CLE Cigar Box Guitar Build with Custom Maple and Walnut Neck

My second cigar box guitar build utilizes a beautiful CLE cigar box with classic detailing. I like to let the cigar box be the ‘hub’ of the build from which I work the other design elements such as wood choice, aesthetic and scale length.

Some of the features I like about this particular box are the wood choices, which I’m guessing to be Spanish cedar. The external finish is a beautiful satin with a red glazed back and black side panels. With the silver details on the hinges and box clasp to polish things off, running with these design elements made for a very beautiful guitar.

CLE Cigar Box Guitar Build


Similar to my first build, I like the look and feel of a 15 degree neck angle as seen on Gibson guitars. This is accomplished by way of a scarf joint and I like to use contrasting woods such as maple and black walnut as seen in this CLE cigar box build.  You can read more about my build process, here.

The maple and black walnut ‘wings’ on either side of the centre piece add a nice design element and platform from which to shape the headstock. The sky really is the limit in terms of headstock design, but I chose a gentle asymmetrical arch using a French curve that adds a nice organic and interesting feel.

CLE Cigar Box Guitar Build - Headstock

My finishing process, on both the headstock and neck, involves hand-sanding down to a 400 grit and then top-coating with multiple applications of a hand-rubbed gun-stock finish. I bring each coat down between coats and then give a final polish with ‘0000’ steel wool bringing the finish to a silky satin finish for great playability and feel in the hand.

The headstock is then completed with four chrome, closed-gear tuners.


This neck-thru design is built using laminated maple, cherry and black walnut that incorporates a darker strip along the length of the back of the neck to look much like the detail on a traditional guitar where the truss rod would be.

As string tension is not the same on these 3 & 4-string instruments as compared to a traditional 6-string guitar, a truss rod is not necessary, provided assembly is done using a hardwood. For this cigar box build, the black walnut detailing along the neck back is purely aesthetic and beautifully ties into the walnut in the headstock.


I chose to laminate maple and walnut for the fretboard design on this cigar box build for visual interest. Walnut fret position markers kick off the fretboard and really pull the whole design together tying things in with the same wood choice at the bridge.

This cigar box build utilizes a 25.5″ fret scale with 20 frets.

CLE Cigar Box Guitar Build - Fretboard

Pickup & Electronics

I diverted from the mini-humbucker as seen on my first ‘Punch’ build in favour of a round, ceramic, mini-piezo pickup. I’ve read that others have had some issues with hum / feedback as well as box noise, but I’m not experiencing any of these issues.

Rather, the sound produced by this disc piezo offers a nice mellow tone when running through both my Fender tube amp as well as my custom 9V-powered portable cigar box amp.

Other Details

Hand-shaped Bone Nut

The bone nut started out as a blank and was hand sanded and filed to approximately 38 mm to match the neck thickness and 6mm wide. As this guitar utilizes a zero-fret design, I hand-filed the fret slots to match string gauges and rest just below the zero-fret height.

The nut was finished off with 400 grit sandpaper, polished and radiused to a smooth finish. A dab of CA glue holds this into a hand-cut fret-slot to keep it secure but easily removable if needed down the road.

Custom Bridge

Bridge design for this cigar box guitar build incorporates laminated black walnut and maple, hand shaped and finished to the same satin gunstock finish as the neck and then fretted for the string support. This ties in the neck and headstock elements down into the box with a ‘floating’ setup for ease of subtle intonation tweaking and overall setup.

Custom Tailpiece

The tailpiece for this CLE cigar box build utilizes a modified ‘Richelieu’ cabinet hinge filed smooth and anchored to the end of the thru-neck at the base of the cigar box. I drilled out the return on the hinge to accommodate the string ends.

Strap Buttons

Nothing fancy here -just some nice standard issue silver strap buttons to match the design.


GHS (GBL) Boomer light electric strings (gauges 13, 17, 26, 36)


Tuning for this CLE Cigar Box Guitar build is set-up as an open G-tuning (G-D-G-B) using the middle 4 strings from a standard 6-string set (A-D-G-B).


View the complete CLE Cigar Box Guitar Build gallery here: