Hi, this is a website about Homemade guitars, Cigar box guitars, 3 and 4 string guitars, Cookie tin banjos, and the history of hand made and homemade musical instruments from around the world.

Give the photos time to load on your screen. Some of the photos are large in size. I wanted to display them nicely, so some will take time to load on your computer screen.

Cigar Box Guitar History and Old Time Music

Here is a photo from the 1880's or 1890's of camp life, check out that homemade guitar.
If you look closely at the tailpiece, you can see it that it looks to be well made and must have played and sounded pretty good. At least the guy holding it thought highly enough of his instrument to have himself photographed with it!

I find many of these old instruments for sale on ebay. In fact as you read along in this website, there are many pages and you'll see a lot of them. Not only photos of the instruments themselves, but I also have a large collection of antique photos of people playing or holding them.

I wanted to post some videos of cigar box guitar music and don't know which one to post first, so how about this one?

Cigar box guitars are SUPER easy to play and sound great.  Many people have tried to learn to play guitar and then give up because they were hard to learn....but cigar box guitars are different. They are super simple in nature to learn and play, watch this video above....BUT
Don't just listen passively,  watch the guitar parts and the playing. There really isn't much happing, just a simple pluck here and there a little bit of slide guitar back and forth....even with no experience you too can play in just a few weeks! 
 The key is that a cigar box guitar works FOR YOU because of the great sound they naturally have. These guitars have a vintage and raspy old time sound and require very little effort to play. 
I find many of these old instruments for sale on ebay. In fact as you read along in this website, there are many pages and you'll see a lot of them. Not only photos of the instruments themselves, but I also have a large collection of antique photos of people playing or holding them.


Check out this antique 3 string cigar box guitar, if you look close you will see that it's a 3 string guitar with one of the tuners coming up directly from behind the headstock. Also you will notice that the maker has carefully drawn out the fret markers. Since there is not actual frets, I believe it was probably used as a slide guitar.
I only wish I could hear it. Even though we can't hear that exact guitar we can listen to an acoustic 3 sting played with a slide and we can take a step back into that era. 
What does that "old time" twangy goodness from long ago sound like?

Funny you should ask!

Have a listen to this cigar box guitar being played. It's a short scale homemade guitar similar to the one above. This video is recorded without electricity, no pickup or amplifier, nothing fancy, just a wooden neck bolted on an old cigar box.

Have a listen to this video.

If you build cigar box guitars, a quick tip to achieve a vintage "twangy" sound is to build a shorter scale neck. If you build in the 21 to 23 inch or so range, you can sharpen the instruments tone and it will also give the instrument a bit more pop and volume. It will be a slight bit more crisp in the attack and bite.
By using a shorter scale on an acoustic instrument without a pickup it will help you also achieve a louder volume naturally and make the instrument more playable without an amplifier.
It's not so easy to coax a great sound out of a an old used cigar box, but it can be done!

OK, for the record, I like electricity too!....sometimes it's just great.
Everyone always ask me the same question "What's my favorite amp?"..... It is by far the Pignose!
They just have the coolest sound. It actually has an almost tube like glass sound, and the price can't be beat.  You can buy one for about $80 bucks in just about any music store.

Have a listen to this wonderful old recording,

What can you do with a digital amp? Let's find out.

How about some of that twangy Hot Rod Music?

This song was recorded with both an acoustic 3 string guitar and then double tracked with an electric cigar box guitar.

Rock N' Roll ~ Antique Homemade Guitars

How cool is this 1920's homemade guitar below?
Imagine what the person who made it was trying to achieve, It's the full sha-bang. It's a six-string, screws used as fret dot markers, wrap around tail piece, homemade bridge, homemade tuners, and how cool is that hand crafted metal pick guard?
This must have taken someone both a lot of thought before hand, and a lot of work to complete. I bet it was playable and sounded pretty good.

Hopefully some of these guitars on this website inspire you to dig deeper into the history of the homemade instruments and early American Blues and Folk music. 
 There is a world of great old recordings to listen to and study....and if you'r feeling adventurous, these instruments are both easy to build and easy to play. Get out into you garage and make one, you'll have a blast!

