Ever Heard of a Cigar Box Guitar? This Book Teaches You How to Build One.

cigar box guitar diy instruments
Mike Mihalo

If you’re one of the many people, myself included, who hasn’t heard of a cigar box guitar, prepare to be educated on the little-known, but powerful and dulcet-sounding do-it-yourself instrument.

cigar box guitars making poor mans guitar 13

Beginning in the mid-1800s, cigar companies ended their shipping practice using large boxes containing hundreds of cigars in favor of smaller, more portable boxes containing between just 10 and 50. These smaller boxes (often made from wood) would be discarded after emptied, leaving behind a surplus of small wooden boxes and no use for them. Sometime prior to or just during the Civil War, some poverty-stricken genius musician got the idea to use a cigar box as a resonator, with a broom handle or other stick and a few guitar strings attached. The colloquial and Americana term for this creation is a cigar box guitar, but the technical musical term is a chordophone.

From that point on, cigar box guitars were built and played on by poor whites and African-Americans throughout the country. They were often featured in bluegrass bands with accompanying store-bought harmonicas and homemade instruments such as washtub basses, washboard percussion, and jugs.

cigar box guitars making poor mans guitar 12
Shane Speal

After the Great Depression, American poverty decreased and playing of cigar box guitars suffered a steep decline as wages rose and factory-made guitars, fiddles, and banjos replaced more traditional ad-hoc instruments. But today, with the rise of Youtube, cigar box guitar builders and players have found a new home with a global audience. One of those aficionados (with six full-length cigar box albums under his belt), Shane Speal, authored a newly released book on the topic: Making Poor Man’s Guitars: Cigar Box Guitars, The Pan Banjo, and Other DIY Instruments

Not only does Speal’s book offer a guide on how to build your own cigar box guitar, it also covers the history of these guitars and other “poor man’s” instruments, including the tale of Blind Willie Johnson’s on-string creation, which he played with a pocket knife; the story of blues guitarist Scrapper Blackwell; and the background of the Razzy Dazzy Spasm Band, a “group of street urchin paperboys in the late 1800s who haunted the Storyville district of New Orleans.”

“The stories in this book will make each DIY guitar project come alive,” said Speal in a release. “Discovering cigar box guitar music holds the same excitement you felt when you bought your first Led Zeppelin record back in the ’70s. I want others to fall in love with music all over again.”

With the stunning imagery, great stories, and Speal’s accompanying YouTube videos, falling in love with cigar box guitars isn’t hard to do.

Making Poor Man’s Guitars is available now where books are sold and on Amazon for $20.

Outdoors

How to Fend Off Hiker Hunger When You’re on the Trail

Because you deserve more than just beef jerky and a half-melted Snickers bar on the trail.
Outdoors

5 Survival Knives That Could Save Your Life

These knives are definitely not for everyday carry, but rather for camping, hiking, or having on hand for emergencies.
Food & Drink

Elevate Your Japanese Cuisine By Learning How to Make Homemade Furikake

This versatile Japanese condiment is easy to make and can be used on just about anything.
Auto

Everything You Need in Your Car Emergency Kit

Having a few essentials in the car can help save your life — or someone else's — if you run into trouble on remote roads.
Culture

How to Netflix and Chill: Mastering the Invite, Finding the Best Shows, and More

Jean-Luc Godard famously said, “I always feel that a man and a woman who do not like the same films, will eventually divorce.” Applying his principle, Netflix and Chill becomes a logical means of getting to know someone.
Living

Calling All Game of Thrones Fans: This Print is the Ultimate GoT Artwork for Your Walls

No matter where you hang this piece of art, it's sure to be a conversation starter. 
Grooming

What is Biohacking? An Interview with Biohacker and Podcaster Luke Storey

If you’re into technology toys, biohacking offers a plethora of gadgets to geek out about.
Culture

Ghosting, Orbiting, Breadcrumbing, and Other Modern Relationship Terms Explained

This glossary of modern relationship terms may will help define certain behaviors, such as why a romantic interest leaves you on "read" or an ex keeps liking your photos.
Grooming

6 Natural Topical Pain Relief Products to Treat Your Aching Muscles

What’s the point in getting rid of the pain if you’re damaging your vital organs in the process?
Culture

The Grown-Up’s Guide to Everyday Carry Essentials for Cannabis

Unless you’re trying to make a lifestyle shift (and we’re guessing you’re not), you shouldn’t spend more on your smoking accessories than you do on the stuff you smoke.
Food & Drink

Pre-Workout Meals that Make the Most of Your Hard Work

While specific meals aren't critical for moderate exercise, if you're going for a long run, hitting the weights hard, doing intense interval training, or you're about to play a competitive sport, then pre-exercise foods matter a lot.
Culture

15 Coffee Table Books Every Man Should Consider for His Home

Don't have any coffee table books on your current coffee table? Let us help fix that lack of literature.
Culture

7 Fantastic Beach Reads for Your Next Vacation

From a harrowing tale of survival at sea to a classic by Steinbeck, we've got all the best beach reads in one place.
Culture

Build and Tone Your Muscles with the 10 Best Arm Workouts for Men

Start handing out your own tickets to the gun show with the best arm exercises for men