I SPEND LONG NIGHTS SPENT HARD AT WORK IN THE LAB!
THE HOURS ARE LONG BUT THE REWARDS ARE WORTH IT!
Welcome to my website!
I have a hobby that is “threatening” to turn itself into a part-time business…
My name is Will, and I am very passionate about stringed instruments.
In particular: acoustic & electric guitars; ukulele; banjos; mandolins; dulcimers… Basically, any stringed instrument that I can build, repair, or restore will get my attention.
My parents bought me my first guitar when I was eight – and I’m 62 now! BTW, I still have that guitar… (THAT’S IT PICTURED ABOVE) – and it’s as hard to play now as when it was brand new. For an eight year old, a classical guitar with a 2″ nut and a dead flat fret board – combined with a chunky neck – made for quite the stretch! Truth-be-told, it also made me work at it, and I’m sure I’m a better player now for it.
My current passion is to build Cigar Box Instruments. Yes, instruments made from actual, “real” cigar boxes! And they end up as pretty nice instruments. I like to say that: hysterical instruments” – and I’m OK with that! One thing they are not, however, are instruments that will look, sound, or feel like a $3,000 Martin, Gibson, or Taylor. That’s because mine really are made from cigar boxes! So, it’s reasonable to expect that they will have a few little “quirks” of their own. There might be an odd little buzz or rattle – all at no extra charge!
I do, however, endeavor to “build quality” into my instruments. Oftentimes I make the necks from layered stock, and the combination of Oak / Maple / Oak boards joined together is a favorite of mine. Also, I use good quality tuners and fret wire. Many of the ones I’ve built also have pickups in them – either a piezo for the nylon stringed ones or magnetic for steel strings. A basic input jack is used – or additional volume and tone controls – to suit the buyer’s taste. Once completed, I go over the instrument and “tweak” any areas that may need improvement. I will also adjust the action (playability) and check the intonation (the ability for the instrument to play “in tune” with itself). The result is an instrument that will typically play nicely, stay in tune reasonably well, and have good sound. With the unique look of a one-of-a-kind instrument.
The instrument pictured above is a sweet little Soprano size ukulele, and it is typical of what I have been building lately.
It’s common for me to spend 30 – 40 hours per instrument. I don’t make them “assembly line” style. For me, it all starts with the box. When I find one I like I will usually spend some time just thinking about what “it wants to be”. When I get an idea of what type and size of instrument to make from it, I then start by laminating a neck block, using dimensional lumber. The fret slots get cut and then I start “roughing” out the shape. I really enjoy shaping the neck profile – although it is a time-consuming process when done by hand. When I’m satisfied with the look and feel, I will start applying finish to the neck. That is oftentimes a multiple step process. I also determine the best method of installing bracing (additional wood strips) into the box, in anticipation of attaching the neck. That can be quite tricky, as not all cigar boxes were made with the idea of turning them into instruments… in fact, none of them were! String tension and neck angle issues can be a challenge to deal with. On the instrument above, I also made the bridge (from one piece of maple) and then hand cut and filed the bone nut and saddle. I don’t use power saws very much – preferring to use hand tools as much as possible. I’m getting a pretty good assortment of hand saws (rough to very fine-cut), along with numerous rasps, files, scrapers, sanding blocks, etc. There is also a whole separate set of tools I use for fret / nut / saddle use. Along with those items, I have a growing collection of stains, paints and varnishes. Additionally, I like to scour “garage sales” and re-sale shops for items I can use to add interest. All of which contributes to a “One-of-a-Kind” instrument.
AND SPEAKING OF ONE-OF-A-KIND, I LIKE TO TRY DIFFERENT IDEAS – OFTENTIMES JUST TO SEE HOW THEY WILL TURN OUT. A GOOD EXAMPLE OF THAT IS THE INSTRUMENT PICTURED ABOVE. WHAT A HOOT! AS A FRIEND SAID “THERE’S A CONSIDERABLE AMOUNT OF ENGINEERING IN THAT ONE… ”
It’s a 6 string electric “double cigar box” guitar! This guitar has 2 single coil pickups and it plays beautifully. Proof positive that I really do make one-of-a-kind instruments! REALLY, IT DOES HAVE LOW, FAST ACTION, AND IT HAS EXCELLENT INTONATION – WHO KNEW? IT WAS AN “IDEA” THAT BECAME A REALITY. SOME MIGHT TEND TO SAY IT’S ACTUALLY “ALL-TOO-REAL”! TRUTH BE TOLD, I BUILD FOR MYSELF – AND IF SOMEONE ELSE LIKES MY WORK,WELL THEN THAT’S JUST GREAT!…
UPDATE: THAT ONE DID EVENTUALLY MEET WITH A TERRIBLE FATE… TOTALLY DIS-ASSEMBLED WITH A POWER SCREWDRIVER! I THOUGHT SOMEBODY MIGHT LIKE IT… BUT – HOW TO KNOW OTHERWISE?
PLEASE CHECK BACK AGAIN… I LIKE TO ADD NEW MATERIAL OFTEN.
The Formal Version
If any of what I’ve shared leads you to an interest in owning a Cigar Box Instrument, well then, you’ve come to the right place! Please check the “Available Instruments” section of my website. Thanks – Will.
NOTE: THIS PAGE (LIKE ME) IS STILL A WORK IN PROGRESS….PLEASE CHECK BACK SOON!