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View Full Version : Please Explain Cigar Box Ukes to me.



RonS
08-25-2009, 10:15 AM
I never heard of them before.

Now I'm seeing them all over the place.

I even noticed a couple that are going for over a grand and one over 3 grand.

Going for this price there must be something about them.
What am I missing?

cornfedgroove
08-25-2009, 10:52 AM
You arent missing anything. The economy sucks so people are finding different ways to accumulate instruments rather than buying them. I'd sooner give myself an air embolism by jammin an empty pen in my arm and blowing before I paid that much for cbu...

I've seen cigar box guitars for comparable prices...but in all fairness, the only thing that's better between that and a $300 (even $150 for that matter) are maybe nicer pictures and a bunch of smooth-talking bullspit. I've seen alot of cigar box guitars, and w/o a doubt one of the best builders still only sells his for about $100 and its guaranteed awesome AND its acoustic.

cigar box instruments started shortly after cigars began to be imported into the use circa 1840...first proof of existence is in the 1870s. If you want to understand cigar box guitars/instruments...go throw all your instruments away, quit your job and burn your money. When you're sittin at home with no instrument to play and no money to get one...necessity becomes the mother of all invention. Before things were mass produced, instruments could be hard to come by since they were made by hand...that means, they were more expensive than lots could afford.

Cigar box instruments are grass roots instruments...rustic, old fashioned, simple and awesome. People try to gussy them up to look like every other manufactured instrument...thats kinda missing the point. People try to sell them for hordes of money...thats even more missing the point. The only way to justify that $$ for a simple, DIY instrument is to make the entire box from flamed-out Brazilian Rosewood, put some gold-plated gibson pickups, pots, toggles and tuners, with an extravagant neck and ornate custom inlay, and a truss rod cover that will sing your name whenever you say "whats my name?" ...and then have Don Ho and Iz sign it after playing together at the Grammys.

You should not be paying more than a few hundred for top-line cb instruments imo.

Ukeffect
08-25-2009, 11:52 AM
I think you're right about those prices, I'm having one made right now with electric pickups and the works for $165! to see some of this guys work look at http://www.tinyguitars.tk/ his are super reasonable and look /sound as good as any I've seen! I can't wait for mine to come home... :D

tadam3000
08-25-2009, 12:26 PM
I can't comment about all cigar-box ukuleles, but I do believe at least some of the more expensive ones are not made from cigar boxes, but have cigar-box-shaped bodies, but are all custom crafted.

hoosierhiver
08-25-2009, 01:13 PM
There seems to be a real cigar box fever lately. I made my first one about a month ago and really get a kick out of it. It sounds good, feels good, didn't cost much, was pretty easy to make AND I don't worry about leaving it the car, scratching it up or taking it to a party.

mwalimu
08-25-2009, 01:28 PM
IO would say that Cigar box ukes are a variation of UAS. If you haven't got the tools or skills to become a luthier, a cigar box offers a way to build one. They certainly are unique and cool.

I don't know if I agree with the prices quoted by some of the posters here, I think the price is what you are willing to pay. Some of the boxes I've seen are real works of art and probably worth a few hundred dollars. But those, I think are the exception.

I would recommend Papa's Boxes for the complete novice. You basically get a neck, which I think is the hardest part to make, for $90 to $150, plus the hardware to make the uke. All you need is a box.

RonS
08-25-2009, 02:11 PM
Thanks for the replies! :)

I appreciate something that is hand built, even more so when it can make music.

I can see how it got started as a inexpensive alternative.

Thanks again

cornfedgroove
08-25-2009, 03:43 PM
I remember buying a custom made mountain dulcimer from a Ron Ewing, a very reputable builder and inventor of the dulcimer capo. I chose everything! I asked why his were so inexpensive to other custom jobs, he responded "I can't justify charging $2000 just because the market will bare it."

I'd like to see some links to any cbu at $500 and beyond.

I've seen some amazing looking necks on cigar boxes, it must be quite time consuming and certainly beyond my skills so I credit that. I also credit those with amazing artistry in design and paint jobs...also more time consuming. Those have seemed to only be $300-$400. I still cannot understand a $1000 pricetag.

if it aint a cigar box...it aint a cigar box uke.

