Hi, this is a daily news 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.

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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.

American Folk Instruments

I am excited to post news of my friend Charles Atchison's newly released book about homemade instruments and cigar box guitars.
This is just great, as you know I am passionate about anything and all instruments made from cigar boxes and homemade stuff. Anytime a new book or music cd comes out I will always be in line to get a copy, not only do I enjoy learning and looking for a new nugget of info on building or history of homemade guitars, but I also buy everything I can about the hobby because this is such a small hobby that I think it's important to help support the other craftsman.
 When someone makes a cd or book on the subject of these instruments, I know its a lot of work, I know first hand it makes you feel a bit of gratification that all the hard work you put in to your work that it's great to see other appreciate it.

Anyways, if you can help spread the word, tell your finds about this new book, it might encourage someone else to write their own book too!
Even the cover photo of a cigar box fiddle is one I have never seen....how cool is this cover photo!

click here to view the book

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.


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

Cigar Box Resonator Guitars & Old Lowe Resophonic 3 string guitars

I seem to be posting a lot about homemade resonator guitars. They have really taken over my shop!

The truth is, they aren't much harder to build, for the small amount of extra effort and money spent, they create a superior tone and playability, and that in turn creates a much better overall guitar. Resonator cigar box guitars also give you a lot of volume if you plan on playing without an amp. You may not need to add a pickup at all to the guitar, they are that much louder than any other type of build.

 When using "Old Lowe" resonator cones it is also not necessary to build a sound well because the cone has an inverted lip that holds itself up in the box. It doesn't allow the resonator to touch the bottom of the box or the neck and by it being suspended in air over the inside of the box it gives a cigarbox guitar that real nice vintage old timey chime and vibration. Plus they look fantastic!

 Even better is the all new Lowe Cone covers, me and Mike made and designed these new covers with inspiration form the original 1930's Dopyera Reso-phonic Dobro floral pattern, but with a twist.  These resonator guitar parts are cheap and easy to install. They are made just for cigar box guitar. The cone and covers are in  the 7 inch size, they fit on any average cigar box with no problems at all. 

This video explains a bit and lets you see what can be done with an easy to install Lowe Cone.

 Contact Mike Lowe ( the maker of Old Lowe parts) email him at  oldlowe@yahoo.com  and get a cone and try for yourself and give building a resonator cigar box guitar a try. The cover is only optional, you can use just the cone for that "homemade" look, they play and sound the same with or without a cover. I know you will love the tone they deliver, it makes for a really rewarding expericnec and a great playing guitar.

Summer in the Fields

There is an old saying in the guitar world, "if you want to play good guitar, you need to listen to good guitar players"....and I would like to add to that fact it is even more so if you are trying to learn how to play cigar box guitar. If you want to play 3 string guitar really well, you need to listen to music made with 3 string guitar.
 It really is that simple, you need to listen to many styles and players of this instrument and absorb all that you can. If you look back in history at any "great" guitar player, they were also great music lovers and listened to and tried absorb as much as they could.
So I today I thought it would be a good day to share with you a wonderful cigar box guitar player and his music. His name is Mike Snowden. Take a moment and watch this video,

Mike has been building cigar box guitars for many years now, so you might have heard of his guitars before, but as you can see he is also an accomplished player!
 This video is a favorite of mine....and if after you have listened to this video, if you find this is both the type of music you enjoy AND want to play, then you should download his album "Summer in the Fields," its only 10 bucks and if you listen to it over and over you will learn a great deal about song structure on a 3 strings guitar. It has old blues and modern rock mixed together, and is a great CD for driving around town and just letting the music "sink in." That's how you learn!
This is an all instrumental album, so its just cigar box guitar, no singing and once gain, this is a great investment in your playing....Click here to download a copy
or visit

How to turn a radio into a Guitar Amplifier

It's been awhile since I've posted any radio guitar amp conversions and I have some new radios that are in my workshop destined to get the ol' rub-a-dub-dub make over.
It really is super easy to take an old radio and turn it into a guitar amp. All's you do is hack into the volume pot with a regular guitar input jack and that's it. I do have a website with lots of info on what and how to do it, what radios make the best amps, and just all that you need to know to hack into a vintage radio.

