Hi, my name is John McNair. This is a website about Homemade guitars, Cigar box & 3 string guitars, Cookie tin banjos, and all things made by people like yourself who have decided building and playing homemade instruments is so much more rewarding than buying "name" brand guitars.

Come back often and enjoy reading the new daily stories with your morning coffee or whenever you need a spark of inspiration. I post here almost every day with historic photos and the latest stories of these wonderful homespun instruments.

Also, Give the photos time to load on your screen, some of the photos are huge, I wanted to display them nicely, so some will take time to load on your computer.

You can also add your email to the list and get emailed with the latest stories strait to your email inbox.

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Birds of a feather.....

Hey, one guy's not flocking!!!!




Someone's got his homemade cigar box "twang thing" ....we know what he is thinking about!
 Sweet shot from World War One 1917.

Three-string Thursday


Another project comes to an end. Time to clean up the shop, hose down the floors, organize the shelves and to start thinking about what's next in the creative pipeline...but till then, time to have a little fun and enjoy playing this guitar before I have to put it up for sale.

more than meets the eye

There's something awfully curious about this photo...I can't quite place my finger on it, but I'll let you know when I figure it out!


Couple of soldiers from Belgium 1918. Termoking we salute you!

Victory Guitar Pickups

Today I would like to share with you cigar box guitar pickups that are both ultra low and easy to install on your guitar. They are also really cool with vintage art and hand lettering that makes your guitar have that homemade Americana feel and touch.

Would you like to know more???

I knew you would!.....or better yet, I knew you wood!




These pickups are made by my friend Wade at Victory Guitars and he is the same pickup maker that I posted about awhile back who also makes 60's style Gold Foil pickups, only this time he's taken his creativity to an all new level of awesomeness.
Check out these few hand drawn examples,


Are you still with me??? I bet your droolin' over these photos just like I am!

These pickups are made from cigar box tops and as you can see, the pickup itself that is hidden below is barley any bigger than the thickness of a cigar box lid. I love this concept and I know at first glance anyone can visualize a cool guitar just with the fact of putting one of these on.



Look how thin and low!

Victory Guitar pickups are just perfect for cigar box guitars with neck thru construction, hardly no notching into the neck, now that's both cool and easy work with.
For those that want more info and where to buy them, you can see them here at this link,
https://reverb.com/shop/victory-guitars

Ok folks, carry on with your day and I hope this info helps the person out there who wants to add a pickup to their cigar box guitar with a pickup that has just the right mix of homemade Americana, and ease of use to install, this is the perfect guitar pickup for you!.....remember the name "Victory Guitars Pickups."

Trendsetting is my buisness!

Check out this World War 1 French soldier from 1916 with his hand made canteen guitar, he seems to think it's worth a pose....and so do I!

I can only imagine what's going thru his mind? We should have a "caption this" contest : )

The Country Life


 Imagine this,

It's the 1890's, you live deep in the heart of the South,  you'r just sitting in an old creeky rocking chair on the front porch of your cabin just strummin' a homemade cigar box guitar while the beautiful breeze blows thru your hair.......the farm work is done, Ma's in the kitchen cookin' supper with biskets made from scratch, all is peaceful in the fields as the afternoon shade finally cools off the land......and while you wait, the kids are playing in the yard...the chores are done, it's time to relax....those sweet jangles coming from your homemade guitar make your ears smile and take away all the worries on your mind...

Now that's the Country Life!

Ok, so I'm being a bit "too literal" but here's a real "Country Life" cigar box guitar that I found for sale on ebay today, yes, made from an old country life cigar box!

How cool is this sweet piece of history!

Hey, did you remember to feed the chickens?

Reso-Phonic Reso-Fever

I am just Coo-Coo for kooky cones!
I really am, I just can't get enough of that jangly sound and twang they put out. For me they have the best timber and feeling when I play. Old Lowe hand spins resonator cones that when added to a simple cigar box, they create such a wonderful instrument to play.

Hopefully I am not posting too much about the same thing, resonators over and over, it's just that every time I build a guitar with one of Mike's cones... as soon as I am done I want to make another, they are absolutely fun to build and even funner to play!
Have a listen and watch this video, you can see and hear my newest guitar, a Radiola 3 string cigar box guitar made with an Old Lowe aluminum cone,

 
 
If you are on the fence about trying to make one, give it a try, it's worth the extra effort,
I promise you will have a blast researching and learning how to build your own reso-phonic guitar,
.... you'll also have a dynamite good time playing it!
 
 

March 1916

Check out this old photo of a cigar box instrument. This is another of a long line of World War 1 photos that cigar box guitar builder "Termoking" has found over in Europe. I have not keep count but I think he has found about 15 or 20 different examples with soldiers and their homemade instruments.

I have posted before on this site, "I wish I could hear it" or "I wonder what it sounds like?"....but the truth is we kinda know what it sounds like. Strum just about any cigar box guitar and you too will know just what this instrument in this photo sounded like....and that's pretty dang cool, keeping history alive!