Steiner
08-25-2009, 03:49 PM
I think bluegrass ukulele cbu are about $500 and made with a real cigar box. They sound and look amazing.

cornfedgroove
08-25-2009, 04:12 PM
I'm not sure they are quite that much, but I wouldnt be suprised if his top end ones are that much. regardless, I agree with you...they are great ukes

UkuleleHill
08-25-2009, 04:32 PM
I remember buying a custom made mountain dulcimer from a Ron Ewing, a very reputable builder and inventor of the dulcimer capo. I chose everything! I asked why his were so inexpensive to other custom jobs, he responded "I can't justify charging $2000 just because the market will bare it."

I'd like to see some links to any cbu at $500 and beyond.

I've seen some amazing looking necks on cigar boxes, it must be quite time consuming and certainly beyond my skills so I credit that. I also credit those with amazing artistry in design and paint jobs...also more time consuming. Those have seemed to only be $300-$400. I still cannot understand a $1000 pricetag.

if it aint a cigar box...it aint a cigar box uke.

I like what I have seen in the way of artistry on your ukes, so I think you do a great job :)

cornfedgroove
08-25-2009, 06:13 PM
I like what I have seen in the way of artistry on your ukes, so I think you do a great job :)

thanks brutha...I like them too, but I'm still aspiring to do more. I got a local store to sell em for me, and a few classes set up to teach DIY cbu...as I get more money, I can do more things. Your affirmation is appreciated.

RonS
08-26-2009, 02:56 AM
I'd like to see some links to any cbu at $500 and beyond.


MGM has one at his ebay store (http://cgi.ebay.com/Custom-SAM-KAMAKA-CIGARBOX-UKULELE-signed-w-case_W0QQitemZ250146422391QQcmdZViewItemQQptZLH_De faultDomain_0?hash=item3a3de37e77&_trksid=p4634.c0.m14)


I think bluegrass ukulele cbu are about $500 and made with a real cigar box. They sound and look amazing.

Do you know of any links that I can hear what they sound like? TIA

cornfedgroove
08-26-2009, 03:52 AM
the ONLY reason that is priced so high is because its being pawned off as some "collector's dream". This is typically what I've seen...granted, this one actually has some history...but any high priced cb instrument is surrounded by alot of talk and hype. There is nothing...and I mean NOTHING special about this cbu other than its personal history with the Kamaka family. I'm not taking away from it, it may very well be worth that much to a collector...but ONLY cuz of its history. As a build, its very much like every other cbu. He used some koa and ebony on the tiny tiny parts...its kinda nice, but thats just scrap wood he pulled from his scrap box.

I know I'm coming off strong here, but that thing's got a $4000 price tag...AND HE'S CHARGING SHIPPING!!!

maybe some of the members that are more into the tradition, history and culture than I am can share an opinion on the value of something like this. I would think if it was made by Sam Sr. during his beginning years, it'd might justify something like this. Auctions like this kind of grate on me, but at least it isnt this guy

http://cgi.ebay.com/Dobro-Cigar-bass-box-Slide-Left-handed-Dobro-Lefty-hand_W0QQitemZ310151618660QQcmdZViewItemQQptZGuita r?hash=item48367a2064&_trksid=p3286.c0.m14

Old Bird
08-26-2009, 04:04 AM
Wait - you get to build an ukulele, play one that you built, and smoke nice cigars while building and playing it? Why would you ever buy one unless it has specific history?

I tend to buy expensive cigars that come ten to a box, so my boxes are smaller, is there a size that is too small to use?

hoosierhiver
08-26-2009, 04:11 AM
Wait - you get to build an ukulele, play one that you built, and smoke nice cigars while building and playing it? Why would you ever buy one unless it has specific history?

I tend to buy expensive cigars that come ten to a box, so my boxes are smaller, is there a size that is too small to use?

The last one I built was 9.5" by 7.5"and 2" thick it seems a nice size and I'm very happy with the sound.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HazZSAGO1L8

I've got some Sancho Panza boxes that are 7.5" by 7.25", I think they will work, but I wouldn't want to get much smaller than that.

cornfedgroove
08-26-2009, 04:13 AM
I dont know anyone that buys full boxes lol, although I would if I had any money.

size depends on you, but I'd say there are definitely boxes too small. Take your typical punch box or padron even. Something around 10x6 ish is a good size box for a uke...I typically have made tenors. I do have a few smaller ones (8 x 7 ish) for concerts if i ever get around to it.

I wouldnt build one out of something like an Acid box, or anything out of a nub lol.

Old Bird
08-26-2009, 04:31 AM
Hmmm . . . I may just have to buy some more cigars!

I've got some Macanudo boxes for their smaller cigars that are 6.5 x 4 x 2.5, and those are thicker cedar, so I'm not sure it would work.

