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Thread: Has Anyone Built a Cigar Box Mandolin?

  1. #1

    Default Has Anyone Built a Cigar Box Mandolin?

    Cigar box guitars have become a bit of a fad. My son is trying to build one. I understand that you can build cigar box mandolins too. (The ultimate "beater" mando?)

    Has anyone out there built a cigar box mandolin?
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  2. #2

    Default Re: Has Anyone Built a Cigar Box Mandolin?

    I have not built one yet, but I plan on it.

    Others have as well, but I have yet to see very many of them.

  3. #3
    '`'`'`'`'`'`'`'`'`'`' Jacob's Avatar
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    Default Re: Has Anyone Built a Cigar Box Mandolin?

    Cigar box mandolins sometimes appear at Elderly.
    They appear to have a neck-through design like the true cigar box instruments currently available.

  4. #4

    Default Re: Has Anyone Built a Cigar Box Mandolin?

    Jon, I suspect you have already visited Cigar Box Nation. If not then take a look at that site.
    There is a builder in the builder's database that builds some cookie tin and cigar box instruments. His site is H E R E.
    I built a cookie tin tenor guitar with my youngest son several years ago when he was 9. He never really played it but I pick it up and play it from time to time. It is neck through construction and sounds like a quiet banjo. I tried a similar thing with a mandolin but instead of neck through I tried using some 3/8" all thread going through the instrument similar to a dowel rod so I could use a neck I had on hand and it did not work so well. The cookie tin has too much deflection in it and the action is ridiculously high.
    Bill Snyder

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    Registered User Charles E.'s Avatar
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    Default Re: Has Anyone Built a Cigar Box Mandolin?

    I built one a while ago but after a few weeks it started to fold up under the string pressure. I had it completly lined and X-braced with a bolt on neck. You might want to go with four strings and a through dowel stick.
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    Charley

    A bunch of stuff with four strings

  6. #6
    Registered User jim simpson's Avatar
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    Default Re: Has Anyone Built a Cigar Box Mandolin?

    I too had issues with the top not holding up under tension. I should have redesigned a more robust brace system for it.
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    Cabin Fever String Band, Bill Gorby and the Musical Mercenaries

  7. #7
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    Default Re: Has Anyone Built a Cigar Box Mandolin?

    This is a very old thread, but I wanted to give my 2 cents for anyone interested.

    I learned to build 3 string cigar box guitars first. The box is a resonator that allows the string sounds to vibrate and amplify. There is no structural support from the boxes. I was intrigued about how to build cigar box mandos. I did not see a lot of true 8 string builds online. So I set out to discover how to make it work.

    Here are my 3 versions of an 8 string mandolin. The last build was a couple of weeks ago. The dark painted box has been on travels to 5 countries now, and has held up like a trooper. I will soon a a humbucker to make it a true electric mando. The last build has been my favorite by far, and has an excellent, deep, mandolin sound. I hope you enjoy my work.Click image for larger version. 

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  9. #8
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    Default Re: Has Anyone Built a Cigar Box Mandolin?

    Here is one that I just built 2 weeks ago. Enjoy,Click image for larger version. 

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    Default Re: Has Anyone Built a Cigar Box Mandolin?

    those are extremely cool Casey. how about a tutorial on how you built them, with what you found works best, for us here on the café?

    d

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  12. #10
    Moderator MikeEdgerton's Avatar
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    Default Re: Has Anyone Built a Cigar Box Mandolin?

    I've actually been stockpiling parts for years including the boxes for one of these but every time I find a decent neck I find another use for it. It's good to know about the top failure as I'm not sure I would have even braced it.
    "Bargain instruments are no bargains if you can't play them". These are the words of J. Garber.

  13. #11
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    Default Re: Has Anyone Built a Cigar Box Mandolin?

    There are a plethora of instruction videos on Facebook that will lead one through the building process. Also, there are several solutions to solving the problem of "cave-in" on your instrument. Historically, cigar box instruments go back to the civil war and a well known Uke maker (Kamaka) dabbled in using quality mahogany boxes in about 12 instruments. I would love to own a Kamaka cigar box uke but know that they are regarded as treasures. I have built two mandos but designed them as 4 string rather than 8 string instruments. Good Luck.

