Whittaker guitars, cigarboxblues.net fine handbuilt cigar box guitars built by whittaker guitars


Contact:  Julian Whittaker on +61 417 586 905 or email   jw@whittakerdesign.com.au
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Cigar Box Guitars

Way back, down in the Delta when the blues was being invented, the cotton field kids wanted to emulate the older blues boys. But a 'real' guitar was out of reach, so they would raid the 'massa's' garbage and make these things out of an old cigar box and a lump of two-by-one. Old bolts for the bridge and nut, a few strings and a bottleneck, and they were cookin' -imitating the legendary blues boys like Robert Johnson.

If you're a guitar player one of these will add a new dimension to your music, and if you're not a player you can be a player easily.

Not just a gimmick sound.

These things have a great sound...
Bluesey, gritty and evocative, and with more volume than you would think.

Because it's open tuned and there are no difficult chords to get your fingers around, most people can pick it up really quickly, -a couple of hours will have you doing a gritty authentic blues sound.

As well as making full-size guitars
I make a variety of  3 and 4 string Cigar Box guitars, from really authentic gnarled, primitive ones using genuine cigar boxes, all the way up to finely crafted pieces using all the beautiful tonewoods and exotic inlay work of my 'mainstream' guitars. (See link below).

There's even an Archtop model for those who want something really distinctive.

I also make fully fretted models which allow 'fingering' as well as slide.

You'll be amazed at the geat sounds you can get out of these things. I use open G tuning, but many other tunings are possible opening up other musical styles. -With the built-in Peizo-electric pickup you can even be growling out metal !


There are many options. Each guitar is individually handmade, each one has a slightly different individual sound so you will have a unique instrument. You can have anything from an authentic ‘primitive’ looking instrument to a very sophisticated one.

You can select genuine period cigar box label graphics, which come in a fabulous range of designs, and I also create individually hand painted boxes.

Prices and styles.
The price range reflects the style, construction, and equipment level.
Standard models cost only $320

Standard equipment includes:
Custom colour and ‘stock’ repro label to your preferences -(if desired).
Steel finger slide.
Brass nut and bridge
Peizo pickup for electric amplification
Quality enclosed tuners


Laminated fretboard
Body knee cutaway style
Special / exotic timbers
Genuine cigar box or fabricated
Genuine cigar box label or repro
Volume control
Open style tuners
Screws style (various available)
Finger steel spare
Rope strap
Electronic clip-on tuner
Magnetic (electric guitar) pickup

Other options are also available such as custom graphics, handpainted top artwork, decorative inlays etc.

I'm happy to 'cook-up' a special including all the features you fancy, - phone to discuss.

Notes on setup
As supplied these guitars are tuned to open G, -G D G using standard guitar strings as follows:
Low G - use guitar A string - approx .042 gauge
D string - use guitar D string- approx .036 gauge
High G string - use guitar G string- approx .024 gauge.
For the 4-string I add a guitar B string tuned to D.
Many other tunings are possible, but if changing pitch too high watch for string breakage, and if tuning down in pitch watch that the string tension isn’t too low for a good tone.







Above - a few examples showing finish and artwork options, plus a few of the fabulous labels available.


  Above - a guitar made for a client who wanted an authentic, primitive look.
  The gigar burns and bourbon glass stains came for free!


seminola spanaleo victory

  Above - More examples showing finish and artwork options.


The photo aboove shows some of the accessories available,
Case, rope strap, finger steel, and electronic clip-on tuner.

In keeping with the original cigar box concept, my aim is to keep your costs down, so the accessories are cheap, functional, but also cool and stylish.

Consistent with the original cigar box guitar concept, which was of course made out of recycled materials, my case material is also recycled.
Made out of ‘Corflute’, it is a strong, rigid lightweight plastic which is ideal for the purpose. These are recycled posters most of which have graphics printed on them. You can have yours with graphics on the outside or inside.


Prices start at an easy $320 for the Standard Custom 3-string fretless.

Price includes peizo pickup and also repro labels of your choice


Various models are usually available from stock at a reduced price.
I sometimes keep a number that are finished but without labels affixed. This means I can attach labels of your choice for no extra charge.




For more information or to order phone Julian on:
0417 586 905
+61 417 586 905 (International)

Or email:


There’s an absolute wealth of cigar box labels available, ranging from the sublime to the ridiculous.
The brands seem to have been dreamed up on a whim, and the graphic designers of the day used their artistic skills and imagination to produce some really fabulous images. All this stuff was handpainted artwork, long before the computer took the soul out of graphic design.

On original cigar boxes there would often be several different labels added in collage form. The most common was the Warranty label that was stuck around the edge of the box, effectively sealing it so that the cigars inside could not be substituted with cheaper ones.

Sometimes also, Customs and Excise stickers were added, and more recently the dreaded health warning stickers, so big that they obliterate the original artwork and impossible to remove without destroying the box label.

These and many other labels can be ordered to individualise your cigbox guitar.
So as well as the cool sound, the visual design adds to the novelty and primitive charm of the instruments.



The Box

Whilst I sometimes use genuine cigar boxes, most of my instruments use boxes made by me.

Why? Well the acoustic qualities of genuine boxes is variable. By careful selection and dimensioning of the right timbers I can get much better sound.

A lot of makers emphasise the amplified sound and are not so concerned about the acoustic sound, but I aim to get really good acoustic qualities, And the sound when amplified can only be better too.

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