Not only is it fun a rewarding, but they have the coolest looks and make the best combo to go along with your homemade and cigar box guitars, people just love to see them and when they hear them it brings a smile to both young and old....what's best is the tone, they sound just like days gone by because you're playing thru old speakers and circuits that really capture the tones of yesteryear.

Lastly, you might be thinking what if it doesn't work????  What if I break it?

Well that's a 2 way street and not a problem, what you can then do is remove the old electronics, leave the old speaker in it....and buy a cigar box amp kit and just stuff that in there...voilĂ ! ....problem solved, same old-time tone, but in a cool old vintage radio....either way your gonna be playing thru an old Atomic Retro amp and having a ball. Did I mention you can buy an old radio for about 10 or 20 bucks??? No, well, let me tell you this, long before computers and even TVs, every house had a radio, furthermore, usually every room had a radio...countless millions of these radios are still around, ebay, flea markets, your Grandma's attic, there are everywhere get out there and give it a try!
 for more info visit,

 Check out this quick demo video, its sure to spark an new avenue and direction in your hobby of homemade music.

Rosie the Riveter

Yesterday I dropped my hand plane and damaged it and since it was a old one, I have decided that maybe I need to replace it with a new one. So, after many hours of research I found myself on the "Lie-Neilson" website looking at small block planes. As I was looking through the company history I saw these remarkable photos of ladies taking a wood working class...and they were way cool!
 Much like the women who made America's ships, tanks and planes during the 1940's as the men were gone of to World War II, these modern day versions of "Rosie" show us what they can do with hand tools and skill, These ladies are great!

It would be great to spend an afternoon with these women in the shop,  I sure what like to see what they are doing and making, there are kinda fascinating!

Look at this lady below, She is wonderful! she is taking a wood working class of some type that I read the tool company gives during  summer months, it looks like a really cool workshop class, I think its really cool and she has top notch work!

Well, back to looking for a block plane to make guitar necks, the ones at Lie Nielsen are really nice tools, the sure look like the cats meow, I need a block plane and am thinking of trying one of theirs, Plus they are made right here in the USA, that's the most important selling point for me... if you have some free time check them out, http://www.lie-nielsen.com/block-planes/small-block-planes/

Hand wound pickups

If you are building your own homemade guitars and instruments, it is very rewarding to hand wind your own electric guitar pickups. Not only is it easier than it first appears, but it opens up a whole world of unique possibilities to make your guitar a true one-of-a-kind.
Check out these pickups made by Dustin Olynyk. He has used the wood from cigar box tops as the actual bobbins of his pickups, which by the way also opens up a whole level of ideas for parts that can be made from cigar boxes. I have seen people make resonator and dobro covers, backs of the guitar control plate covers, volume and tone knob plates, and I have even seen people veneer the cover of a cigar box on to the headstock to match the guitar body. There is a world of great concepts to be found just by studying these photos of Dustin's handiwork!

If you look close, its just wire that has been wrapped around screws that he has used as the pole pieces, they are ran thru the wooden top and bottom and that's it ( there is a few more steps such as magnetizing the screws with a magnet, but there is scores of videos on YouTube on the subject.)
 As you can see it is totally something even a first timer can do with great success and I know for a fact that the moment Dustin was done he was able to lean back in his chair and feel like not only has he accomplished something great, but it's tremendously fun to try new things....so what are you waiting on???? ......on your next cigar box guitar, try your hand at winding a magnetic pickup, it can be done in one or 2 evenings right there on your kitchen table.
  By doing a little research you will see there is only a few supplies you will need to buy, you don't need fancy machines to wind pickups, you can wind them by hand and nothing else with just a spool of wire in your lap, or of you feel up to the challenge, use a drill and make a simple homemade contraption to keep the guitar pickup spinning while you feed the wire with your fingers over the top of the bobbin.... the best way to achieve great results is to do your research and plot it all out in your head first....You CAN wind your own guitar pickups!


1920's Flapper Homemade Ukulele

There is no doubt about the era this homemade cigar box uke came from. Check out the hand painted "Flapper Girl"art on the front of the body of this really great piece of American History.

At a time in the late teens and early 20's, the ukulele was at its peek of popularity.
In fact, Harold Lloyd, one the most famous movie stars of the Silent era, always found a way to incorporate and use as a prop or play a uke in all of his movies. Itso fatco!