You'll have honky tonkin' good time!
Speaking of a good time, let's take a trip back in time shall we?


Here is another blast from the past. I would guess this guitar is from the early 1900's. I would love to learn more about the person who built it. It must have taken a lot of effort back then, it looks really well made.

 I left the photos full size, you can click on them to see the large full up close shots.

 You can still see the saw marks in the body.

Listen to this old time cigar box guitar music. It's a blast from the past!

Antique Cigar Box Guitars / Banjos and Diddley Bows

Every few weeks an antique cigar box instrument of some type pops up for sale on eBay. You gotta love eBay, it's the first place to find hidden treasures.
 By using eBay you are in fact looking thru peoples closets and attics nationwide, you just never know what someone will dig out of their attic to sell. I often find these old instruments under different keywords searches such as "odd guitar" "homemade guitar" "square guitar" etc....
Many people don't actual label them as a "cigar box guitar," so sometimes there is some detective work into finding them as eBay is vast website.
However, this week a seller has listed in one single auction 5 of them...yes 5 in one auction!
I contacted the seller and asked if I could post the photos on this blog,  so here I am sharing.

Check out these examples of homemade and handmade Cigar Box Americana, How cool are these instruments???

Check out this Cigar Box Americana music video

Cigar Box Guitar Music - Old Time 1880's to 1930's Bottleneck & Slide guitar

Listening is learning, it really is!....the very best way to learn how to play great cigar box guitar, is to study cigar box guitar music.

If you are stuck at home, like me and half the world at this point due to the Corona virus...now is a good time to study cigar box guitar and improve your playing.
 I have 3 different cigar box guitar albums you can download to you computer or phone or on any digital device, computer or cell phone, they are Mp3

These 3 albums are all old time blues music played on cigar box guitar. NO singing, NO band, NO regular guitars. These recordings are only authentic Delta Blues and slide cigar box guitar.

In these recordings, I wanted to record authentic Blues and Bottleneck slide cigar box guitar as realistic as possible. My goal with this music was to take the listener back to the 1880's and up to 1930's.  I also recorded some Electric 1950's bottleneck slide to recreate and relive those long lost sounds. 

 Here are the links to the downloads below, also you can hear the song demos. Have a listen to the samples below.

 If you would be interested in downloading these albums, they are 12 dollars and you can check them out thru PayPal and listen to them right away on any digital device, computer or cell phone, they are Mp3 

click the blue world that says "buy"

if you have questions, email me at   john@reddogguitars.com

The easiest way to learn to play old time blues is to listen to old time blues. Listening is learning.

It's how I learned, by the way, I listened to Ry Cooder's "Paris Texas" about 500 times...you should go get that too! It's at Amazon.

This is The Dust Bowl Blues - Cigar Box guitar Music Album

 Just 12 dollars download to your computer 
- Have a listen and see if you like them

This is the Cigar Box Americana - Music album

 If you would like and actual CD mailed to your house anywhere world wide, they are here at this page  http://www.3-string-guitar.com
 If you have any questions contact me at  john@reddogguitars.com 

New Music Download - ZZ- Twang - It's a super deal!

This is a new album this has just been released for fall 2019.

This is an album of vintage style 3 and 4 string guitar. From old time blues to amped up slide guitar and a mix of both at the same time!
Instead of me using endless words and talking about "music" have a listen to the album. 
This album is available for download and you can listen to it on your phone, tablet, computer or any mp3 player.

Jimmy Driftwood and his homemade guitar

Check out this wonderful video about Jimmy's old homemade guitar.
This is such a great story. I will let him tell you all the details, in case there's any chance you'll want to make your own???

It sure has a sweet sound...this here is real deal Tennessee pickin'!

