From Guitar Magazine:
Cigar box guitars are often associated with the Depression era, when regular guitars were handmade and cost a great deal of money. People didn’t have extra income to buy guitars, so they got creative. They got a wooden cigar box, put a hole in it for the sound to get out, put a stick in it and a few wires from the screen door — and a guitar was born. Actually, cigar box guitars go back much further than that. There’s evidence that they were around as early as the 1840s, and similar primitive or primal instruments go back even further.
Today, people make them out of just about anything that will resonate or vibrate, such as an oil can, coffee can, wine crate or soda can. They also use many different things for a neck, like an ordinary 1-by-2 piece of hardwood, broom handles, even wooden rulers.
The number of strings can vary, too. I’ve seen them with one string (Diddley bow) on up to 12. I tend to stick to three- and six-string cigar box guitars because you need at least three strings to make a chord, and people are comfortable playing six-string guitars. They also can be fretted or fretless and are played with or without a slide. CBGs also can be wired with pickups, volume and tone controls, just like regular guitars.
If you want to hear scrape, slide and picking, check out Shane Speal, the world’s foremost master of the cigar box guitar. Speal performs gritty blues/rock with handmade and hackwired instruments made from recycled junk. His repertoire is a mix of crankin’ originals and songs from blues masters who started out on cigar box guitars. Here’s a video of different ways to tune your CBG so you can get the most out of your box. What Speal can do with a stick in the box and a socket from a hardware store for a slide (Yes, that’s a socket he’s using for a slide) blows my mind.
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