Rustophonic Microphones

Often overlooked in the hobby of homemade recording and do-it-yourself instrument building is the microphones. They provide a crucial link from your amp or voice to your recording device, whether its an old tape deck or state of the art digital computer, the microphone is what "captures" the sound to be recorded.

The best part of this, is it's one more thing you don't need to buy from China, as most of the microphones, even quality ones like Shure, Nady, Rode, etc... are nowadays all made in a factory in some far off land.
BUT, there is a small company here in Pennsylvania that's makes microphones from old tin cans, check them out at http://rustophonic.bigcartel.com/

Here is some artwork I did for them, once again get on over there and check them out, be sure to tell 'em you saw the story on homemade-guitars.com and help spread the word about the really cool homemade microphones.

Vintage Film Canister Banjos

Check out this spin on the old "Cookie Tin banjo." CBN member Suspect Device has taken vintage 16mm Kodak film canisters and made both 3 and 4 string banjos.
They are both downright radical!
These would be great for writing background and score music for video and movies. I can tell just by looking at them what they will sound like as I am familiar with this style of building and they can provide the song maker with really distinct country sounds for their craft that is great for Sothern Twang AKA Ry Cooder's "Johnny Handsome" Album.

Vintage Film Canister banjos

Yankee Rose

By far the greatest thing for the cigar box guitar is Samantha Fish, here she is at the Jazz Fest about 2 weeks ago........ If you've got it flaunt it!

Watch this video, it's the best stuff since bottled Snapple

Ok, so she is playing a four string, I am pretty sure that's not what you were looking at anyways!!!!

Ghost Town Blues Band

I found these guys on you tube and they have that sound for sure!
Have a listen, it is sure to take you back in time.

Sailors Choice ~Cigar Box Guitar Pickup~

I just finished a new artwork that I am finally happy with, this is about the 5th or 6th version, I keep doing them till I get it like I see in my mind, sometimes my mind "isn't so clear" so I have to work it out a few times, But I think this is it.
I will hand etch and engrave this art on top of a few 3 string guitar pickups. It's going to look great on a guitar with and Old Lowe Resonator cone.

Just thought I would share. This is done with a General's charcoal pencil #2 on old stock printer paper.

James "Super Chikan" Johnson

This is the Blues and Homemade guitars! this is what it's "ALL ABOUT"

Watch this new video made by Mississippi Broadcasting about Homemade and cigar box guitar legend "Super Chikan"

He makes all his guitars by hand and this video takes you into his workshop and life, so come along for the ride, there is lots to learn about homemade and handmade Americana watching him! This is a great video man I sure would love to hang out with him for a day....anyone who makes a guitar out of a ceiling fan body is top notch in my book!

James "Super Chikan" Johnson is the real deal. Hes a well known blues musician and entertainer but hes just as well known as a true folk artist from the handmade guitars he creates in his shop behind his house in Clarksdale.

In with the New Crowd

Working on totally redoing  reddogguitars.com , out with the Old in with the New!

It's gonna take awhile as there is a lot of pages, but I am starting to remove the old stuff and older guitars I no longer make and add new guitars and fun art,
come check it out click here reddogguitars.com

The "Original" Snake Oil Band

If ever you see them live, get ready to rock!

This is a 120 year Tin type photo of a Motley Crew from Washington State.

...and check out yours truly with the cigar box guitar-uke thing or whatever it is? He looks like the ring leader for sure.

 I would love to here these guys! That guy on the left with the acoustic has a smirk that is priceless.

Antique "Floridia Straights" Cigar Box Fiddle

Check out this oldie-but-goodie that just came up for sale on ebay. No info is known about it's history, but by looking at the head stock you can tell someone took time into carving it. It even has the homemade bow with it, that's pretty cool!

Here's your history shots of the day


Farmington Art Deco

I was watching a French movie on TCM late one night from the early 1930's, when the credits came on they were absolutely beautiful. I could tell that they were hand writing of some type and not an early typesetting machine, I am not sure how they use to make credits on those early movies,( paint on glass I believe)  but the type on this old French movie was so cool, It was all artisticly hand drawn  with "thicks and thins" in this real Art Deco French style...I guess that's the only way I know to describe it? but when it was actually "in style,"

 anyways I tried to copy from memory that "style" in this art. It was a lot of work, I might use it as an album art or expand            on it at a latter date.