Top Secret - Burn Notice upon reading

To all my cigar box guitar spies in the trenches,

This is a message for your eyes only!...Burn after reading, do not let this info fall in the hands of Fender.
HA! OK, just a little morning fun.

Everybody always asks me about the single string bridges on the Delta Tramp or the three string guitars I make, so I will post info here so you know what parts to buy if you want to try to build one (you can also make them with bent brass or steel) To see examples visit reddogguitars.com
or here is a quick shot of one,



First thing's first, they are NOT bass bridges, they look similar, but they are much smaller and made for guitar strings, they are not for basses.

They are called "ABM single string guitar bridges," they are sold at allparts.com
They are also available on ebay ( from time to time) . They are top load, meaning the string slips in from the back, super easy to add to a guitar and they are great as you can make the guitar string widths in any size or distance.
The drawback is they are about 30 bucks each, yes!!!! 90 dollars per guitar....they are pricey, but..it is what it is, and I can tell you worth every penny.


Second option is the Hipshot solo,

These are only 19 bucks each, and they are body thru, (same as a standard hard tail)
If you study the photo, you can see that you can in fact make these yourself with home depot "L brackets"
 Believe it or not that's all I do for those old school Delta Tramp guitars I make, I just use the brass curtain brackets and drill my own holes, I polish them and add black saddles, that's it. You only need to cut off one side of the bracket and then drill small holes to add a saddle and one small hole under the saddle itself to slip the string thru, remember these are NOT top load as there is no room, so you do need to come up thru the back of the guitar to load the string.
Other than that, just look at the photos, there are easy enough to make from brackets at home depot.

 
Well, that's it, DO NOT let this info fall in the hands of the enemy, you have your burn notice!

Take a step back in time...

Check out this amazing cigar box guitar performance. The guitar player is Kyle Reid and his playing really captures that Old Time Delta Blues sound.
If you want to learn to play great 3 string guitar, he puts on a clinic for sure, just watch, study and listen, there is so much to learn just by listening and watching this video. I promise you will be left speechless.

Check this video out and put on some headphones, listen to details, it's all in the delivery


The Five Cent Smoker

I was working in the shop today and this idea came to me for a cigar box guitar pickup.


It's a ruff draft first impression of a cigar brand from the 1920's but with my own spin on the box top art, This could make a great 3 string guitar pickup cover for a cigar box resonator guitar called "Cinco."



Homemade Cigar Box Guitar Amplifers




This is perhaps the best How to build a cigar box amplifier video I have ever seen. If you want to learn how to build homemade guitar amplifiers this covers it all. This is a true build along tutorial starting from absolute scratch.

The interesting 20 minute video breaks everything down, from the parts, pieces, resistors, caps, soldering to the motherboard, every single up close step by step on how to build every nook and cranky to make a simple yet great sounding and unique amplifier made from a used cigar box.

This is a really interesting video and so well put together, watch it, I'm sure you'll want to give it a try!

Singing the Blues with Earl ‘Guitar’ Williams

I would like to share a story with you an incredible cigar box guitar player I found in an online newspaper today.
 His tone and sound is amazing!


 
 
