Cigar Box Guitar Kit – Part Three

Continued from part two

Work on my son’s cigar box guitar continues apace, although the pace is rather slow with just one session a week, and we might have a break for the next couple of weekends because of other commitments.  Also, some of the steps have proved to be more time-consuming than we had expected and so things are progressing slowly.  The good news, though, is that it’s going well, and we haven’t had any significant problems.

Last Sunday, then, we continued working on the fretboard.  We had started to radius it the previous week, but progresss had been slow, partly because we discovered that purpleheart is rather dense and therefore needs more work, and partly because I didn’t have any coarse-grained sandpaper.  I corrected that omission during the week, and then it didn’t take too long to finish sanding the fretboard down to the desired radius.

Talking of acquisitions, I also bought a spoke shave and a small sharpening stone. The spoke shave is for the next session, as it’s apparently one of the best ways for an amateur luthier to carve a guitar neck (professionals or guitar manufacturers will probably have more sophisticated and expensive tools).  The sharpening stone was a bit of a surprise to me when it arrived, because it was only 10cm long which is tiny compared to the stones that I’ve seen on YouTube videos.  We haven’t yet tried to sharpen the blade of the spoke shave, which was its intended use, but I did manage to sharpen a small chisel with it, which had a rather broken edge.  I can see, though, that one would want a better – or at least much bigger – sharpening stone for regular use.

Back to this week’s activities….after finishing the fretboard radius, we installed the frets.  Of course, my son did most of the work – my role was to help him with ancillary tasks, take the videos and walk the dogs.  I also edited the video, which probably took as much time as he spent working on the guitar this weekend!  Installing the frets consisted of three main steps:

  • Resawing the slots, which weren’t deep enough, especially after radiusing the fretboard
  • Hammering in the frets
  • Tidying up the fret ends

We tried filing down one of the fret ends, but it took a lot of time so we broke open my new Proxxon IBS/e rotary multitool (Dremel clone) and stuck a little cutting disc onto it.  We successfully used that to cut off the longer ends of the frets that were protruding past the edge of the fretboard, and then filed them down to more or less the right size.  We will need to dress them a bit more to get them perfectly smooth, but that can be done later when we level the frets (which will come when the neck is finished and attached to the body).

At the end of this session, then, the frets were installed and looking pretty good.  We didn’t glue them in, but relied on simply hammering them in place.  Gluing the frets can help to make sure that they will definitely stay in place but it’s probably not necessary for this type of instrument.

There are still quite a lot of tasks remaining before the guitar will be complete.  Some of the main tasks for the next session or two will include carving the neck, working on the headstock (shaping & installing the tuning heads) and working on the tailpiece.

Here is the video of this week’s build session!

And a screenshot from the video of my son working away:


Next episode: Part Four