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.

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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,

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.

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


 ....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


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.

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.

Here is some art I did below because the inspiration hit me.
 I just loved Shane Speal's logo so I copied it and made mine to look old.
I did this with a sharpie pen believe it or not!

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.