Video by Max Shores
Guitar made by Johnny Lowebow
 
 
Story written by Susan Mann Pell City Library St. Clair News-Aegis
                                   
Blues lovers and music aficionados are in for a treat at the Pell City Library on Wednesday, Feb 18 at noon. Blues musician Earl “Guitar” Williams is headed this way, and he’s toting his guitar. Not just any guitar, mind you. While the instrument originated as a King Edward cigar box, it has graduated to bigger and better things. In Williams’ hands, it might as well be a Martin or Alvarez. Don’t be surprised if he brings along his harmonica and his electric guitar, too.
You might find yourself humming and singing along as this fun-loving musician works the crowd with his special magic, and a passion for music that began at the tender age of 7 years ol Williams’ is a story of a young man with a dream and great determination. Spurred by the love of music and the desire to play the guitar, a boy from Bessemer overcame incredible odds to follow his dream. He loved music and often listened to and admired the songs by Roy Rogers, Ricky Nelson and Elvis Presley. He was especially fascinated by the guitar accompaniment and began to ask his parents to purchase one for him. He was one of nine children, and though they recognized his interest, his parents simply could not afford to buy him one. However, this dream was not easily deterred.
When Williams discovered that Bo Didley had made his own guitar from a cigar box, he fashioned one for himself as well with a King Edward cigar box, a broomstick and a little fishing cord. It was the beginning of his musical career, and the rest, as they say, is history.
                                                                                                                                                                             At the age of 9, Williams befriended Raleigh and Joe Redmond. These brothers owned an acoustic guitar, and as they gathered on the Redmond’s back porch to practice various songs, the noise began to sound like “real music.” Meanwhile, just two blocks away, near the home of Henry Gipson, another plan was taking place. Mr. Gip” recognized a need in the community, and began to clear land near his home for the children of the community to play baseball. As children gathered to play ball, Williams found his interest diverted instead to the guitars on “Mr. Gip’s” porch and the men that often played there. He found himself returning again and again to watch seasoned guitarists such as Louis Franklin, Willie “Dude” Franklin, Little Bro Franklin, and Mr. Gip himself. He longed to play acquire their skill. Fortunately, neighbors “Bunkie Boy” and Eugene Patton, both proficient guitarists, allowed Williams to shadow them, and took the time to teach him their techniques.
Williams also frequented a local pawn shop where other players, who noted Williams’s interest and taught him to tune the guitar and make chords. Eventually, by the age of 12, Williams landed his first job as a shoeshine boy in the rear of a barber shop, earning 20 cents per customer. From his meager earnings he purchased his first authentic guitar. By the age of 13 he had his first gig with a band called The Corruptors, playing the blues and the sounds of Motown. They performed for and were well received by adult audiences, though they were too young to go out into the audience during break.
Williams continued play with various bands, even into adulthood, balancing work at U.S. Steel with performance opportunities locally and across the United States. He eventually took a leave of absence from U.S. Steel to work for a time with musicians in Dallas, playing with the band Justice of the Peace. Later, returning to U.S. Steel in Birmingham, he began playing with legendary jazz great, Cleve Eaton in the Garden of Eden Band. During this time, he developed an interest in the harmonica as well, and under Eaton’s tutelage learned the theory of blues, and a better understanding of blues harmonica. He began to add the harmonica to his music, strengthening his sound, and notoriety. He also began to write music, sounding out his troubles.
 When laid off from U.S. Steel in the mid-1980s, music became William’s survival as his traveled with circuit blues legend Benny Latimore, playing in the KALU band. He also became Latimore’s personal hair stylist when, by chance, his talents became evident. Once back in Birmingham, Williams decided to seek further training in hair styling and enrolled in the School of Cosmetology. After graduation, he decided to quit touring, and to open his own hair studio, Intensive Care Beauty Salon in Bessemer.
Now, more than 23 years later, he continues to run his salon, but he still plays with Benny Latimore, and other artists when they are in the area, and he often returns to Mr. Gip’s Juke Joint where he started his musical journey.

Miku from Poland

 

Check out this awesome short documentary about homemade guitars built by Miku in Poland.

This is so dang cool!...I just love where he says "I'd rather use a fork than some hi-tec instrument part" and that he likes to make his cigar box guitars primitive for the challenge of it, this is such a great video. In fact we get to watch him make the coolest bridge from an old fork!
*Note to self* Time to raid the kitchen drawer when my wife's not looking :-)

Take a moment and watch this video, you will really get inspired to head out in your gargare and see what kind of homemade guitars you can dream up with those old scraps, bits and pices of left over parts of yester-year.

Papa, is it fixed yet?


Found this photo of some guy working on his radio at home. There was a time in the past long before our modern "throw-away society" if you wanted it fixed you had to do it yourself.
Everyone who enjoys making homemade stuff has had a project or two "frazzle" them out ...but this poor fellow had one of his family members run off and grab the camera....Priceless!

That's OK good buddy, we've all be there...some far too many times to admit!

Saturdays & The Sunday Blues

It's Saturday, today I was in the shop all day today. I finished a Top Shelf pickup and took some photos of it.

I'm tired and board now tonight and just sitting here looking at todays pictures on the computer and listening to 80's music, yeah , I am....but on the flipside....I can't wait till tomorrow, I'm gonna start building on some new stuff, to bad the mailman don't come on Sundays, I am waiting to rip into some guitar parts and packages that I ordered last week.....I bet you can relate?!?
  ...you order stuff for your next build----your next "great idea"....your new source of inspiration in your own private mind----a new guitar in your vision, it's finally time and clear as to what and how your going to do it,  you thought the whole process out, you just now need the parts to start!!!

------ and then just to wait by the window like a lonesome old house cat.

If only that mailman would just show up on Sundays.


Benny B And his CBG

Whooa! Fair warning, you are about to have your butt blasted out of your seat and handed back to you!

This is just a strait up INCREDIBLE performance!
WoW!!!

Watch this video, Not only is the guitar off the hook, but when you hear the singing....Lift off!!!
I suggest headphones for the full awesomeness  ;-)


The first intro part is in French, but the song is in English, Watch it all the way thru, it's really AMAZING!!!

Retired farmer turns odds and ends into guitars

86 years young and building cigar box guitars!
 This is what I love about American Tradition and Homemade guitars, good folks like Levoy Saltzman.. He is one of America's "Greatest Generation." I would love to spend an afternoon in his workshop, heck I would love for him to be my Grandpa! So much wisdom and interesting topics he could pass on to those that would want to listen.