Life of the Party

Looks like this old homemade guitar was just what the party needed!

I found this photo randomly on ebay this morning, I am not sure where it's from or who they are, but someone has made a guitar out of a box of some sort.

I love to find these old photos, it's so fun to stare at people from another time and place and wonder what life was like for them. They look like a happy gang.

Cigar Box Guitar Stop Motion Video

This is the coolest cigar box guitar video I think I have ever seen.

Watch this, you'll love it!

Cigar Box Guitars

I've been in the shop working out new ideas and making lots of new 3 string guitars. I have also been experimenting with homemade and handmade 3 string hartails, Tele-style bridges, bolt on necks and painting them with vintage looks.
  Here are a couple of guitars fresh of the work bench, they are similar guitars to each other but look different....but both provide the same fun and old time tone.

The 1865 Arrows & Talons guitar getting the final work over and set-up.

And here below is a Wild Indian guitar that is really the same as above, only the metal work is different, but it sounds the same, nice full tone and both provide the same fun to play.

 Check out the video to see it,

Nothing beats a cigar box guitar plugged into Pignose amplifier!
  They have such a great sound and it has that true "vintage tone," plus they are cheap and battery powered and you can take them anywhere...I just love them. I still enjoy playing slide guitar thru a high powered vintage amp, but if you are on a budget or looking for something simple, try a Pignose for your cigar box combo pack.


"Higher Ground"

Every so often I see a 3 string guitar performance that just blows me away, and this is one of them.

This video is of a Russian cigar box guitar builder and performer named "Captain Nemoff."

He is both a talented builder as well as player...and how about Stevie Wonder's song played on three string. He has not only broken thru the language barrier, but his playing nailed this song perfectly!

This is a must watch video, It's hard to believe without seeing, this whole song is just one track on a 3 string guitar.

Drummon & Hammet Luthiers

Check out these cigar box guitar builders from Bristol overseas in the United Kingdom. They really have a super cool style and the guitars they make are off the hook!
I often get emails from people in Europe who want to build but don't know where to get the parts or boxes. If you are one of those people who want to join the hobby but don't know where to start, these guys are selling full kits with everything and they look and sound terrific, plus you will save a bundle on shipping as they are already over there.
Watch this video, you will enjoy it and if you want really cool vintage style cigar box guitar or a kit to make your own be sure and check out the website http://www.drummondandhammett.com/

So, without further adieu.....

Homemade Resonator Guitars

I have been knee deep in wood shavings in the work shop making Resonator guitars, they seem to be the most rewarding and best "bang for the buck" when you invest your time, and if you are looking for a guitar that needs NO amplifier to enjoy, a Reso-phonic guitar is it!

Watch this video Demo

By far, the best cones you can buy or put on a cigar box guitar are "Old Lowe" cones, they are made by Mike Lowe in Rockwall Texas. The video demo above explains where to buy them and the ends and outs about them...give it a try, build one, they really are super rewarding.

If you are interested in one already built and ready to play ,
 email me at john@reddogguitars.com or just Google Red Dog Guitars


Dixie Made New Orleans Homemade guitar

This is from the land where it all started, my hometown New Orleans Louisiana!

 I might be going out on a limb here, but I would say about 90% of all cigar box guitar history has been uncovered on ebay...there is an old saying "keep your ears to the ground" but I would like to 2.0 that saying and update it to a new catch phrase "keep your finger on the Bid button" ....ebay is King for finding history, looking thru attics and garages worldwide from the comfort of you very own home, how can you beat it?

You can't, you can only be outbid!

 I found this guitar on ebay, and the auction said this guitar was found at a yard sale and I emailed the owner and he stated it came from his neighbor who was an elderly black man named Mr. Batiste who made it many years ago and often played the instrument.
 I can tell right away from the neck wear it was well played and that type of wear in the chord area takes many years if not decades. This is an actual playable guitar that he must have provided many hours of enjoyment. I sure would have loved to have hear the builder and owner play it.


So at least we have a name and a little bit of history to go with this homemade guitar,  it sure is an amazing piece of Americana and Blues history.

Australian Soliders 1918

Check out these Australian Prisoners of War with their homemade cigar box violin instruments found in a local newspaper Down Under by Gary Martin.