3 & 4 String Cigar Box Guitar Pickups

I have been making Tobacco and Americana pickups off and on for a few years now and I often get questions on if I have some for sale.  I am making a few models to have permanently in stock. If you build or sell cigar box guitars, these are a great addition to your instrument. They add both value and have a vintage tone.
Here is a short demo video of them and the sound sample is at the end of the video. If you are looking to recreate those old vintage sounds from the 1920's and 30's these will give you a wide range of possibilities. Go from clear and bell like highs with clarity to deep southern raunchy overdrive, with one of these pickups on your guitar you can bring the past alive!

Here is a short demo video with a sound sample and song at the end, Have a listen.

These pickups are for sale at   this webpage click here   they are at the bottom of the page

Email john@reddogguitars.com if you have any questions

With These pickups you can play a lot more than just early blues and slide, and also with just about any cigar box guitar. These pickups can play crystal clear yet they can also be over driven to create really ruff edge hard driving music.

Here above is a video, have a listen to the experiments that can be down with a 3 string guitar.

I would also like to say even without these exact pickups, this music can be made on just about any 3 string guitar. I often get asked this one question "Is a three string guitar only for Blues??? Can I play other types of music on a s string guitar??? "

Well, have a listen and listen closely.

There is a whole world of editing and making homemade recordings and music videos that are a really fun hobby to explore, even with absolutely no experience. In fact, the less you know, the more open you will be to create new and unique music because the rules will not hamper you.
When you record with no real expense, you will just be "making it up" and figuring it out on the go, and that is one of the best ways to create music. You won't know right from wrong. So you will be more likely to stumble upon unique sounds and ways to record and play a cigar box guitar.

Poverty can't stop music....just look, his bow is a twig!

What kind of party is this?

Check out these new photos. These photos were found by Termoking in Belgium. They are of French soldiers from World War 1. (1914 -1918)
He is perhaps the person who finds the most historic photos on the subject of cigar box instruments and homemade guitars / bajos / violins etc. My hats of to you!
I don't know how he does it?   ...but he is always finding these old photos, so PLEASE keep 'em coming!

This photo below is from 1917 of a homemade box violin of some sort. I would love to hear this thing play.
 Look at it like this, for someone to so proudly take a photo with this instrument would lead you to believe that he not only played the instrument a lot, but that it also sounded well enough for him to have that much pride in its construction....just look at his smile!

I know it must have sounded terriffic!

This photo below is an image from the Land Down Under.
It's a photo of John Nugent taken sometime  in the 1880's working on the railroad in Australia. Long before Justin Johnson's shovel guitar, there was a young lad name John.

I can hear him now....this train's a comin'....toot toot!!!

4 String Cigar Box Guitar - Building a 1950's Wild Indian

I'm just having fun, that's what this hobby is about!  It sure is wonderful to build these homemade guitars, you don't have to work so hard and in the end you can have a great sounding guitar that is allot easier to play and doesn't take years of dedication to learn like the standard store bought guitars....A totally beginner can pick up a cigar box guitar and sound great in just a few weeks....and an experienced player can use one of these guitars to play and record really authentic vintage music. Man , everyday I love these instruments more and more!
I am working on new stuff, here is a video, you can skip to the end to here the demos of the guitar.

If you like cigar box guitar music,
I have several hundred of these types of old time music videos 

The quickest way to learn how to play great cigar box guitar....
is to listen to cigar box guitar music
visit the website https://reddogguitars.com
or check out my channel on youtube


This instrument below is a cigar box guitar built sometime in the 1930's
Check out the Indian art in the sound hole and the super cool wrap around homemade tailpiece.

Cigar Box Guitar Music Videos

Here is a couple of music videos that I wanted to share.

This first one is from a homemade instrument builder name Miku from Poland, I have posted about him before on this website.  He make really neat artistic instruments, and they sound fantastic.
You can view his site here, http://www.cigarboxguitar.pl

There is a fork at the end of his headstock, how could you not love this?
Have a listen to this, it is sure to inspire!