Anyways, This awesome story came up in a local newspaper from Shickley, Nebraska



 Lincoln Journal Star-- Levoy Saltzman stands in his living room and strums a strange-looking guitar.
He belts out the first few verses of "This Land is Your Land" and then a gospel song.
"I play mostly in the key of C because it matches my voice," said the 86-year-old retired farmer and carpenter who lives in the Fillmore County town of Shickley.
He made the guitar from a cigar box and odds and ends scavenged from yard sales, auctions and music stores. Friends and family members pick up the boxes here and there and give them to Saltzman, or he buys them at a tobacco shop in Hastings.
He doesn't smoke, but he knows what type of cigar boxes work best for his homemade guitars. Wood boxes have a better sound, but it's hard to find them in the right size, so he likes to use deep ones made from cardboard and paper.
"They all have just a little bit of a different sound because of the size of the box and the way it resonates," Saltzman said.Everything about his guitars is simple.He cuts the necks from the leaves of oak dining tables. Oak doesn't warp easily, Saltzman explained, and table leaves are cheaper to buy than new wood from a lumber yard.
He makes the top bridges from 3/8-inch diameter bolts, which guide the guitar strings. He buys the bolts long and cuts them to fit wide or narrow necks.Saltzman fashions the lower bridges out of plastic toothbrushes -- not the fancy curved ones but ones with straight handles.
He makes frets from sixpenny nails with the heads and points cut off, and he buys used string tighteners from music stores.Saltzman has made 14 cigar box guitars this year and sells them at local craft fairs."I really can't make them fast enough. I'm all out," he said.The acoustic version costs $50. He sells an electric model guitar for $60.
"You can drive somebody out of the room when you plug it into an amplifier," said Saltzman, who uses a Piezo buzzer as a pickup to magnify the guitar's sound.
He finds the large button-like devices in the handles of old rotary dial telephones that were common during the 1960s. Saltzman hooks the buzzer wires to a jack that he glues to the inside of a cigar box.
Sometimes he dresses up a guitar by placing gold-colored grommets around the circles he drills into a cigar box lid, so the sound can escape. He also uses other types of wood as decoration.
Saltzman began playing guitar about five years ago and said it took him a day or two to get the hang of it. He also plays harmonica and button accordion.
He began making cigar box guitars after reading a magazine article about a man from the Grand Island area who made them as a hobby. Saltzman thought he'd give it a try and did some research on the Internet.Now, he makes them in his garage, spending about 15 hours on each instrument.
Making guitars out of ordinary things is nothing new, Saltzman said. During the 1920s and '30s when money was scarce, people made them out of all sorts of boxes. They even used metal wash tubs to make stand-up basses.
"A lot of folks say they have not seen them before," he said of his cigar box creations. "The musicians know what they are, but a lot of people don't."Saltzman used to take along a cigar box guitar when he and his late wife, Norma, performed at nursing homes. She played the piano accordion and keyboards.He still plays and sings occasionally, including a June performance at Rock Creek Trail Days near Fairbury.
"I like music," Saltzman said, when asked why he makes his cigar box guitars.
Certainly, it's not for the money. The price of the guitars doesn't include his labor.
"I need something to do. I can't go out and build a house anymore ... I have to work with my hands," Saltzman said.

Reach the writer at 402-473-7243 or alaukaitis@journalstar.com.
December 25, 2014 5:00 pm  •  By ALGIS J. LAUKAITIS / Lincoln Journal Star

A day in my Cigar Box Workshop



Wonder what a typical day is like in my shop?
Come along with me and watch this video of me and my shop helper build some cool stuff.
For me, the most important thing in my shop is having fun and spending time with my family!






Not to long ago, I saw this little red 1952 Arvin radio body on ebay for just 10 bucks so I snached up faster than greesed lightin'.....I knew at 10 bucks, it would work great as it was empty and blank canvas that I could build it with an amplifier kit for cheap and also a great way to have a lot of fun.


I have also been working at hand stamping CD covers they way people printed in the early 1900's. I have been learning how to use wood block printing. It's a lot of work, But I enjoy sending people cigar box guitar music cd's with the wraping hand drawn and hand stamped. It's a lot of fun and rewarding to do it the way it was done in the past.
If you would like a copy of this Music CD I can mail you one anywhere in the world.


 
 
This music recorded on this CD album is all Blues cigar box guitar. It has both modern and vintage styles, recorded with radio guitar amps, tube amps and some tracks were recorded unplugged. Instead of me trying to explain the music, in the video below is a song on this CD of me playing a Bottleneck Blues song, it's an all natural recording, no effects or high dollar guitars used.
 Just a simple cigar box guitar



   You often here people say, if you want to play great guitar you need to listen to great guitar players, that's the quickest way to learn, that's how I did it.
Listening is learning, and it's fun! NO regular guitars, NO singing to obstruct the songs of the vintage music of homemade cigar box guitars on this album.

Well, enough chatter, If its not for you, thanks for your time, you can still enjoy the video above.

