State of the Nation


I've been at this cigar box guitar thing quite a long time now, over ten years, and it's interesting to see what's happened over the years; who's come and gone, who's flavour of the month and so on. That's only just observing what is happening on the internet, which is quite a different thing from what is happening in the real world, and the internet can do strange things to people's perception and behaviour, that's why I tend to stay away from a lot of discussions, especially when it turns to matters of opinion rather than technical matters relating to how to make or play an instrument.

It seems that there's is a thing called the "cigar box guitar community", or the "cigar box guitar movement", and goodness me, for some folks  it has become a platform for some opinionated and self righteous rants and moans. That's a real shame, because when I got into this scene way back, generally speaking it was a very open and supportive scene. How things have changed. Sadly, there are small number of people who seem to feel they are the true holders of the eternal flame, and anyone with a different approach or view is persona non's like watching religious sects form and become antagonistic to oneanother.

People in the "community" seem to throw rocks at oneanother at the slightest provocation and adopt the position of some superior moral high ground and it saddens me to see that. I try not to shout someone down over an opinion. On technical matters I'll try and offer some advice based on my experience. Having said that, even this well-meaning advice can attract criticism from the overnight expert. Someone who's made half a dozen instruments will have learned some valuable useful stuff, but surely we all need to listen to what others say, and the wisdom of experience should always at least be given some credence.

I've just seen a posting that exemplified this. A newcomer asked for some advice on using a particular box to get the best acoustic sound, and someone else responded at some length. All fine and dandy...but the person responding says "I was told by a luthier". This is a reply by someone who has no practical experience and just can't help but make sure he's seen to have an opinion about everything. The other month the same person was advocating removing the earth (ground) from an  amplifier as a method of testing to see what was causing an electrical buzz in a guitar. This and other suggestions were potentially lethal, so rather than starting an unpleasant scene online, I contacted him privately to tell him he was broadcasting some very unsafe ideas. He just told me that he had got the information from a"reliable source"...from the internet. I gave up in despair, and fortunately it seemed that very few people had read or added to the discussion and it's subsequently got buried by later postings about other subjects.

I knew there was no point in raising this with the  site owner/administrator, because I raised the issue of the moderation of discussions some time ago. I was told that he had a policy of not interfering at all, it was an open forum and anyone could express any view or opinion.

In my view, this "laissez faire" approach isn't entirely healthy, so by and large I'll try and keep away from it for fear of becoming infected or attracting the ire of others. Better to remain silent and be thought a fool than speak and remove all doubt.  With that...I'd better shut up.

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  • John Wormald
Comments 6
  • Alan Dillard
    Alan Dillard

    That’s why I am so pleased to have found your info videos! Building #8 and it is going to be about 150% better than any previous build because of clear and accurate instructions! Thanks, and I am watching for the next vid! Now, I would like to get my fund raiser donated guitars back so I could “tweak” them based on what I have learned.

  • Alan Dillard
    Alan Dillard

    So, I have built, so far, seven guitars as “donaters” for fund raisers for good causes, like cancer patients with “Murican” insurance, and just found your vids. Wish I had found you 7 guitars ago!! Thanks for the concise and easily understood methods you have shown me to make a much better instrument, and keep teaching me!

  • Moritz Vögeli
    Moritz Vögeli

    Invent a problem, and present a solution for it. If a three string cigar box guitar’s neck bends, you were using a piece of wood not suitable for this purpose, analyze why it bends, and go for a better one. Or create on cigarboxmadhouse a new thread about how to fix the problem inserting a golf stick or tension bar, as done by our expert. He found the cheapest metal bar suited for this purpose on the market, but spent thirty bucks for a palm router and router bits. But you get a new problem: theory predicts the tension bar will add some weight to the neck, but hooray there’s also a new practical solution:
    «If one needs to counter-balance here’s a simple solution: cut two 7-inch (or so) pieces of tension bar and glue both pieces inside the tail of your git. That will weigh exactly the same as the neck steel and balance the git just fine. It’ll cost you a few more pennies, but will do the job. Alternately a lead fishing weight might make a nice counter-balance. Whatever does the trick.  In the end game the overall guitar won’t weigh anywhere near what a standard electric weighs, so you’ll still be way ahead.»

  • ChickenboneJohn

    Thanks for the comments Mike. It’s happening again on there! The same cabal of ill-informed “experts”… one of ‘em has posted 19 time (NINETEEN TIMES!!!) in the past 24 hours. The problem is that some people love the sound of their own voice , or maybe it’s the smell of their own sh…. and insist on making a “helpful” posting without having the knowledge or practical experience to really help other people. I’ve just seen another discussion where someone has raised the idea of grounding (or earthing as we say in the UK) a guitar, and someone else chimes in to say that you want to create a “ground loop”. Now, that’s effectively a wiring layout that can cause problems with picking up hums and electrical interference. It’s regarded as undesirable, and where possible it should be avoided. I felt I had to step in to point this out and to try and stop this mistake getting spread around as a fact. I tried to be as polite as possible, but I have a nasty feeling that someone will tell me that I’m spoiling their little game with a reality check, and that a ground loop is a really good thing anyway, and we can call it what we want, we all know what he means by that. Stop showing off by actually giving us useful information…we’re here to reinvent the wheel, and we think a square wheel is the way to go. Sorry…got a little ranty there…

  • Mike

    Hi John…..just wanted to say….I know exactly what you mean.I’ve been building for almost 9 years and some of the comments and answers make me guiver.I don’t exactly agree with the " no rules" idea…lol.Keep up the great work and the videos.I think I’ve watched them all……have a great day. Mike

  • ChickenboneJohn

    Oh Lordy, I’ve just visited that site again…and someone else has pitched in with more “advice” which was obviously cut and pasted from some other website. I was about to post something bit ascerbic to tell them to stop doing this, giving information to complete beginners in the guise of practical experience, but guess what, I thought better of it…life is too short, and f*ck ’em is what I say in exasperation.

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