Most people come to cigar box guitars directly from playing a standard 6 string, and usually with a good dose of 'Six String Syndrome' - the belief that there is only one correct way to build and play a guitar.
Dont worry though, its curable!
Initially it probably helps if you can try to think of the cigar box guitar as a totally new instrument - for non-guitarists this shouldn't pose a problem.
Ok, so what makes a CBG?
CBGs generally have just 3 or 4 strings (though could have any number from 1 to 6), and are often fretless, open tuned and played with a slide.
As the name suggests, they are often made out of old cigar boxes, but using something different is all part of the appeal. Oil cans, biscuit tins... even a toilet seat for 'The Crapocaster'!
They may be acoustic or electric, with almost any combination of hardware - being unique is part of the appeal.
The following should give you an idea of the questions you should be asking before you purchase or commission a cigar box guitar.
Of course, I am always happy to discuss your requirements with you and answer any questions you may have - my details are on the 'Contact' page.
Firstly, are you left or right handed?
Quite important really....
How many strings do you want?
3 or 4 are most common for guitars, a diddly bow only has one.
Fretted or fretless?
Many people feel that they cannot play a guitar without frets, but this is a symptom of 'Six String Syndrome' - playing with a slide gives a much more authentic delta blues sound, and you can still finger the individual strings directly onto the fretboard.
Some styles however do require the use of frets, and I am more than happy to fit them to any guitar.
Fretless guitars come with the fret positions marked either on the fretboard or along the top edge.
Acoustic or electric?
A cigar box can generate ample volume to be played acoustically, but if you want to plug in, you'll need some electrics in there too.
Piezo or Magnetic Pickup?
Consider the environment in which you will play.
Piezos are super for 'normal' use (playing at home, practicing etc) and are a relatively cheap option. They give a true 'cigar box sound', warts and all! They do have a tendency to feedback though if you get too close to the amp or turn everything up.
Fitting an on board preamp makes the piezos much more usable, but adds to the cost - most prefer to spend the money on a magnetic pickup and tone and volume pots instead!
If you play live, use a PA or like to turn the volume and gain right up (and who doesn't?), there really is no substitute for a magnetic pickup. I like to use Jujus custom wound pickups both for the excellent tone and quality of the work, but I also use P-bass style 4 pole pickups, or can use single coils or humbuckers if required. I also offer the option of adding tone and / or volume pots for total control.
It is also possible to have both piezos and magnetic pickups running through a 3 or 5 way switch if you want an even wider variety of tones.
Style? Some customers have a set image of how they weant their guitar to look. Sharp and 'new', Vintage (ie built a long time ago, played, but cherished) or Road Worn - like its been kicking around in the back of a tour bus for 20 years!
Please note though, ALL of my instruments are built by me, by hand. I use recycled materials where I can, and therefore NON OF MY INSTRUMENTS WILL BE SHINY AND NEW LIKE YOU WOULD BUY FROM A GUITAR SHOP.
They will make you smile more than any high street big name guitar will though!
If you are unsure, have a look through my gallery for inspiration.
Other build factors.
The majority of my guitars use the following design features;
Scarfed / angled headstock
Through neck - I favour this design for strength and sustain
Heel added if magnetic pickups are to be fitted
Cast alloy ashtray bridge exclusive to Randy Roosters Cigar Box Guitars
I use recycled parts where I can , but for the electrics I always use quality new parts - aplpha pots, Sprague 'orange drop' capacitors and switchcraft jack sockets.
If you require something different, please ask!
If you are unable to find exactly what you are looking for in my shop, why not have one built especially for you?
It helps if you know have some idea what you require, though I am more than happy to work free form from a basic concept.
Whether you have a particular application in mind, or if you just like a particular box, let me know and Il build it to your style and / or budget.
Build times vary according to season and urgency!
Dont forget - its not just guitars I build either. Custom amplifiers, stomp boxes, diddly bows, hybrid guitars... in fact, if you can think it, I can build it.