 If you would like me to mail a copy, you can click the Buy it Now button below, it will take you to pay pal and you can order it, Or you can see all my CD albums here at this webpage,
click here
Cigar Box Music CDs and How to play DVDs for sale

Thanks again, I tried to redcord music that was authentic and would send the listener back in time to the early 1900's. The CD cover is hand printed and the music is home recorded and I can mail it anywhere in the world for 2.15, yes anywhere in the world!
click here to order this CD

~Cigar Box Jukes~ Cigar Box Guitar Music CD


14.65 USD
shipping worldwide $2.15 USD
14.65 + 2.15=16.80
yes! shipping anywhere in the world same price, 2.15

Shipping in the USA (8 to 12 days) First Class Mail
Overseas & Worldwide (14 to 21 days) Stamped "Air-Mail

If you have questions about this CD
 or any of my How to Play or How to build cigar box guitar DVDs
 
 

Today is Two'fer Thurdays

I'll let Little Creaser's have 2'fer Tuesdays, they claim there selling "pizza" but I beg to differ!...If we were talking, I'd have to put that in air quotes. Unless you've had one of those real hand made artisan pies cooked in a wooden & brick stove, I reserve the right to use both the word "pizza" and "two'fer" for the more deserving!

So Check out the 2 items I have to deliver in today's news feed.

The first is Jenna Leigh Doll playing a Handmade Cigar Box Guitar, this is fantastic music and playing. Not only can she really play great, but she made the guitar herself!

Watch this video, This is as cool as it gets!

 
 
 
Sam'l F. Davis 1886
 
Recently I had a day with nothing to do while I was waiting for paint to dry. So I pulled out the camera and had some fun at photography and just wanted to see what kind of black and white photos I could create. I knew right away that I wanted to shoot photos of a vintage wooden Sam'l F. Davis 1886 homemade cigar box guitar. These cigar boxes have such and iconic and rustic look.
 
 
 
 These old cigar boxes are always for sale on ebay. They are not rare or hard to find. Best part is they are solid cedar wood and make great instruments. They can be found in the under 20-ish dollar range and can lead your building in 2 directions, you can build an instrument with the snarly old beat up boxes for a vintage look, or buy the well cared for boxes for a few dollars more and make your build clean and simple.
Well, here is the black and white photo art I came up with, my camera has a setting where it removes the color for an old time look, it called monochrome and looks pretty dang cool.
 


December 7th 1941

I am always looking for vintage cigar boxes on Ebay and awhile back I saw this cigar box for sale and I had never seen one before with this branding and thought this would be great to share at the right time.

I guess a day we will never forget is the best day to show a little pride!

God Bless our Veterans from the "Greatest Generation" and a super duper Thanks for the ones who are serving overseas today and protecting us. Here's to you!


No information was listed with the auction for this box, it ended up selling for 11.99.... still about as cool as it gets!

On the Flip-Side, if you need something to spark up your cigar, how about these vintage matchboxes.

Anyone in particular that catches your eye?

Back In Time

This is one of my fav-o-rite cigar box guitar bands out right now. Matt Isbell, Josh Roberts and Preston McEwen, performing artist of the - Ghost Town Trio- really nail this old time sound.

Better than a sweet sugary bowl of Cocca Puffs...watch this video and prepare your ears for some Old time Blues Slide guitar... watch this video NOW, you will love it!


 
 

It's Radio-active!




I figured I'd share another super neat guitar amplifier from my recording arsenal. This is one of my personal all time favorite guitar amplifiers. Best of all it matches my Rodney Fruits Las Cabrillas guitar. This old radio is a 1948 Philco "Flying Wedge" AM Radio that I converted into a guitar amplifier and then added an FM radio channel on it to enjoy listening to while working.

 I just love to look at it, so I do keep it in view and try to use it as much as possible either as a radio or to play guitar thru as an "Atomic"guitar amp.

I have a website that explains how to convert just about any old radio into a guitar amplifier,
visit the site here sometime to learn more,
http://www.radio-guitar-amps.com/

It's super fun and rewarding to bring an old radio back to life.  Give it a try, it's also a lot cheaper than actually buying an amplifier and these old radios just sound so dang cool!

 

The Player's best friend

If you would like to learn a cool way to make your cigar box or homemade guitar look like it's a vintage well played road worn instrument, there are several ways to get that "old time" used look, but here below is perhaps the easiest method I've ever seen.

This is a simple recipe that my friend Bill Baker used to make this gorgeous guitar body.




This is an easy to follow and fun recipe that only has a few steps.

It is a homemade "Steel Wool & Vinegar Stain"

You'll only need a few things,

1. Vinegar
2. Steel wool
3  A glass jar
4  A paint brush

You can use any vinegar. In this example white was used, but Apple Cider vinegar would be a little darker and Balsamic Vinegar darker still.  As you can see however the White resulted in a near-black stain.

Use real steel wool, not the scouring pad kind.

Caution, do not cap tightly or leave on your kitchen table.