I have some slightly larger Romeo Y Julietta boxes that are 6 x 7 x 2, I'm thinking that may be just big enough for a soprano.

The bigger boxes I have from MonteCristos are cardboard, so those won't work.

Thanks for the info, this has got me really thinking!

deach
08-26-2009, 04:35 AM
Wait - you get to build an ukulele, play one that you built, and smoke nice cigars while building and playing it? Why would you ever buy one unless it has specific history?

I tend to buy expensive cigars that come ten to a box, so my boxes are smaller, is there a size that is too small to use?

Most tobacco shops sell empty boxes for a dollar or two. Some are free. I use a Rothschild Baccarat box to hold my strings. Perfect size.

hoosierhiver
08-26-2009, 04:40 AM
Avoid any of the Ashton boxes like these,

http://cgi.ebay.com/Lovely-Ashton-Cabinet-Fancy-Cigar-Box-Virginia-Sun-Crow_W0QQitemZ390084422503QQcmdZViewItemQQptZLH_De faultDomain_0?hash=item5ad2d7eb67&_trksid=p3286.c0.m14

they look great and are sturdy, but the tops are really thick and wouldn't sound good unless you put in a pick-up.

SamUke
08-26-2009, 04:48 AM
Duane at Black Bear uke make CBU that go up and over $800; they really are nice ukes.

mrUKETOBER
08-26-2009, 04:57 AM
russ kemner makes amazing cbu's and they sound awesome.. saying that .. i disagree with what corn said.. they are not just because of the recession .. i got mine because i liked the work russ does.. and i can say it is by far my best sounding uke ! so having them be called cheap easy trash ukes is retarded... i play my cbu more than any uke.. its acoustic electric.. has strap buttons has a nice flamed maple neck.. i love it ! so if you guys want an amazing piece of art/amazing uke ! contact russ kemner !!! aka sonny daze.. he will work with you on the price.. believe me its not bad...im a poor college kid and i could afford it ! and plan on getting at least one more from him !

cornfedgroove
08-26-2009, 05:19 AM
who the heck called cbu's cheap and trashy? gimme a break

Sonny's stuff is great, and I can tell you this...he effectively profits zero off his ukes, because I've seen his prices.

RonS
08-26-2009, 05:59 AM
The last one I built was 9.5" by 7.5"and 2" thick it seems a nice size and I'm very happy with the sound.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HazZSAGO1L8



That sounds pretty good.

Dumb question... does it open up?
Personally I think that would be cool.

cornfedgroove
08-26-2009, 06:14 AM
I seal mine to keep people from getting in there and ripping the pickup off and busting stuff...but I dont glue it so its not like trying to break into an ATM or anything. You can get in it if you need to w/o any problems

Russ Sonny Kemner
08-26-2009, 06:32 AM
My wife read this post and told me I should raise my prices.

That's not going to happen. I realized a few years ago that I will never be able to pay the mortgage and put my kids through college on cbu profits.

Someone mentioned the grass roots elements of building a cbu, and too me that's really what it is all about. I don't have a website, or a business card, hell I don't even have a price structure, just try to make it fair for the new owner.

A shrink cost me about $90 an hour. The theraputic value of building instruments costs whatever you want to put in for materials. Plus positive reaction from the owner or seeing one of your instruments in the hands of a musician, knowing that you took part in putting more music into the world, that truly is priceless.

I have worked in the manufacturing industry for 20 years, and I know today that I could easily procure high volume production equipment and set up a shop to mass produce box ukuleles, but in doing so the instruments would become units of production, not unique one off builds. Case in point: The Chrysler Prowler. A beautiful jalopy. Looks like a custom chopped car. Worth paying 50 grand for? Maybe until you pull up to a stop light next to one that looks exactly the same.

In the end, I guess it's all about your own personal preferences.

One thing I can say about building these is that it is one kick ass hobby.

RonS
08-26-2009, 06:58 AM
Russ

I totally understand your point of view, thanks for your comments

deach
08-26-2009, 07:00 AM
Anyone want to buy my Prowler?

Ahnko Honu
08-26-2009, 07:05 AM
Anyone want to buy my Prowler?

No, but I'll buy your Viper.

Old Bird
08-26-2009, 07:17 AM
Anyone want to buy my Prowler?

I'll trade you:

http://i14.photobucket.com/albums/a330/beerbuddyphoto/DSC05418.jpg




The truck, not the thunderbird! ;)