Monday, August 20, 2018

Cigar Box Banjo

I've been playing the banjo for about two months, now. It's been a lot of fun. Slow going, but I'm happy to be trying it out. I love an obsessive hobby and there's no shortage of history, YouTube vids or books on the banjo to pore over.

Cigar box banjo

In looking through a digital ton of historic banjo pics, online, within the assorted gourd banjos, tackhead banjos, Appalachian mountain banjos, Bluegrass banjos, etc., I stumbled onto cigar box banjos. Black slaves or sharecroppers and poor white southern mountain folk made instruments from all manner of found objects - grain sifters, gourds, cigar boxes, etc. I tend to find homemade folk art instruments, with their imperfections, more interesting than high quality luthier instruments. The high quality instruments might sound much better, but there's something soulful in the effort made by some guy that just wanted to sit on the tin-covered front porch and play for his family after a tough day in the dust and dirt.

That leads me to this, I built a fretless cigar box banjo. I sanded much of the labeling off of the box, stained it and stuck a stick through it. The neck, largely hand-shaped, is just a glued up pine board I had in the garage. I burned on an ivy pattern in the rough positions of where the frets would fall. Inexpensive geared guitar tuners on the peghead and a ukulele tuner on the fifth string. The head/resonator is a simple one gallon paint can lid.

Building a cigar box paint lid resonator banjo.

Building a cigar box paint lid resonator banjo.

Finished shaping the cigar box banjo neck.

Cigar box banjo