To prepare:
 Shred up one wad of steel wool and put in glass jar.  Add about a cup of vinegar.
 If left indefinitely the steel wool will disintegrate. During the process of the build in the photo above, Bill prepared 2 jars. One the steel wool was removed after 5 hours.  The other after several days.
Less time will be more clear. More time will create more a rusty looking and cloudy effect.

 In this process, the iron in the steel wool reacts with the vinegar. The iron oxide reacts with Acetic Acid to produce Iron Acetate.  This reacts ultimately with tannins in the wood when you brush it on. Different woods contain different amounts of Tannin.
 Some recommend diluting the solution with more vinegar as it ages as the chemical process can continue and the solution get stronger. It also needs to be strained to remove particles.

 Application:
I suggest you try it first on a piece of scrap but similar wood to your guitar.
It is like brushing on water, it's very thin. It will not penetrate varnished or finished wood. Some sanding may be in order. In the above cigar box example, it had a varnish coat from the cigar factory. So some sanding was done before the homemade stain was applied.  As happens on a lot of projects,  the sanding missed some low areas and when stain is applied that's what give its a really interesting light and dark distressed look as well.  The effect was visible in only minutes after application.

***Wear gloves or you'll look like you have been picking blackberries all day.

   It can be applied with a brush or a rag and it goes on thin.  It dries in only a few hours and can be sanded afterwards if you feel it should be. 

If you want to protect your weathered stain look, you can coat it with varnish, or clear. In this project, Tung Oil was used the same afternoon and buffed after a few hours.  Sanding will remove some of the stain, but the piece should be smooth when you apply tung oil or any type or protecting layer.

 Well, that's it, that's the easy as pie homemade Vinegar & Steelwool stain....sounds fun huh???..so, what are you waiting on?.....give it a try!

Antique Cookie Tin Banjo & Cigar Box Guitar




Check out these two old homemade instruments that came up for auction recently in Chicago. The first one is of a 1920's cookie tin banjo. It's a fretless banjo and appears to have been a well playing and well made instrument for its time.
Boy would I love to string this up and have a plucky twangin' of a good time!

I bet this instrument really played well when it was made, it is made with the same quality that homemade banjo makers are doing today. Look at the simple build it follows, yet the sturdiness that its made with. This was a players instrument.


1920's Cookie Tin Banjo
 
The other instrument that came up for sale was an old cigar box guitar. It is a painted Red Lions cigar box that is a 6 string guitar. It looks like a lot of effort was put into it, but if you look close the frets were just cut at even lengths or random spots. It probably gave the make a headache when he first strung it up and couldn't get it to play in tune!
But it's so wonderful to see ingenuity and necessity at work. This person probably didn't even have access to even see another guitar when they attempted this build, otherwise they would have not cut the frets randomly. That's a sign it was probably made without the builder being able to view the neck of another guitar as a "model" while building. It had to be made by someone who just really wanted to play guitar and had no other choice but to try to make one with what they had available and by memory...and that's testament of the do-it-yourself attitude that can be dated back to the birth of America. If you don't have it, make it with what you have available.
Antique Cigar box Guitar

3 string Cigar Box Guitar

This is a PHENOMENAL PERFORMACE!

 ....wowzers! Not only has this song and guitar "got that tone," but the singing, song, and overall performance is just increadible.

Instead of me yammering about how amazing it is, how about let's watch it, I am so positive it will make you want to reach over and grab your own 3 string and better you own music playing, I know you'll watch this video many times. There is so much to learn by watching this video. He makes it look so easy and graceful and his singing will blast you out of your seat.

So, here is Brooks Williams' version of the traditional song "Sitting On Top Of The World"

1948 Sears Silvertone "Candy Cane" Radio Guitar Amplifier



Tis' the season!

Ok, not quite yet? Christmas is still aways away, but it's never to early for a Candy Cane!

Well, I am still having a lot of fun building homemade resonator guitars using the "Old Lowe" reso cones and covers. So I thought I would post some eye candy for you....I think it's safe to use that term : )
I get emails all the time about the reso cones I use and I tell everyone, if you want to build a great sounding and easy to put together cigar box guitar, Old Lowes cones are great because they will hold itself up on the box top because the cone has a lip, it's hard to explain, unless one is in your hand, but even a first time builder can make a great guitar on your first try. They are so easy and fun to build with.
Check out this video,


You can buy these cones directly from the maker, The are made in a small workshop in Rockwall, Texas by Mike Lowe. He is also a incredible guitar builder himself. He help put rustic Americana on the map!
You can cantact him directly, here is his email, he can ship it anywhere in the world!

email him, from any country, he will ship and mail you these parts anywhere

oldlowe@yahoo.com

If you want some parts, he has cones, covers, F -hole beauty rings, tail pieces and bridges in both brass and aluminum, Just email him and say "hey I saw your stuff and I would like to build some reso guitars" he is the maker of all these parts you see all over the internet and can sell it cheaper than buying it anywhere else. No Matter if you only want one cone or a stack of them, email him.