I guess the photo says it all, no need to caption this!

Cigar Box Resonator Guitar

This is a 3 string Resophonic guitar I made for my friend Larry. I learned this style from Old Lowe who is also the maker of the cone and cover for the guitar. If you are looking for that real old timey vintage chime when you play Blues guitar, a Resonator is will deliver!

Check out this short video, More Resos to come, I really like the sound of these guitars.

Europe ~Birthpace of the Blues~

OK, I'll put a question mark after that Birthplace ...? ..... Huh?

But really, Termoking has found yet another cigar box or homemade type guitar, I'm unsure? but it's a photo with German World War 1 soldiers playing their trench made tin can bass and guitar. The guitar is clearly a box guitar of some sort. These old photos are so common it kinda seems like they put cigar box guitars on the map.

It's hard to find photos of early Americans with homemade box guitars, I have only a few, but European photos are always being found.
Fest your eyes on this wonderful photo and let it inspire you to get out in your workshop and help keep the tradition alive of making your own musical instruments.

This photo is dated December 1916 with German soldiers.

3 string guitar music

I did this artwork after being inspired by the show "Air Aces" on the Military channel.

I figure it fits best with "Your Patriotic Monday" so here is a song from me and beStillroy,
 of corse I do all the heavy lifting with a 3 string guitar....yep, best stuff on planet earth!

Antique Cigar Box Banjo

Check out this neat piece of Early Americana!
   It's a hand made banjo from a cigar box. I got these photos in an email yesterday from a friend, not much is known about it other than it was found in the Columbus Ohio area.

Judging from the construction it's defiantly a banjo, you can tell by the stick running thru the body and the shape of the headstock that the builder had tried to give it a banjo style and shape. It does look like a Daniel Carter Beard style banjo (who published a Cigar Box Banjo how to in the mid 1880's) and from the 1890's but I am unsure.

I can say that the way the wood on the neck has split due to it drying out over the years takes at least 80 to 100 years so it does appear to have the right age. Even without the proper history to tie to this homemade instrument, one things for sure, it sure is beautiful.
Check it out, this is the real long lost Folk Americana!

Homemade Guitar tuners

Perhaps the biggest riddle with making a homemade guitar that not only plays well, but plays in tune is the tuners themselves. It's a lot of fun to make the whole guitar completely homemade. Building a guitar with home made tuners is challenging but very rewarding. Over the years I have seen it done many ways, from eye bolts to homemade friction pins, zither style pins, homemade crank style tuners....just to name a few.

 BUT, I think guitar builder John Toomey has found a way that not only looks cool but functions well. The metal plate on the head stock appears to be what gives the tuners stability when the bolt is tight against the brass plate, you can be sure it's not moving or slipping out of tune. How rad is that simple concept!

Check this out, the photo explains more than words.  Add this to your "to do" list in the future and if you are ever without access to regular guitar tuners get out in the garage and see what you can create.

In this photo below he has made one of the tuners with a simple Phillips bolt head type with a small hole drilled thru it. It once again metal plate is the stopping point when you tighten the bottom bolt to provide stability, if it went strait into wood, the wood would not "lock" or seat the bolt well as the metal to metal does, and that is what really helps keep this guitar in tune. The possibilities are in in your work shop, look around and see what you can create!

Russian & French soldiers

Lots of homemade stuff at the theater!

This is a photo from 1916. It is of German and Russian prisoners and if you look in the front row you will see 2 homemade guitars and a homemade bass or cello.
 It seems to have been quite common for French soldiers to make their own guitars. I have about 30 different photos from that time period and almost all are from France ...the French love their cigar box and homemade guitars that's for sure!

This photo was found by Termoking of Belgium. He has found about 10 or more of these old photos that I have posted on this site. Every couple of months he digs one up. I can't wait to see what he finds next, I am sure there will be another.

till then check this out...study the front row. It always amazes me when I look closely at the faces that they seem like people I have known or could bump into at the local hardware store or during my daily activities. Even though these people lived a 100 years ago, we have a common bond in music and wanting to enjoy it in life no matter what or where we are!

In the Pines - Where did you sleep last night

This video will brighten your day and change your attitude about what you think you can do. It is really inspiring!

