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.

I try to post newly uncovered history or stories here every so often, 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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Cigar Box Guitar Pickups for 3 and 4 string guitar




Homemade Guitar 3 and 4 string Pickups



I am making and selling cigar box guitar pickups for 3 and 4 string guitar.
 If you would be interested in putting one on your cigar box guitar, they are super thin and neat.



The bottom to its shoulder top measure only about 9 millimeters, they are thin and are perfect for neck thru cigar box guitars or any homemade instrument, they fit either 3 or 4 string and neck thru guitars and you will not have to notch out the neck much.




They have a rustic look with Old West and 1880's Tobacco art.
They will defiantly bring your cigar box guitar to life and you can add one to your guitar, drops right in easy as pie.

Would you like one? I have lots of art ideas. 
email me at john@reddogguitars.com


 The possibilities are endless. Email me, Don't be shy! 
I might have the perfect pickup for your guitar.

email me anytime,  john@reddogguitars.com



1920's and 30's - 4 string cigar box guitars



Check out these 2 homemade guitars from the early 30's. One has the words written on the front of the box " Patent Pending Feb. 4th 1930"
Just think, that's only a month and 4 days from the 1920's!
  How cool is that, the Roarin' 20's, speak easy's and Prohibition was still fresh in the air when these were made, Americana had just had the stock market crash of 1929 and people were just about to enter into the Great Depression. We know from history there were a lot of the homemade cigar box guitars made in that era.

Check out the one in front with the homemade frets, its made with an Old Virginia Cheroots Cigar Box. I see these vintage boxes for sale all the time on ebay,....sounds like a great idea for someone who would like to make an authentic replica. Are you up for it?





This guitar is from the website http://www.reddogguitars.com/
if you would like me to build you one 
email me at    john@reddogguitars.com

Homemade Guitar - World War II 1940-1945 German Africa Corps (DAK)

This photo was found by Termoking. The Afrika Korps or German Africa Corps (German: Deutsches Afrikakorps, DAK) was the German expeditionary force in Africa during the North African Campaign of World War II. First sent as a holding force to shore up the Italian defense of their African colonies, the formation fought on in Africa, under various appellations, from March 1941 until its surrender in May 1943. The unit's best known commander was Field Marshal Erwin Rommel.



The British Invasion




 Here's an interesting photo for British cigar box guitar fans. It's two British soldiers in South Africa, during the Boer War, playing piccolo and cigar box banjo / guitar. 
 This photo is from John Wormald "ChickenBoneJohn" who held a "Make and Play" workshop in Preston at The Museum Of Lancaster. David Brookhouse of the museum services who hosted the workshop sent him this photo. It is from a book by one of the staff members, and to his knowledge, the earliest known photo of a British person with a cigar box guitar. 


 


Cigar box guitars are world wide.  I wonder how many of you are reading this across the pond?

Here is a music sample with a Vox amp. I went to buy the Roland cub amp, and this neat 60's remake of those British made Vox amps with the twill fabric was on sale as an open return for 89 bucks. 

It caught my eye and I figured why not? 
I must admit I have totally fallen in love with this amp. The effects onboard are so much fun.

This guitar will be listed for sale at http://www.reddogguitars.com/


Antique Cigar Box Guitar & Homemade Guitars



Check out this fresh attic find, it came up for sale on eBay. Bay is king for finding long lost history. You can discover more than old musical instruments, you can also find historical aritfacts off all types that were just stuck in boxes in the back of peoples attics and sheds.
 When poeple pass away, their children or grandchildren usually don't know the stroy behind some of these objects so they just list them for sale on ebay for pennies of there true value.

Who's waiting to find a undiscovered Declaration of Independence for 5 bucks??? ....Me!!!

Well, maybe that's wishful thinking, but there sure is lots of these old cigar box instruments popping up for sale lately.

Check out that tail piece...its defiantly an original Red Dog for sure...I think so??? Ha Ha!

Made from a soup can lid of some type, this looks like one of those old school fretless slide guitars...no frets, no frills, just boat loads o' fun!
More photos are posted at http://www.reddogguitars.com/




Check out this guitar below made by my friend Brian Romero.

 I just love his work and wanted to share it. His stuff is really inspiring, so I decided to post this over here, this use to be on the 3 string guitar website but I wanted to put it here so all could see. This is what homemade is all about. Study the photos,  I will let the picture do the taking, this is just wonderful and made with such ingenuity.



Here is a full shot, this looks like it's a lot of fun to play. Brain has made many great guitars, too many to list, but you can use this for a jump start in your own building, Head on out to your garage and see what you can come up with!


