[Building Tip] How to install a rod piezo in your cigar box guitar


Do you want to electrify your cigar box guitar?

Are you ready to level-up your cigar box guitar by using the same kind of pickup found in many electric-acoustic six-string guitars?

With this article loaded with images learn how to easily and effectively install a rod piezo pickup in your cigar box guitar. 

But first, what exactly is a rod piezo?

A rod piezo is a contact pickup


A rod piezo is a contact pickup.

It turns vibrations, such as those from your cigar box guitar strings, into electrical energy. 

You can install a rod piezo in the lid of your cigar box guitar, right under the bridge.

The vibration of the strings, pulled tight over the bridge, transfer to the rod piezo.

Those vibrations are turned into electrical energy.

That energy flows from your cigar box guitar into your amplifier.

And whamo! 

You made an electric CBG.

Installation is easy 


How a rod piezo works is pretty simple, right?

Well, installing one in your cigar box guitar is incredibly easy, too!

It'll take you less than 30 minutes and you'll need only a handful of tools.

In fact, here's that short list of tools.

Tools you'll need to install your rod piezo pickup:
  • a square / ruler 
  • razor knife
  • cyanoacrylate glue (super glue)


Now, let's get crackin'!

On the underside of the lid, measure and mark where the bridge sits on the topside of the box lid.


Measure and mark the center of where the neck will be.


Transfer that center-line up the underside of the lid.


Extend the line locating the bridge. 

This line will intersect the center-line.


Measure the length and width of your rod piezo.


Mark the dimensions of the rod piezo onto the intersecting lines previously drawn.


Draw a box that fits the rod piezo.


Gauge the height of the rod piezo. 

Get an idea of how much material to remove from the lid to fit the rod piezo.


Use your razor knife to score the lines of the rod piezo box you've drawn.


Continue to use your razor knife to cut out material from the box lid.


Periodically check your progress by setting the rod piezo into the channel you're cutting.

It's good to have the piezo at least flush with the bottom of the lid.

But you don't want to remove so much material from the lid that you cut through it.


Once satisfied with the fit of the piezo into the cigar box lid, squirt some super glue into the channel.


Lay your piezo into the channel and hold it in place until the glue sets.


And bada-bing!


You've installed a rod piezo in the lid of your cigar box guitar.


There are several effective ways to install a rod piezo.

The method illustrated here is one of those methods.

As with all things cigar box guitar related, feel free to experiment and develop your own way of doing things.

Just as important --

Please let me know how this method works for you by leaving a comment below :)

In the next post I'll show you how to wire your rod piezo to a volume control and jack.

7 comments:

  1. This is good information to have. Thanks for sharing this :)

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    1. Thank you for taking the time to give this a look and for leaving your comment. I really appreciate the feedback.

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  2. Thanks Glenn for the instructive tutorial!

    One question though: since the lid acts as the soundboard I was wondering if cutting a channel in it might affect the volume and/or quality of sound?

    Also, I would suggest using hot glue instead of super glue just in case you need to change the piezo pickup and too because I believe the hot glue will better fill the channel, thus making the pickup more 'integrated' in the lid.

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    1. Thank you for checking this out, Anaximandre, and for leaving your tips.

      Given that this is a CBG, I don't worry about the soundboard being compromised. My experience using this simple method has consistently produced positive results. But as mentioned in the article, this is but one of several methods. Experimentation is always a good thing, and no one thing will be everyone's cup of tea.

      I hear ya on the hot glue. But in my experience, hot glue dampens a rod piezo more than I'd like. Hot glue is what I use for super-sensitive disc piezos. I like the rigidity (to assist in transferring vibrations) of super glue to the rod piezo.

      Thanks again for being here.

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    2. Thanks Glenn for sharing your knowledge and experience! I am in the process of making my very first CBG which is why I obviously need to learn a few things :)

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  3. Great article, Glenn! I was wondering if you could share the ideal string-to-pickup height, as I'm looking to use one on my CBG build. Thanks so much!

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    1. Thank you, opsdaddy! I appreciate that you took the time to check this out and leave your comment.

      I think what you're asking for is the distance between a magnetic pickup and the strings. The height is affected and determined by several things, all depending on what you're working with.

      However, I like to have a distance of about 1/4" (6mm). This distance generally puts a pickup in a good spot for sound, plus leaves enough room so that my playing hand doesn't run into the pup.

      I hope this helps.

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