I get countless emails from injured Veterans and older people who tell me that they would love to learn but fear that their disabilities will prevent them from learning how to play a cigar box guitar. This video will show you that you can do ANYTHING you set you mind to.

Not only is this video super duper inspiring, but it is really done well and it's great music.

What an awesome choice for a song. This song is called  "Where did you sleep last night," but is also recorded by many people under the name as "In the Pines,"... from Nirvana to Leadbelly to Justin Johnson. Many great versions are out there, but this is by far the coolest version I have ever seen, and his playing and vocals are off the hook!

Tennessee - Appalachia antique homemade violin

Cigar box Violins seem to have been really common about 80 years ago in the Appalachia region of the United States. Here is another one that I have found photos of on eBay that the seller said came from the Tennessee area.  I am not sure of the exact age of this violin, but the varnish crackle leads me to believe it's about a 100 years old.

These homemade viloins seem to have been super common in the hills and suring area of Appalachia.
The going price for started at $425.00 on eBay, so there is value for these old instruments too.

It's hard to tell from these photos, but enlarged you can see that this homemade violin is craved with flowers and designs all through out the body, it's a really neat piece of Americana.

Hand Drawn Art

I am working on new album and website art. These are possible Cigar Box guitar album cover arts.
All this art is hand drawn, I am trying to get rid of all computer art that I use to print with in the past.
Computer art to me, doesn't match the homemade and cigar box guitar look and feel, and even though my drawing is somewhat shakey and less than perfect, I have come to accept my limitations and I am happy with just being me. This has taken my whole life to come to this point, I wish I would have learned to accept myself the way I am when I was younger, I would have done better in life in general...but, the past is the past.  Here is my art, less than perfect, but 100 percent all me!
Most of my art is done with graphite pencils and I love sharpie pens, but with the pens there is no eraser, so pen art is always far from perfect.
There is 5 different albums that are already done and printed with only cigar box music, if you want to hear them they are at this link click here   or email john@reddogguitars.com 

Cigar Box Guitar Lap Steel

This is really great Country music mixed with BlueGrass on 3 string Lap Steel.

Defiantly someone to put on your radar and research, I will be on the lookout for more of his music to post!

1878 boy with Homemade guitar

These old photos of actual homemade guitars from the 1800's are really hard to find, near impossible, but I managed to dig up one. This photo is of ex-slaves and in the front is a boy with a homemade guitar, the only information that came with the photo was that it was "former slaves and a boy with his homemade guitar" dated 1878.

I am not sure of what the guitar is made of, it looks like a gourd of some type, possible 2 of them put together? But....this is it! this is ground zero for homemade twangy goodness. It's a breath-taking and memorable photo that's for sure, I guarantee you will never forget it.


The MeriCAN Canjo Company

Check out these really authentic homemade banjos or "canjos"  and oil can guitars that are made in West Virginia.

 They are all handmade by a really talented builder and family man named Stephen Moore. These instruments have that real twangy southern sound that can bring your music back to the early 1900's.

You can find them here at http://www.whatsacanjo.com/ 

Early 1900's Homemade Cigar Box Violin

Ebay is great for finding long lost history, it is by far the best place to find old handmade and homemade instruments of all types. I am always finding cigar box guitars, violins and banjos that people are pulling down from there attics and closets.

 Heres and old handmade violin made from an old cigar box. I did manage to enlarge the photo and it says "INVINCIBLE" across the front with the added words wrapping around.  "Hand made Sumatra wrapper INVINCIBLE Guarrented Long Havana filter."

It even has a homemade case, also if you look close near the upper bout you can see the bridge tucked up under the instrument. This would be a great instrument to try to restring and play. I bet this could be brought back to life and play as well as when it was made. totally cool picece of Americana!

Real people happy toys!

Yes they are!

My friend and fellow builder Lenny (Daddy Mojo) had his company and guitars covered in a popular Chinese magazine, "Epicur."

 From Google translate: "These handmade instruments are not only carries some American music history, it is a real people happy toy"

Real people happy toys!!

The Cigar Box Player

Today I'd like to share a great cigar box 3 string guitar player with you. I know you will enjoy his music, it's got that country soulful blues that is just wonderful.

His name is David Philips and this song is called  'Right Back." Have a listen, I am sure you'll play it more than once!

