Okay, so maybe it’s a little biased to leave my own Punch Cigar Box Guitar Review, but I think there’s value in this process.
I remember my high school woodwork shop teacher would never grade our work. Instead, he’d have us come to his bench, one student at a time with our project.
He would then ask a series of questions: “What would you grade yourself?”, and, “What are you most proud of?” and finally, “What would you improve upon if you were to do it again?”
I remember the general consensus in the class at the time was something along the lines of “Sweet! Looks like I’m getting an ‘A’!” The reality was, come time to assess our work, nearly everyone was brutally honest with themselves. In fact many of us were more critical than the teacher would have ever been.
The important life-lesson for me was to take some time upon completion to reflect. This is true of anything really, from trips, personal growth, books, conversations, quarrels and so forth. -After all, as Socrates wrote, “The unexamined life is not worth living.”
In addition, it’s important to pay respect to the defects and mistakes as these are typically opportunities for growth.
So, inline with what my grade 10 shop teacher would refer to as ‘Zen and the Art of Self Evaluation’…
HOW WOULD YOU GRADE THIS PROJECT?
This is definitely ‘A’ class work. I pride myself on attention to research, to detail, as well as to clear intention and follow-through. This is an instrument I would proudly hang on my wall as an art-piece, play on a stage, and feel confident and proud to leave in the hands of another musician.
WHAT ARE YOU MOST PROUD OF?
I’m proud that this is my first instrument build and the level of playability from this guitar. Even unplugged and despite having electric strings, this cigar box guitar really sings.
Weight-wise, the instrument feels very solid and balanced in the hand. This is due to both the selection of hardwoods for the neck as well as the hardwood perimeter reinforcements inside the box. Also, the hand-rubbed gunstock finish worked down with ‘0000’ steel wool just leaves a beautiful satin feel in the hand. The instrument really does feel good to hold and to play.
I also love the scarf joint or 15 degree angle on the headstock as well as the wood combination, inlays and grain pattern. I’ve never made a scarf joint and to be candid, the prospect of adding an angled headstock seemed a bit out of my league. However, after fashioning a jig for my table-saw, the outcome was incredible.
Electronics were also a challenge for me. Having little experience with soldering and a few failed attempts, I honed my skills and effectively wired up a mini-humbucker pickup to a volume pot and instrument jack. The pickup didn’t come with any directions and there were some mystery wires that I had to sort out but all is configured and sounding great through the amp.
Neck fitment in the box is perfect as well. The whole assembly looks pro, right down to the box corners and antique brass drawer pull which serves as a tailpiece and anchors the lid down through the lid and into the neck. The box itself is beautiful and for this build, I’m using a ‘Punch’, Rare Corojo red cigar box.
WHAT WOULD YOU IMPROVE UPON?
I learned a lot during this build. One thing that I wish was that I’d sourced out some near mint boxes. On one hand, the small blemishes lend themselves to the feel of this instrument. On the other hand, with the amount of detail I ended up putting in the neck and rest of the build, part of me wants the box to be perfect.
Overall, the blemishes are really very slight, and I’d rate the box condition about an 8.5/10.
With my neck milled to thickness and my headstock and heel strap glued in place, I used a round-over bit in my router to shape the back of the neck. While I did use some rasps and files to bring the radius to a rough shape before sanding, for my next build, I will spend time removing more material to improve upon the radius and in-hand feel.
The end result is more of a capital ‘D’ profile with a flat region that results in a weighty or ‘meaty’ feel in the hand. I could say this is stylistic and how I chose to design this neck, but unless requested by a customer, I’ll be treating my neck shape differently moving forward and you can see an example of this in my second build, here.
Really, it’s not something that I mind and do enjoy how substantial it feels in my hand as it lends itself to that folk instrument feel. It’s by no means rough or inconsistent, just ‘substantial’.
Also, the thickness of the neck is about 22mm. Being thicker, I couldn’t get the ‘reveal’ on my scarf joint that I ultimately wanted without removing far more material. On my second, ‘EVE’ build using a C.L.E cigar box, I milled my neck to about 19mm and removed far more material by hand to more closely emulate my traditional 6-string instruments.
This removed the flat spot, gave a far lighter feel in-hand, and also allowed me to get a very cool arch at my scarf joint which was really set off by the contrasting maple and walnut where the headstock meets the neck.
I love the shape of the headstock, but feel it’s a touch out of scale with the instrument. On my second build, seen here, I opted to reduce the headstock height by 1″. The shape is identical, as are the angles but with that bit knocked off the top, it just looks more ‘correct’. Bear in mind, these elements are all stylistic and subjective. This is just my personal review of the end result.
Volume Knob Placement
Ideally, I wanted the volume control on the lower corner, closest to the rear of the instrument. However, with the tailpiece and bridge, the v/c looked a little cramped. As such, I placed the volume control on the top edge of the box so it’s facing the player as he looks down on the instrument while playing.
This is a minor point and happens very infrequently, but on occasion, especially when really getting into something, the v/c can get bumped by either the player’s forearm or body. If I were to keep the v/c on the top edge, I’d move it to the front of the instrument, out of the way. For future builds, I’ll likely position it on the face of the instrument, more like a traditional electric guitar.
Located on the back edge, the jack is out of the way when playing, but in the way if you want to set the instrument on the floor to take a break.
Again, this is minor and really just means unplugging it or putting it in a stand, but for future builds I may try putting the input on the face of the guitar by way of a ‘Fender’ -styled jack. I don’t know if this is a ‘con’ per se – again, just stylistic and observational.