screen door could be fashioned into a musical instrument. The craft has evolved considerably since those days.
There are many cigar box guitar builders around the country who have joined the revolution and make instruments of various styles and quality. I’m inspired by interesting cigar boxes and the beauty of wood and create what I call playable art. It all starts with the box. Then the decision is whether to make the instrument acoustic, include a resonator, or add a magnetic pickup. I choose the wood, then shape the neck, headstock, and fretboard to complement the box. This affects the sound and style as well as overall aesthetics. I thrive on variety and now create ukuleles, mandolins, and banjos, as well as battery-powered amplifiers. It’s exciting to see all of the elements come together organically to become an instrument that can be proudly displayed in someone’s home as a piece of art, or taken down to make music.