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    Default Re: Has Anyone Built a Cigar Box Mandolin?

    Darlycrisp, there is only one rule to remember in the land of cigar box guitars. No rules.

    My goal is to build great sounding mandolins that will last a lifetime. You have to rethink what a mandolin is when you build cigar box instruments. A mandolin, and any other guitar, is simply a hollow space that reverberates sound from the strings. A cigar box is not meant to support any kind of stress, so it’s only function is to reverberate sound. The larger the hollow space, the louder the sound. Other factors such as thickness of the box walls, felt covering, etc, can impact sound as well.

    When I build mandos, I focus on building the mando around the box. That means the space inside the box is not reinforced other than to maintain the box shape, but not to take any of the stress of the string tension. My designs are through-neck, and only have small corner reinforcement to ensure the boxes are strong enough to withstand normal use. I developed a small aluminum brace (hidden under the tail stock) that ensures all string pressure is only on the through-neck, not on the box.

    I also spend a great deal of my time making sure the fingerboard, saddle and nut are the most precise as possible for proper intonation top to bottom. I probably spend more time in frets and intonation than in the entire build. Measure twice, cut once. I developed my own compensated and adjustable saddles, after many attempts at producing fixed saddles, then stressing about string height. I was always trying to go just a bit lower. With an adjustable saddle, no issues, and I can get the proper string height all the time, and use the wood that will best match the build.

    In the end, they are not perfect, but I fall in love with each one I build, and they are very difficult to let go once I finish. I travel a lot for work and I usually take my latest build with me as carry on. If anyone is interested in seeing pictures of the entire process, I will put up some pictures of each step. Sorry I have not figured out how to position the pictures right-side-up from an ipad yet.

    Everything wood and bone you see in the #4 build was built from scratch. I shape all the necks from stock wood using hand tools for all shaping. Very satisfying when you first string them up and hear their first words. Thanks for the comments.

  15. #13
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    Default Re: Has Anyone Built a Cigar Box Mandolin?

    I have also built a few, including a wine box 20” scale octave mandolin (which I just sold last week, below.) They definitely need bracing!

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  17. #14
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    Default Re: Has Anyone Built a Cigar Box Mandolin?

    Thanks for sharing Mreidsma. That was a nice build. Was that a GDAE? I bet you got some deep notes on the bass with that box size. The fork was a cool touch too.

  18. #15
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    Default Re: Has Anyone Built a Cigar Box Mandolin?

    It did - although I think I overbraced it, and kind of took some of the deepness out of the low end. Lots of midrange. I never adjusted to the scale length, but here's a video of me playing (poorly) to demonstrate it.


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  20. #16

    Default Re: Has Anyone Built a Cigar Box Mandolin?

    I've built some Cigar box instruments, but not a CG Mandolin.

    Some things that I've found make a much better instrument are to source the largest volume box possible as mentioned above, and then also skip paper covered boxes. The paper covered boxes lose all tone, whereas all wood boxes actually achieve pretty remarkable tone.

    For my latest, I built a tenor uke and put a 3/32" spruce top on it. Typical tenor bracing underneath to prevent a collapse. This instrument outplays any of the typical import instruments in the local music stores in tone, volume and playability. I'm a duck hunter, so this one has a flying duck soundhole and theme. It goes to duck camp with me.

    A CGMando is my next CG project.

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    Chinn A-style
    Chinn BluesBird Emando #1
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  22. #17
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    Default Re: Has Anyone Built a Cigar Box Mandolin?

    Nice ukes Chinn, I am building several starting next week, just waiting for my craft lathe to show up so I can turn my bridge pins from my own wood. I hate the way the ties look on the simple bridges, and love the look a pin bridge gives, like a classical guitar. Thanks for sharing.

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    Default Re: Has Anyone Built a Cigar Box Mandolin?

    Here is my newest build, my version of an f style mando in cigar box fashion.Click image for larger version. 

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