Gramercy Boys Club, 1938. Found on Shane Speal's timeline and found by Alan Abriss in the NY Daily Times.

1920's Cigar Box Mandolin



This is a really well built 8 string mandolin made from an Old Virginia cigar box. This type of build was often over looked for the more common homemade instruments such as guitars, banjos and violins of that era.
However, during the early Jazz craze the mandolin was also popular, and in the 20's and 30's at a time of widespread poverty and economic depression you knew it was only a matter of time before folks saw that a cigar box was the perfect size to be a mandolin body.

 
Here is plans for build you own cigar box mandolin dated 1922
 I tell you what, times sure where different back then, people use to take matters into there own hands, from building an instrument to building this great country. It was all about "do-it yourself!"
 
 

Cigar Box Guitar History

 
 
It's been well documented that people have been making homemade guitars from old and used cigar boxes since the 1860's. Once cigar manufactures started using small boxes to transport and sell cigars, it didn't take long before people in poverty figured out they are the perfect size to build guitars, banjos and violins. 
Here is a photo from the late 1890's and it shows a young boy with his cigar box guitar on a cotton planation. Most of these instruments were crude and often had just a few strings....But make no mistake, they made real music!
Our modern Blues and Country music can trace it roots to the simple origins of these often overlooked and crude stringed instruments from America's past.
 
 
 


If you would like to learn how to play Old Time & Delta Blues on 3 string cigar box guitar, I have a DVD I can mail you anywhere in the world.
This 3 string lessons DVD shows you how to get that vintage sound in both your slide playing and fingering on the fretboard. This type of music is really easy to learn and understand the 3 string guitar is not hard, at any age, even at 70 you will able to play old timey Blues music, the majority of slide guitar is just one finger guitar!


I can mail you this DVD  anywhere in the world,
click here to view the How To play DVD

I can mail the DVD anywhere in the world. It plays on all DVD players worldwide. It is encoded to play in both Europe and American Televisions...and Australia too! Plays in all DVD players.( both NTSC and PAL)

Just in case your wondering "What's a 3 string guitar?"

Here's a quick video, watch and look at the hands and playing. There is not much going on, that's the key, it's primitive music...it's just a simple form of music anyone can learn... and at any age!

 

Photo 551


Some newly uncovered photos from my friend Termoking in Belgium. These 2 photos are of  German World War 1 soldiers with their homemade instruments.
Another great find with lots to ponder and imagine....I would love to hear these guys!



Best & Biggest

Check out this old cigar box guitar from sometime in the early 1900's. Made with a 1914 John Ruskin "Best & Biggest" cigar box.
This cigar box guitar is a four string with a really well made neck and hand carved friction tuners. Check out the back of the neck too. The craftsman who made it put a lot of attention into it. I bet it was a well playing guitar when it was first built. This guitar is wonderful piece of history from the long lost art of making your own homemade music!

Cigar Box Ukuleles

Who wouldn't jump at a chance to play this fun little uke?
 Some time in the 1960's a neighbor of Sam Kamaka had several empty cigar boxes lying around and asked him if he could do or make something with them. Sam having a keen eye in building ukes saw and knew that the redwood that the boxes were made of would make a great sounding instrument.

So was born the Kamaka Cigar Box Ukulele.




Here is a photo of Sam Kamaka Jr. with a cigar box uke. I received this photo from Lesley at "Life's a Ukeafrolic."
She said,
In May we were fortunate to be able to visit the Kamaka Ukulele factory in Honolulu. The tour was given by Mr. Fred Kamaka himself - and here he is, showing me the museum-piece cigar-box uke made by Sam Kamaka... what a wonderful experience it was - and that ukulele is simply beautiful!

Neck to Body Mock up




This guitar is for sale at    http://www.reddogguitars.com/

I am always put up 3 string guitars email me or visit to see the new guitars I have listed for sale

I was inspired by the H-1 Racer that set those speed records and Howard Hughes' wrecked in 1937.





Can I get a fist bump with that twang?

Check out these German soldiers from World War One. There is several homemade instruments in the background. I just love to see human interaction and personality show through old photos.
I don't know what the 2 guys are doing in the front of the photo but I think this is a great snap shot in time!

 
 
1920's antique cigar box guitar

This old homemade cigar box guitar came up for sale today on ebay. It was just found in someone's grandparents estate. If only we knew it's history and maker, I bet it's got a great story to tell us!

1886 Newspaper First-Hand account of Cigar Box Guitarist

 
 
Some phrases and descriptions in the 130-year-old article are considered offensive by today's standards.  