If you prefer to buy it on ebay or online you can find them on ebay also for a few dollars more. Ben Baker from C.B. Gitty stocks them for Mike, either way. I can't speak highly enough about these great guitar parts.

Plus they are made in Rockwall Texas by a good old fashioned hard working craftsman, How cool is that!



Trading Places

I've got my mind on "that twang"...and that twang on my mind!


I have posted similar photos to this before, but I found this one in really great shape. It's from the mid 1950's and was a taken from a short series of "Boy and his violin." These photos all had the same little boy and his homemade cigar box violin doing different things, but he always had a homemade violin in each scene. These instruments must have meant something to the artist (Hy Hintermeister), he painted it in many portraits.
 These photos were added to roll up calendars from hardware stores. This photo was on the back of a notebook that was unused and in perfect shape. It's a gorgeous photo with lovely color and printing and I thought I would share!

Apple Orchard workers 1929

Because we've all had that "I'd rather be doing somethin' else" moment...


 


New Timers

It's great to see the next generation take on the cigar box guitar. This young guy can make his way around on a 3 string guitar. Sure makes us "Old Timers" proud to see young folks try their hand at homemade guitars instead of buying the name brand stuff from the music store.



Check out this video below of Canadian 9th grade student Jake Kostuchuk’s playing a three string cigar box guitar, he not only played the guitar but edited the video. This is real talent right here!

 ...keep your eyes open in the future, this kid's future is so bright...we've gotta wear shades!





Somebody play that thang!

Found this old photo and not much is known about who he is other than the fact that he has made himself some twangy goodness!
He is probably a Vaudeville performer from the 1920's or 30's.

One thing is for sure...he's in "our club," he's got the badge and is a patch wearing member of the ~Homemade Cigar Box Romeos~



Back to The future

Here is an artwork I did for a resonator guitar I built awhile back, I found this art still in my scanner this morning, figured I would post it here and share it.

It's art of the Radiola Guitar made with an Old Lowe aluminum reso cone. Rumor has it, if you get your playing up to 88 miles per hour you can go back in time and help Marty McFly get to the "Enchantment under the Sea" dance, when you land in 1955 be sure and look up "Doc"....he will know what to do!

Cigar Box Mandolin History

During the 1920's and 30's it was common for people to make mandolins from cigar boxes.
 I have several different how to plans and photos of instruments from that era but today I wanted to share this new set of plans that Shane Speal dug up and posted on his face book page. While researching the cigar box guitar, he found these in an online library. They are dated March 24th 1922 and they are really fascinating!




Over the years I have collected photos of many examples of this type of build and thought this would be a good place to post photos of a unique homemade mandolin built during this early time in America.
This mandolin was found in Tennessee in 2009 while a family was cleaning out their grandfathers childhood home after he passed away.




If you look at the neck from the front, it looks so well made it appears to be a factory made mando neck attached to a box, but it's not. I have added a photo of the back side of the neck and you can see it is homemade but also a really well made neck attached to a box with a long thin heel for support. This was well thought out and built with attention to detail even though it was made with found and scavenged wood.
  To me it looks like the neck was made from a used table top. It has the right thickness of a table top and the neck and heel are the same. I have myself used tables for their recycled wood and this mandolin has a similar appearance. Whatever the mystery, this was most likely a well playing and probably also a great sounding homemade cigar box mandolin from the early 20's.

 I sure would have loved to hear it in action and meet the person who made it!

Rocket Recording & 50's Atomic Tone

If you would like to create vintage sounding recordings, often over-looked is the microphone you chose. The microphone you record with can give your final music recording a wide array of "feelings," from polished and clean, to scratchy and harsh. Microphones of all types all have their own unique sound, they are just as important as the guitar and amp that you record with.



 
Before you sigh and start seeing dollar signs, this does NOT have to be expensive or costly.

In fact I am specifically talking about recording with "odd-ball" cheap microphones.  There is a whole world of cheap and vintage microphones for sale in the under 10-20 dollar range on ebay, in fact there is so many to chose from you will get lost with all the fun possibilities,
Some examples are,
  • cheap tape deck mics
  • reel to reel mics
  • Japanese dynamic mics from th 60's and 70's
  • beat up old American bullet mics
  • Podium, Bingo and event microphones,
  • Ham and CB radio microphones
  • and you can also make your own mics with transducer contacts and piezos stuck in cans and kitchen tins of all sorts

These are just some examples, but keep in mind, the cheaper the mic and the worse it sounds can be perfect for that "authentic" vintage sound in your recording.
 So when looking around, don't buy the quality or name brand stuff, look for the ugly ducklings....keep it cheap and keep it simple and see what you come up with on your next homemade Lo-fidelity recording.