This next video is from 2 bothers that are Cigar Box Blues musicians called "The Dusk Brothers"

These guys are from the United Kingdom but play the most authointic old school Swap Rock Americana I have ever heard!....I am not kidding, if you have never heard these guys your in for a treat.
Here is there website, https://www.duskbrothers.com

Watch this video, you'll find it hard to belive this was recorded with just a cell phone but these 2 guys are really great. Watch this video and be prepared to be blown away.

The video is set to volume at mute, so be sure to turn the volume up on both your computer and also in the right hand corner of the little video player.

Dusk Brothers - This Is Hell
Another completely live video of an original song from our Friday night workshop session back in February. And as always everything was played live, what you see and hear is what you get - no loops, samples or triggers, just real, genuine live instruments, most of which we built ourselves. Please subscribe to our YouTube channel if you like our video so you don't miss our future uploads! (Also, you'll be doing us a big favour because when we get to 100 subscribers we can change our url to something prettier than the mess below, so far we have 64, so we now need another 46!!) Cheers! https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCUU2zcjZF7QxW_U2Jy94y6w These videos were filmed on a smart phone. Dusk Brothers are a UK Bristol based British americana swamp blues cigar box guitar band playing self built home made guitars and foot drums.
Posted by Dusk Brothers on Sunday, March 12, 2017


Look at this story I found in the online edition of our local newspaper


Edited  1-6-2018  @  12:31 PM 


Dear Abby,

I am writing you to ask for your very appreciated advice. Recently my husband of 20 years started playing guitar, it's a rather curious instrument. It's a square guitar made from an old cigar box and it has only 3 strings. He really enjoys his homemade guitar and plays it everyday. It has given him a new passion for music and he loves the history of the instrument.

BUT, the problem is, I am a home based business woman and during my weekly Tupperware parties, my husband locks himself in his "man cave" and my clients and guest have to hear this horrendous growling sound that comes out of that red dog cigar box guitar. 

He also plays guitar late into the night, it has this awful sound that cuts right thru the walls of our house. I can't sleep, I need help!...his electric guitar playing sounds like farts and whistles coming from a 1920's carnival ride. 
I even secretly recorded him so that you could witness the pain I have to suffer through every night. 

This music is happening every night! Please HELP!.....what can I do to rectify this???
Judy,  Sleepless in Seattle

Country Fiddles

Here some shots of 2 cigar box fiddles that came up for sale on ebay. It's a rare thing to find one of these much less two of them for sale on ebay almost at the same time.

This first one was found in a wall of an old farmhouse in upstate New York while remodeling.

This next one is quite the masterpiece.... It is being sold with no information.

 You can tell by looking closely, it was several boxes glued together to make one instrument.   Those Samuel David 1884 logos are only on the original boxes in 2 places, so this must be about 8 or more boxes cut down and glued together?
No matter what, you can also look at the neck and this must have been a serious player as it shows alot o play wear on the neck...How cool is this thing!

Somebody spent some major time building this cigar box violin!

Tomahawk Cigars - 1868 Pickup cover art

Here is some old time Bottleneck Blues music played on cigar box guitar

I have pickups for sale at this website http://www.3-string-guitar.com/
If you have any questions you can email me at john@reddogguitars.com or Google Red Dog Guitars.
In the video above is an guitar in progress. It is already much different than in the video. It's just hard to edit the video and photos because of time. I will post an updated video soon.

Since your here, check out this video and artist I thought you might like. He really has a great sound.
 He just opened up for ZZ-Top so I guess we could say "he's moving on up"  that's a pretty good score...I expect to see much more of him. He certainly knows how to make a three string sound great!

Have a listen to this and his name is Jordan Matthew Young...be on the look over the next year or so. I bet you'll see much more of him.

Jap Zero Banjo

Check out this Jap Zero Banjo. I bet that's 3 words you never though you would see in the same sentence???

How cool is this, an instrument made in 1944 with parts found from a aircraft that was shot down in the Pacific during World War 2....This is history right here!

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 this music video recorded on a homemade cigar box guitar

This guitar below is 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. 


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!"

Here is some older than old music...well, kinda : - P

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!