Murder Mystery & The Cigar Box Guitar

OK, I know this is a site filled with happiness and uplifting stories, But as in life, sometimes sadness and sorrow creeps in, and this is a sad story.
I spend a lot of my free time searching any and everywhere for stories about homemade guitars, cigar box guitars and blues history, and my search came up with this toady about a young cigar box guitar player who died in the early 1940's.

 I thought it was a sad story but it's history so here I am to share.

This story was taken in part from The Ledger Newspaper online  March 16th 2014, written by Kevin Bouffard.

LAKELAND | Ovell Krell remembers her late brother, Owen Smith, as a talented musician who dreamed of fame as a country music artist.
"Owen was a child born very gifted in music," Krell said. "His fondest wish was to go to Nashville for his music."
When their father, an agricultural laborer, couldn't afford to buy Owen a guitar, he made one himself from a cigar box at age 9, Krell said. The brother-sister duo performed at local churches and venues.
Owen learned to play by ear with no formal training, she added. When they went to the local theater to see the latest Gene Autry film, Owen would memorize the music and Krell the lyrics.
Owen's dreams led to his death at age 14 in 1940 at the Arthur G. Dozier School for Boys in Marianna.

Krell, now 85, of Lakeland said she thinks Owen died after being severely beaten at the Dozier school following a September 1940 escape attempt, his second in just a few months there. Local officials sent him to Dozier after Owen tried to run away from the family's Auburndale home earlier that year to Nashville, Tenn., still country music's capital city.

Dozier officials told the family they discovered Owen's body under a Marianna woman's home. They told her parents and Krell, then just 12 years old, he died from exposure while hiding there during the escape attempt.
Even at 12 years old, Krell told The Ledger last month, she thought the official story was a lie.

Among the troubling aspects of the official version was that residents of the home where Owen's body was found, even though the escape attempt was months earlier.
The timing of the discovery also raised suspicions.
Krell said she wrote a "stern letter" to the school on behalf of her mother, who was angry at Dozier officials because Owen had not responded to her earlier letters for more than a month.
"By this time, she's getting very, very concerned," Krell added.

The letter informed the superintendent that the parents would be there the following week, Jan. 25, 1941, expecting answers regarding Owen's condition and why he was sent to Dozier.
There was never a juvenile court hearing after Owen was picked up near Tavares while hitchhiking to Nashville, she said, and the parents were never notified their son had been sent to Dozier until after he arrived. Later, they learned Owen was arrested in a car stolen by a Georgia teenager and sent to Dozier from a Tavares jail.

After other boys at her school told of the whippings and severe abuse at Dozier while Owen was there, Krell said she came to think her brother died as a result of the 100 lashes escapees typically got when returned, she said.
His body was probably buried in the school cemetery, she said, then exhumed after the mother's letter arrived and placed underneath the local house. That's why the residents didn't smell anything until the night before the body was "found," according to the official version.

The final Jan. 29, 2010, FDLE report on Dozier noted there were consistent stories on whippings and physical abuse from former residents and some staff, but it concluded there was "no tangible physical evidence to either support or refute the allegations."
Krell was one of the first female officers in the Lakeland Police Department, retiring in 1978 after 22 years. She agreed with many former Dozier residents the FDLE report was a whitewash.
"It was a piss poor investigation," she said.
Krell and others say they hope another investigation being conducted by a team of University of South Florida forensic anthropologists, which exhumed 55 marked and unmarked burial sites at the school, will find that physical evidence.
Her mother never recovered from her grief over Owen's death and battled depression for the rest of her life, Krell said.
And to this day, Krell herself feels "sadness, grief and anger" when thinking about what might have happened to Owen.
This story was taken in part from The Ledger Newspaper online  March 16th 2014, wriiten by Kevin Bouffard

Andrew Stones' handmade Instruments

Here is a matching set of 4 really beautiful cigar box instruments made by Andrew Stone.

I would love one! The shorter scale length ( or longer Uke scale length in this case) is perfect for backpacking, camping or a day at the park!

The Mother of Invention

They say necessity is the mother of invention, and here is it in action!

This is the real thing, someone who wants to play and make music and has created an instrument with what they have, found objects.

This is a wonderful photo! I don't know anything about the boy, his name or where he is, other than what appears to be maybe Africa. but I sure would love to hear him play his guitar!