For "Enquiring minds" that want to know, in the photo above, the Amp is a 1964 Juliette radio hacked and turned into a guitar amplifier. The microphone is a Calrad dynamic mic I got for 18 bucks on ebay including shipping, (18.55 in total) and the guitar, well,....We hold the truths to be self evident, it's a homemade cigar box guitar!
  The deals are out there, spend some time researching and see what you can dig up on ebay or at your local flea market.
 Finding the right microphone will give your sound and tone that extra realism and "ruff edge" that adds that perfect final touch to your homemade Blues and Rock recordings.

Skip to my lou

Check out this billboard on the side of the road in Portugal.
Not to long ago Fernando Amorim got a phone call late one night from a friend and fellow cigar box guitar builder who said he needed to come on down to check out a new billboard they just put up in Viana do Castelo.
 So he went over to see it and was blow away, he took a cell phone photo for us to see…it's some kind of soap or detergent advertising with a girl holding a homemade square guitar with bottlecap knobs…now that's "heavy duty" cool!
 So, here is the cell phone shot in all its glory from Viana do Castelo, Portugal.



BRETT MARVIN is STRANGER THAN STRANGE

Instead of me posting another photo or story about some old homemade guitar, let's talk about what they are used for...music!...better yet, let's partake in some of what music is.

 Do you want to see something totally original??? How about a song Recorded with a Cigar Box Guitar...and added with a dash (or two)  of “Strangeness”???
Of course you do, that's why your eyes are on this blog….watch this video…I promise you will love it, homemade guitars make music fun!



Lazy Days

Today I decided to put together a fun little guitar combo pack to pass this lazy old Sunday by.

I dug thru my homemade and hacked music gear and pulled out a 3 string cigar box guitar ( made by Wayne Bigler who builds great playing guitars, you can see his stuff for sale here biglerguitars.com)

  This Padron cigar box guitar is plugged into a 1958 Majestic Transistor Radio that I have hacked and turned into guitar amplifier... and I plan to record a song or 2 with a 1948 Webster Microphone,( found for just 7 bucks on ebay! one mans trash is another mans treasure)...this crystal mic gives recorded music a great vintage old timey tone.
So before I plug in and tune out my daily worries, I figured I'd take a quick photo cuz I'm about to mosey-on-over and play guitar on my favorite bench on the side of my house.

OK latter days, I'm off to enjoy this lazy day.....




Old Faithful


About a week or so ago, I was making a guitar neck and dropped my trusty Stanley block plane, I was  hummin' along fine and just about 5 minuets from crossing the old "finish line" with that O' so sweet feeling of victory of completing another guitar neck. Well, right in the middle of a stroke down the neck, my plane just kinda "shot out of my hand" and landed on the floor. When I picked it up to continue, no matter what I tried, I just couldn't set the blade back up again and get it to cut correct, It would only chatter and tear out wood.
It had no cracks in the casing and the blade was not bent, I for some reason couldn't figure out what was wrong out so I put it up and moved on and finished the job with an older Sears Craftsman 7 inch plane.
If you have never used a block plane to do your neck shaping, you should give it a try. They are easy to learn to use and they don't remove so much wood like power tools do.


 
Anyways, I use a smaller Stanley 9 1/4 for final detail work. I just love it! It fits my hand perfect, has no adjustable mouth that needs fiddling with. When I push it forward at just the right angle it cuts at the perfect thickness, even after the 15 plus years that I have had it...I bought it at ACE hardware for about 30 bucks and it has served me so well I just can't part with or retire it!
  I have be spying on those killer Lie-Nielsons block planes, ( and those cool looking Lee Valley ones too!)
 But today, I needed to start a new neck, and since I have cherished my Stanley so much, I decided to see what could be done because it really worked well.  I took it apart, I sharpened it, sanded the sole with 320 then 400 and looked everywhere for a crack... It seems OK.

 So, I oiled it up, and like a charm it now it works great again,  I think there was too much wood tar resin like stuff clogged up under that raiser thing in the back under the blade, in the past I only ever cleaned it about once a year or so. It didn't take much maintenance....anyways, it's back to work... enough blabber....I am tired of typing now.
After I started working on a new 3 string guitar neck I thought I would draw some art and take a photo of this old trusty work horse. I did this art with a pencil and colored it in Photoshop.


A made a quick video of today's work, watch it
The Stanley No. 9 & a Quarter Block Plane..... Here's to you good buddy!



Retro-Foil Thin Guitar Pickups

If you have seen the old post over at 3-string-guitar.com you know that I am a big fan of the old DeArmond/Silvertone/Danelectro thin foil top pickups, not only do the have a really great tone, but they have that really Screamin' 60's looks!
 The also are only about 1/4 of an inch thick, the cap of the pickup fits right below the strings and is really easy to notch into a lid of a cigar box guitar, not affecting a neck thru's stability.

Did I forget to metion they are just 50 bucks?

 ...Now do I have your attention???? Can you hear me now????
Look, how about you give one a try?  Made by Wade of "Victory Guitars" they are just the pickup you need for a budget friendly build with a totally retro feel.

You can buy them here at this link for just 50 bucks, click here Retro-Foil Guitar Pickups