DIY: Create your own Cigar Box Resonator

Our very own Billy England (bassist of The Muckrakes) created his first cigar box resonator and recorded the steps for it in case you want to create your own. His blog about this DIY instrument is below:


I've always wanted to create my own instrument, you know; build my own guitar, design my own bass, re- build a piano to my specs but I lacked the time, tools and talent for woodworking so I put the idea in the back of my mind in the "one of these days..." department of my brain.

I came across an interesting link last week on how to build your own cigar box guitar. The website is here:

I decided to take my cigar box guitar a level higher. I thought to myself why not a cigar box resonator? (i.e. also known as a dobro) and went out and for a few bucks bought a few things:

1.) cigar box $4.00 (I actually bought 5 of them at $4.00 each but I'm only adding up the cost for THIS resonator)

2.) Stick of Poplar wood 3 feet by 2" X 1.5". Cost= $2.16

3.) 3 Gibson guitar tuning heads: $15.00

4.) 3 metal plates $5.23

Total cost: $26.39 (under $30.00)
Total project time: About 4 hours (not including 24 hour dry time)

Below are the steps that I took in creating the cigar box resonator, some of the pictures didn't come out very good, but you get the idea of what went into building it:

Get a box for the body and a stick for the neck

Sand down the neck, drill 3 holes for the guitar headstock tuners

Cut a hole in the box for the neck to be placed in.

Place the neck in the body.

Use clamps to grip down, I used some Gorilla glue to seat the neck to the body and let it dry overnight.

Make sure to let it dry overnight to seat the neck in the body

Since this is a RESONATOR, I decided to cut three holes in my cigar box for the resonator plates. The holes aren't pretty, but that's okay, because they'll be covered up by the plates. I also sanded down the cigar box.

I whittled the neck down and re-sanded it so the tuners would fit snugly.

I stained the whole project

I created a bridge and nut out of scrap wood, sanded and stained it.

I put the tuners on, the bridge and nut in place and....

then I put the resonators in and strung it up.........Finished!!!! Project complete!

I'm sure that I MIGHT be playing this out every once in a while once I get the structure and progressions and tunings right, it might take me a lil' while, so don't expect to see me out slinging this thing at every show until I get it down pat.

Okay, now the BIG question does it sound? Well to find out, I created a sample that you can listen to by clicking below. BUT be forewarned, before clicking on the track.....REMEMBER that this is a very basic THREE (3) STRINGED homemade instrument and my first one at that and that I still don't really know how to play it and need to fiddle around with it before I learn all the tunings and keys. In other words, listen to it with a very open mind. It's a very rough test run and recording of my cigar box resonator.

Click or copy & paste in your browser to listen:

Views: 9040

Tags: billy, box, cig, diy, england, guitar, home, instruments, made, muckrakese, More…music, resonator, strings, the, wood

Comment by Scott on October 31, 2009 at 9:59am
what did you use for the plates? It sounds great...thinking of building one myself.
Comment by The Muckrakes on October 31, 2009 at 3:40pm
the plates were bought at the home depot. they are steel the type you find in showers in a gym.
Comment by Scott on November 28, 2009 at 7:23am
That's what I thought...that's great. One of these days I'll get off my duff and make one.
Comment by Wu Ming Jen on December 17, 2010 at 10:05am

i've found that small 6 inch aluminum pie plates with 6 inch pizza screen covers make great resonators.  found at restaurant supply stores online.

Comment by Ron Warren on February 5, 2011 at 10:18am
Man , That Sounds GREAT ! I want One like it  ! I was able to srart getting My parts Together Last night . I Want to stat wok on one ASAP. I was Able to Get My Wooden Cigar Boxes at a little cigar store by My house . Price ? # for $1.00 ! Needles to say I Stocked up BIG time. I told the lady the size I wanted . She said She would hold them for Me. I plan on Making Quite a few and See how they sell. I Know of MANY places in My area That would sell them for Me if I gave the a little % of Profit. I was wondering if anyone had ever tried to Make one with a Bass sound ?


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Created by No Depression Feb 17, 2009 at 9:06pm. Last updated by No Depression Sep 24, 2012.