View Full Version : Cigar Box Guitar/Uke

09-28-2015, 09:16 AM
Hello there,

I am going to build a 3 stringed traditional blues intrument. It will be for slide purposes mainly. I just haven't decided yet if to go fretless or or not. Any tips from those who have experience with it?

Is there any disadvantage of playing slide on fretted intrument?


09-28-2015, 09:20 AM
Have you visited www.cigarboxnation.com ?

09-28-2015, 09:30 AM
Have you visited www.cigarboxnation.com ?

Yep I did. Wanted to get opinions of the lovely uke community. :)

09-28-2015, 10:55 AM
Go for it! Oh, you want more detailed advice? I own one anonymous (I forget the builder and it is not signed) electric 3-string fretless CBG with 26-inch scale I tune GBg. It is okay but I do not play it much.

I scheme to build somewhat similar 'uke-like objects but with significant differences: non-electric (probably) and resonator bodies -- my hollow yardstick necks bolted to ham cans like the Konablaster is modeled on. Steel-string and fretless, but with fret markings for *some* fingering guidance. Fretless banjo-'ukes built on tambourines may also emerge once I get my workshop together. Some may be 3-stringers, some 4. Some may be setup essentially as dulcimer-like strumsticks.

Another of my schemes involves finding or fabricating a thin 3D rectangle (maybe a wood or metal candy box?) and attaching two fretted 'uke necks to the long side. Why? My soft nylon briefcase (16 x 12 x 6+ inches) does not *quite* hold even one soprano 'uke. I can custom-build that twin candy-box axe for multiple 'ukes in one bag!

Other folks here own and/or build cigar-box 'ukes and I think those are mostly electric -- just about a necessity given a commercial cigar box's limited acoustic properties. Some include built-in amp and speaker(s). I have a couple of old cigarette-pack amp+speaker gadgets that perfectly support a cigar-box axe, eh?

Those are some of my ideas. Like I said, go for it! Probably fretless and electric. If you want to slide over frets, keep the action high.

09-29-2015, 04:59 AM
Frets are much harder to do than fretless, especially when you have to take the very high action needed for a slide into account.

A few years back I built an Uncle Crow 3 string slide. Went together very fast and still works fine. I'm tempted to replace the nasty white wood neck with an oak one and put on some real tuners instead of the eye bolt/wing nut tuners and add a piezo pickup with jack.

I didn't pick it up for a long time until my 5 year old recently showed interest in it. He just puts it on his lap and plays it with the slide. Seems to think it's really cool.

here's the first of a series of build videos for tossing this model together:


I actually like the neck raised over the cigar box.

09-29-2015, 05:36 AM
Frets are much harder to do than fretless, especially when you have to take the very high action needed for a slide into account. Depends on the slide. I use metal or glass 'bottlenecks' when playing my fretted dobro guitar-style -- the slide does not (usually) press strings down all the way to the frets. But held in my lap and played with a lap-steel slide is more problematic. I'll say a lap-axe must be fretless while a standup axe could go either way. My fretless CBG, obviously meant for standup play (it shipped with a neck strap), has rather high action. That does not really matter whether it's played with a slide or bare fingers. I found it useful to draw fret lines on the neck as visual cues.

But yeah, fretless is always easier to build. ;) If / when I build a fretted CBU I'll probably bolt a salvaged 'uke neck to the box and call it good. That's the lazy way. Who, me?

09-29-2015, 06:33 AM
if you want to be super lazy I think you could take any old uke and put a bolt right up against the nut to raise the action and call it a day.


In fact that might be a good way to repurpose my son's mahalo (my first uke), come to think of it.

09-30-2015, 11:20 PM
I'll probably build two at the same time, fretted and fretless version. I would definately put fret markers on fretless neck but I can't imagine how it feels to play chords using just fingertips on fretless neck with fairly high action. The nicer box will probably get fretted neck and pickup anyway :)

10-01-2015, 04:45 AM
I can't imagine how it feels to play chords using just fingertips on fretless neck with fairly high action. It feels impossible. Double-stops and barres, yes; chord forms, no. On fretless banjo or CBG or o'ud I just slide into the right place on one or two strings and let the other(s) drone or thump (if muted).

10-01-2015, 07:56 AM
They're pretty fun to build and play.

If you're JUST going to play slide, there's no reason to go to all the trouble of having a fretted neck.

My 3-string CBG is fretted, and even with the action set to be comfortable to fret I still have no problem playing slide on it whether it's a glass or metal slide.

Depending on how elaborate you want to get with the build, CBGitty has some pretty nice bridges, necks, tuners, anything you'd need. My first one (fretless bass) was just made with stuff I had laying around and a trip to the hardware store for some wood.