MUSIC IN A CIGAR BOX.
A Juvenile Darky Sits on a Beer Keg and Gathers a Crowd
Galveston (TX) Daily News.  Thursday, April 15, 1886
   Perched upon a lager beer keg in an obscure locality in the city, sat a diminutive darky yesterday.  His legs were crossed, his lips were moving, and his hands were playing a home-made guitar.  This instrument was rudely but cleverly fashioned, and exhibited traces of an inventive genius in its maker. 
   A cigar-box of the usual size constituted the body, and the handle was composed of a piece of lath about eight inches in length, over which strings of tightly-drawn India rubber were laid, and caught at the end on roughly-made keys.  The box was completely inclosed, with the exception of a round hole in the center for a sounding-board.
  Altogether, it was an original instrument, and though crudely constructed was capable of emitting melodious strains.  Considering the imperfections of it in the comparison with a genuine guitar, the player handled the strings very deftly.
  When seen he was earnestly playing a tune, and no one appeared to enjoy it more than himself, though the barkeeper whose keg he was sitting upon came out and shaded his eyes on the curious object.  The selection was an old-time negro melody, and he soon had a crowd of sympathizers around him.  While playing, his different antics and motions were peculiar and amusing.  His lips went in and out, keeping perfect time to the music.  He swayed himself from side to side, shut one eye, then the other, then rolled both up until only the whites were visible, apparently in a perfect deliriam of enjoyment.
  In the midst of all this a great catastrophe occurred.  The strings all snapped but one.  But to the wonder of those present he continued to draw music out of his one string.
  As he finished and crawled down from his perch he was variously interrogated, but jumping into a small wagon hitched to a good-sized goat, he rapidly made off amid the shouts of the crowd and uproarious laughter.
  It was evident that he did not wish to be bothered and had his goat handy for any disagreeable emergency.
________________________________________________________
 Discovered by Shane Speal

1930's Homemade Mountain Banjo

I saw this instrument for sale up on ebay and the auction did not have any of the history listed with the sale. The only clue or tid bit of info about this homemade box banjo is that it's from Sutton, Massachusetts.

You can kind of approximate it's age by how long it takes for wood to age like it has on the body, by looking at the screw in the tail piece, and looking at the finishing nails used to build it. I would guess it was made in the 20's or 30's. It would say it's pre war sometime.
Man this sure is fantastic. It's so well made I know it could be played right now today, and I bet it would play just as well as it did 80 years ago.



1930's Homemade Mountain Banjo




As you can see this was made by a craftsman at home, yet paying attention to detail though-out the build.  It's a five string banjo. It has some type of skin on top of a homemade box. It looks like someone used violin pegs as the tuners. That's both brilliant and works well. It was probably a cheap and easy way to build a instrument back then that would have reliable tuning.





You can look at the screws and the nails to try kind of date these type of homemade instruments.  The person who made this banjo put a lot of effort into something that they could play. Talk about twang? This wonderful piece of Americana is an inspiration to us all to build your own musical instrument.

This banjo is what it's all about....Do-It-yourself!

Natural Born Confederate


I drew this art just having fun today. I was thinking about my childhood growing up in New Orleans. They use to have an old beautiful large green and white Dixie brewery sign right there when you got off the ferry on the other side of Algiers Point. You would come out and off the landing ramp and then you could walk to the left to go to the riverwalk, or cut to the right and when you looked up, there was Dixie Beer sign that stood about 40 feet up....it was huge and really cool. I just kinda spun that into my own art.

Bounty Hunter Cigars ~ 1877 ~

I came up with this idea for a cigar box guitar pickup cover after listening to a T. Boone Pickens interview, someone asked him about the price of "expensive oil."
Boone said, "Well, my great grand daddy was a bounty hunter, he went after all kinds of criminals in the wild west...what do you think....he charged by the bullet???
 That sure shut up that person giving the interview fast! They did not know how to respond.....But I can tell you, Don't give no lip, don't get none!

Anyways, I liked what I heard. I was so inspired I whipped out some paper on the moment and I came up with this art that could be a brand of cigars and I think it would make a cool cover art to engrave on the front of a cigar box resonator guitar pickup cover.

The Dimestore Cowboy

Best place on earth to buy stuff for building guitars????

Yep, the Hardware store : )

It's great, all those "real" guitar builders have to spend countless dollars on rare and exotic woods and expensive guitar parts, but folks like us can hit up the local 5 and dime and come out with our next great noise maker....How's that Mr. Fender!


 
beStillroy Clark 1923

Papa was a Rolling Stone

You probably thought that headline was about this photo huh?
 My daughter calls me "Papa"....so I guess you could say I'm a "Rolling Stone" too?
Am I going to far with this??? Who cares....This is cool!

