Wednesday, March 05, 2008

cigar box guitar bridges saddles

As requested here's some info on bridges/saddles. First some principles as I understand them. The bridge/saddle is the main component that transfers the vibrations of the strings to the soundboard, in our case the cigar box lid. The most efficient materials are dense ones. Having said that the traditional material for acoustic guitars is bone which is not as dense as metal but I don't know why it is favoured. A CBG is never going to compete with a Martin or Gibson on sound quality but we do want to try to get a decent volume and tone out of it, given its limited capability, so it's worth experimenting with different types. Personally I like to use as much recycled material for my CBGs as possible. I have mainly just used scraps of hardwood like oak and mahogany and shaped them into an upside down "T" cross-section shape. I made one out of aluminium for the Quality Street tin and that worked well too. My last CBG had a bridge made from bamboo and aluminium and that also worked.

I think the positioning of the bridge on the soundboard must also have some bearing on the sound. I have seen many CBGs with the bridge placed right down at the bottom of the guitar. I haven't tried placing it there myself as logic tells me that the most sensitive area of the lid must be near the middle. I opted for a position about 2/3 down the lid which is roughly where most acoustic guitars have them. The guys that build them must know a thing or two so who am I to argue.

Another issue that may be of interest to the builder is how to secure the ball end of the strings as most modern acoustic guitars have the plastic pin arrangement in the bridge. Well most CBG builders adopt the "straight through neck" design. This lends itself to fairly easy construction and the facility to leave a short "tail" at the bottom of the box to anchor the strings to. Simply drill small holes to pass the strings through from underneath. I have included a small metal plate to take the strain of the strings off the wood, which would otherwsie tend to cut into it. Hope this helps.

Tuesday, March 04, 2008

What's next?

I need to build up some more guitars for stock so I'll probably start two new ones soon. I've got a nice green Ramon Allones box I was going to use last time so that will be one. I'll choose a white box for the other one. It would be nice to carry on with the CBG case I started but that's still on hold. The suitcase drum is on hold too for a while.

I'd love to get the old extension speaker converted to an amp now. I'm buying up electronic components on Ebay at present to make up some new amps. I've been using kits from Maplin so far (quite expensive) but have found some plans to build low wattage amps and want to experiment with them once I get all the bits I need. I'm enjoying the electronics side of this hobby and have some ideas for some other cool ideas for housing small amps like interesting old tins, boxes and maybe a section of the big bamboo poles I have. That's a way down the road for now though.

I've had a request to put a blog on here about making bridges. I'm collecting material for that and will post soon Sammi.

I'm wondering if there would be any mileage in producing some sort of an Ebook for sale. Aimed at beginner cigar box guitar builders/players. Maybe take the meaty sections from this blog, expand on them and add more tips and photos etc. I've thought about even running one-to-one CBG building courses. I'm getting carried away I know but this stuff really lights my fire.

Monday, March 03, 2008

Partigas and Cuesta Rey cigar box guitars

Here's my latest CBG - it's a Partigas box. It's got the new experimental bamboo slice bridge which I like the look of and sounds good too. Probably make some more. The slotted headstock was tricky and this was the one that got the end of my finger sliced off when making it! The neck is the first I've made using pitch pine - a hard species of pine with a lovely grain pattern, and finished with tung oil. The fret marks are burnt in. I've used the three soundhole configuration like the last one too. You can see it played with the CB amp at

The previous new guitar was another Cuesta Rey box. I used the slotted headstock type and painted it yellow on the front to match the box. The neck is oak and stained dark brown and finished off with tung oil to feed the wood and give it a nice sheen. The strap was made from a nice old wooden bead belt. I particularly liked this guitar and it now has a new home in Ireland.

Sunday, March 02, 2008

new cigar box amplifier

Just finished a new cigar box amp. Powered by 9v battery, it has on/off switch, power on LED and volume control. Up to about half volume the sound is pretty clean. Turn it up and it gets progressively distorted providing a nice dirty sound ideal for some mean slide playing on a CBG. You can see/hear it here