Pt IV: Cigar Box 4-string Gitfiddle

This cigar box ax is pretty close to being done. Or as they say in home aircraft building, “90% finished and only 90% to go”. Which is to say that custom handmade things like this are never really done [right].

The neck turned out nice except I think I shaved it down too much, seems to lack strength. So as soon as I took the last of these pics I tore it back down again. In five minutes thanks to power screwdriver/drill.

I cut down a carpenter’s framing ‘Squangle’ to fasten to the neck as a tension brace. Probably find more scavenge metal to make a similar compression brace for the bottom of the neck as well.

This bare board is so beautiful I hated to scar it up with frets.

Lots of my brainwaves turned out to be sound or fit failures. Luckily for me wood can be about instantly changed and modified. My biggest laughs in life come from my own stupidity.

Call this Old Handsome Joe (OHJ) Version Beta test

Like these stainless steel sound hole covers drain strainers. I thought they were so cool. But. Could not be made to not rattle and hum. Tried everything including many small screws. Nada.

And my hand carved bridge made from an old guitar bridge turned 90 degrees. Way too wide to ever work right. I got the nut width correct but big fail on the bridge. So, ditch the grills and the wooden bridge. Retool for OHJ Version 1.0. But first, frets.

Marking the fret lines from a chart was tedious and nerve wracking, mostly because of silly fractional inches. The chart had metric and that would have been easier had I a metric scale.

These are not even fancy toothpicks, just what I had in the kitchen. In the spirit of the cigar box instrument. Nah, I’m just a famous tightwad and cheapskate. The brown grill cloth I cut from house crawlspace louvers I had from another project.

The adjustable bridge was donated by the same Rogue baritone uke that supplied the headstock. Alas poor Yorrick…

Old Handsome Joe Version 1.0.

No rattles from this grill cloth. Bridge is the correct width and is stable and adjustable. Except for G.

This version had no buzzes or rattles and sounded quite nice and surprisingly loud. But despite the nut and bridge being about the right height, the action could not be lowered.

I need to sand down the bottom, rear of the neck, the buttstock, so that the body is properly aligned with the fretboard. See pic below. And my metal braces should add needed rigidity.

I was pleased with the sound and feel of it. It’s nice I can adjust the intonation and string height-except for G.

Dots were punched from adhesive target patches.

I’m confident Old Handsome Joe is going to sound good and I know it already looks good. As to whether I cut the frets in the right places and if toothpicks can work as frets only playing it will tell me. But it feels good in my hands.

Unless noted, all text and images by

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s