As for the photo, yep, it's Ronnie Wood from the Rolling Stones recording a new song. He is playing a Daddy Mojo 4 string. Honestly, can this be any cooler?


Two for Five





I did this art for my Cigar Box Guitar music CD, if you would like to hear some of this music and see the CDs and DVDs I have for sale on the subject of cigar box and 3 string guitars,
you can click here
http://cigar-box-guitar-music.blogspot.com/

Cigar Box Label Art



Today I drew this art, I originally started off trying to draw a new idea for a 4 string cigar box guitar pickup, but the wording would not fit, so I just went ahead and made it just art for art's sake.
I just made what I think would be a cool cigar box label. If this were the early 1900's and I was making cigar box labels I think this would be a great brand....What'cha think???

I did this art on old gray blank military paper from a 1940's Navy diary book. I then decided to draw it with Blue ink to give it an authentic period feel. I think it could pass for the real thing!

Southern Rock Monday

You thought I was gonna say Sunday....didn't you?

Well, no matter what day you watch this, this is just a wonderful song and the cigar box guitar solo on this video is off the hook!
Put on some headphones, this is a really great recording for being recorded live.
This is what its all about : )

The New Timer

 I finished up this 1857 Old Timer guitar this week. It's a project I have been working on for about 20 days. All of the metal work is done in Silver/Aluminum that I've made to match. This guitar is a 3 string guitar and the amp is a 1955 Arvin Radio that I has been  set up like a vintage guitar amplifier.
 
Just wanted to share this photo, I always have one or 2 of these Old Timer guitars for sale at
http://www.reddogguitars.com/   email me anytime at   john@reddogguitars.com



Inside the Box - Cigar Box Guitar Builder's Documentary

Check out this wonderful story about an Argentinean banker whose true passion has always been music. He also happens to be a very talented maker of handcrafted cigar box guitars. He shares what sparked his curiosity for this hobby and the emotion he gets by peoples' response to his craft.
This is a wonderful video and story!

1907 Acme Construction Plans








I found these antique cigar box guitar "how to build" construction plans at an abandoned Coyote camp site when I went camping this weekend....that poor old Road Runner never stood a chance!


English Gentleman

Here is a photo of English soldiers during World War 1. I have seen many older photos from the early 1900's with people making and playing homemade cigar box instruments over in the UK.
There is defiantly a long history of making homemade instruments in England and they seem to have loved making cigar box fiddles as I have seen them making this exact style of instrument in both World War 1 and 2.

Anyways, check out these guys doing there thing!


ZZ Top's ~ Billy Gibbons song playing the cigar box guitar

Here is a song of Billy Gibbons playing a Cigar Box Guitar. It is such a great recording of the cigar box guitar, he is playing a cigar box resonator guitar and he is playing a version of Ry Cooder's "Billy the Kid."

Anyways, enough chatter, time for the encore!

Old Time Cigar Box 3 String Fiddle

Check out this homemade cigar box fiddle. It was made in the early 1900's and is a 3 string.

Not much else is know, but like I always say when these old instruments pop up, I sure would love to meet the person who made it and hear the music they played on it.



It's from Tennessee, so the maker must have been playing Appalachian folk music on it. I can hear it now.....That ol' time country swing!

How to make Cigar Box Guitar & 3 String "Magnetic" Pickups

This is a 30 minute master class on How to make your own homemade cigar box guitar pickups.
Rail Road Don is super awesome, and watching him work his magic is fun.... and there is nothing better than hanging out with your elders!  This is how we all learn to be better craftsmen.
Watch these 2 videos in a row, you will know from scratch how to hand spin homemade guitar pickups....and they sound terrific!





Here is the second part, I just love the tone of it at the end, super unique and original, He captures that old time homemade sound so well, so follow this recipe and make your own.

The Man In Black

Check out this killer old time Blues recording and song by Graeme Moncrieff

An original song written and performed on his self-built cigar box guitar.


The Civilized World

Check out this photo of prisoners of War from a work shop in a World War 1 internment camp.

They are making homemade instruments. This must have be in a time when humanity was much different. I have often heard and read about French and German soldiers who would fight during the day, and at night go to the front lines to trade items and stories and spend the evening together in comradery.

From Down Under

Check out this really great performance played on cigar box guitar, the vocals are excellent too.

This is what homemade music is all about!



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.