9 Essential Tools For Beginner Cigar Box Guitar Builders

Picture this:

The sweat is pouring out of me. So are the profanities.

All around me, cluttering the basement, are dust bunnies, holiday decorations, and forgotten board games.

I’ve got my right knee up, holding a red oak 1 x 2 on a chair.

My left hand is gripping one end of the red oak stick.

My right hand is grasping an old rip-cut saw, pumping it through my first scarf joint with the awkwardness of a teenage boy trying to round third base on his first date.

I let loose a colorful grunt and in walks my brother in law.

Seeing my six-foot-three frame hunched over, using my knee to clamp a stick onto chair, he says,

“Soooo…. you wanna borrow anything? You look a little…”

“Yeah. I know.” I say without looking up from my frustration.

I was short on tools, but determined to build a cigar box guitar.

Since that sweaty, profanity filled occasion in the basement, I've acquired a few more tools.

Over time, 9 tools have formed the core of my workshop.

This is my list of must-have tools. And it's what I recommend any beginner cigar box guitar builder start with.

Look over this list. See if you already have what's here. If not, can you borrow tools from a friend?

Use what you have, borrow when necessary, buy if you must.

Or, if you're ready to own a few tools of your own, know that these tools don't break the bank.

In fact, most of them cost no more than a couple fancy-pants coffees, or hand-crafted beers.

And these tools, unlike a hipster beverage, will give you a lifetime of satisfaction crafting your own handmade musical instruments.


It's an aggressive bugger.

It cuts boxes like a champ.

It cuts headstocks.

Heck yeah, it'll notch a neck!

And when you want to start fretting,
this handsaw cuts clean fret slots.


Clamps, turns out, are better than knees.

There are times when the neck has to be held in place.

Need I remind you of the chair and rip-cut saw debacle?

Razor knife

It's the ninja-cat of tools.

It's great for scoring lines that will be cut with the handsaw. Scoring helps to prevent the saw from tearing out the box
along the cut lines.


Straight lines and measurements made possible my the humble square.

Squaring up lines to fit a neck in the cigar box.

Fret lines and fret markers are a cinch to draw with a square.

4 in Hand / File & Rasp Combo

My four-in-hand is irreplaceable.

From filing cuts and corners,

to rounding necks,

to hogging out all sorts of wood,
a 4 in Hand is a versatile tool.

Yard / Meter stick

Measure stuff!

Marking long distances is much easier than using a wee ruler.

A 25" (635mm) scale length? No problem for your handy
yard / meter stick!

Hammer / Mallet

For building CBGs by hand, smaller is better.
This is a 12 ounce mallet.

The mallet is great for knocking wood out of the neck.

And as you expand your tools to do more things, a mallet is key
to tapping frets into the neck.


This screwdriver has multiple bits which is handy,
but not critical.

Driving screws is good, chiseling out wood to notch
the neck is key
(see above image in the mallet gallery).

Drill / Driver set

Get an inexpensive drill / driver and they often
come with a set of drill / driver bits

This is a good set of bits to start with.
Later, more bits can be added as needed.

From drilling holes for tiny tuner mounting screws, to holes for the tuners themselves,

and even large sound-holes, a drill/driver is essential.

And that rounds out my list of must-have tools, essential for building a cigar box guitar.

What's listed is what has worked for me, after a few years of trial and a whole lot of error.

From my experiences I've found that my list of 9 essential tools for beginner cigar box guitar builders sure beats using an ol' rip-cut saw and a folding chair.

The list in review:
  • handsaw
  • clamps
  • razor knife
  • square
  • 4 in hand
  • yard / meter stick
  • hammer / mallet
  • screwdriver
  • drill / driver set

Do you already have your own list of must-have tools?

Share your core essentials in the comments. 

What you share now can help a new builder later.


  1. Simple is good. Not as fast and fancy, but with patience and a low budget you will prevail.

    1. Ain't that the truth, Lenny? Funny how our forefathers and mothers used so much less to do so much more.

  2. Replies
    1. Thank you, Jeremy. I hope this article was helpful.

  3. Replies
    1. Hey there, Mike! I'm happy you like it. Thank you for checking it out and leaving your comment.

  4. Glenn, thank you for sharing your knowledge and experience with us, it has really helped me with my building and playing....

    1. Rob, thank you so much for stopping in and leaving such a kind comment. I'm grateful for the opportunity to connect with builders and players like you.