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View Full Version : Conversion: From Kit to Jumbo Cigar Box Soprano



Spalt
03-15-2009, 07:53 AM
Hi:
I've got a soprano uke that I built from a kit a couple of years ago. Problems include:
- it's very quiet (yes, I've tried different strings)
- terrible intonation
- it will barely stay in tune while I try to get through a song
on the upside:
- it looks good!
- it's got decent neck/fingerboard/tuners

I think most/all of the problems are from the cheapo laminate mahogany soundbox, which probably has little if any bracing inside of it. I'm considering hacking off the neck and sticking it onto a large (11" x 9.25" x 3.75") cigar box that I've got. If I do it, I'll probably get a cedar top and some bracing from Hana Lima 'Ai. So, my questions are:

- Is this box too big to go with a soprano neck?
- If I try it, should a shave down the thickness of the box so it's more like the conventional 2"? Or, taper it so it's 2" at the neck, but thicker (how much) at the other end?

Thanks for any advice/opinions!

anomoly40
03-15-2009, 08:21 AM
One of the reasons I build Cigar Box Guitars is because of the beauty of the box. Why change that?

Also I'm not understanding the taper question. Is the thickness of the walls the question or are you going to change the actual shape of the box?

Spalt
03-15-2009, 08:37 AM
One of the reasons I build Cigar Box Guitars is because of the beauty of the box. Why change that?

Also I'm not understanding the taper question. Is the thickness of the walls the question or are you going to change the actual shape of the box?

Yes, I'm proposing to change the actual shape of the box. My Kala concert is 2.25" thick (deep?) at the neck and 2.75" at the other end: a 0.5" taper. Check out the taper in Vic D's cigar box project at: http://www.ukuleleunderground.com/forum/showthread.php?t=10764 --I assume his original box was a standard rectangle. He's changed the box, but I think it still looks great.

anomoly40
03-15-2009, 08:57 AM
Well, a good bit of the boxes are made of Spanish Cedar. You could do the trapazodial shape but it might be difficult depending on your carpentry skill. I'd be worried about the soundboard thickness if you decide to use the top of the box.

What kind of box do you have? Like the brand and size of the cigar (Robusto, torpedo, Churchill, presedente etc...)?

Spalt
03-15-2009, 10:57 AM
I'd be worried about the soundboard thickness if you decide to use the top of the box.

As I said in my original post, I'll be using a cedar soundboard and some bracing from Hana Lima 'Ai--so it will be the right stuff. The basic idea is that I'd cut off the existing bottom on the table saw (possibly reducing the the overall depth and imposing the taper), and put on the new 3/16" cedar soundboard with proper bracing and tentalones. The original bottom of the box then becomes the front of the uke. The old hinged top becomes the back (and is probably glued shut).


What kind of box do you have? Like the brand and size of the cigar (Robusto, torpedo, Churchill, presedente etc...)?

It sez Tabacaelra from the Philippines on it.

I'm really looking for some advice concerning the overall size of this box. It's quite a bit larger than the soundbox on a soprano uke and I'm wondering if that is, although unusual, OK.

ukantor
03-15-2009, 11:19 AM
I've made a number of cigar-box ukes from two different sizes of box. My favourite size is an "Embassy" box (an old British brand) 9 1/2" x 6 1/4" x 1 3/4". Just about perfect for a soprano scale uke. The other boxes I use are "La Paz" (a Dutch brand) 10 3/4" x 6 7/8" x 2". These work very well, but to my eyes they look slightly too long.

Your box is certainly on the big side for a soprano neck, but there are no rules in this game. It will certainly work, and the extra depth, when tapered, could have a very positive effect on the sound. I'd pose the neck against the box. If the proportions do not look too bad, and it seems right to hold and to play, then give it a go.

On four of my box ukes I used quarter-sawn western red cedar for the sound board, and it gives a wonderful sound.

Let us know how it works out.

All the best,

Ukantor.

anomoly40
03-15-2009, 01:43 PM
Those are really good boxes. Here locally we've been getting "Davidoff Reserva 12" limited edition boxes. They have a perfect top that has a decent thickness. They're a little shallow for a regular neck unless you cut down the heel, I'm guessing about 1.5" thick.

Vic D
03-16-2009, 02:29 PM
Yes, I'm proposing to change the actual shape of the box. My Kala concert is 2.25" thick (deep?) at the neck and 2.75" at the other end: a 0.5" taper. Check out the taper in Vic D's cigar box project at: http://www.ukuleleunderground.com/forum/showthread.php?t=10764 --I assume his original box was a standard rectangle. He's changed the box, but I think it still looks great.

Actually the box was shaped just as it is now except for top that I added. I believe it's spanish cedar and the top and bottom plates are some kind of laminate. I left the bottom plate on and replaced the top with some sitka spruce braced with engellmann spruce and a thin maple brace under the bridge.
Yes that cigar box was just begging to become a ukulele.
I'll get the dimensions and post them later this evening.

Spalt
03-16-2009, 03:20 PM
Actually the box was shaped just as it is now except for top that I added.

Really an odd shape for cigars. I wonder how they filled it up...

Vic D
03-16-2009, 04:40 PM
Really an odd shape for cigars. I wonder how they filled it up...

I was wondering the same thing... It's almost as if they made this cigar box to be a ukulele.

anomoly40
03-17-2009, 09:38 AM
This is a guitar I made from a trapazoidal shaped box. After looking in the box sides taper down leaving the inside more of a rectangled shape. The way they wrap and pack them makes them fit in pretty snug.

http://i62.photobucket.com/albums/h85/anomoly40/DSC_0078.jpg
http://i62.photobucket.com/albums/h85/anomoly40/DSC_0079.jpg
http://i62.photobucket.com/albums/h85/anomoly40/DSC_0082.jpg