Making Poor Man's Guitars

Cigar Box Guitars, the Frying Pan Banjo, and Other DIY Instruments

Making Poor Man's Guitars

By:  Speal, Shane

Product ID:  9463
$19.99 Paperback (Trade paperback (US))
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Fox Chapel Publishing


8.0 X 10.0 in
176 pg

MUSIC / Musical Instruments / Guitar


This book presents the authentic stories of American DIY music with step-by-step projects, photo studies of antique instruments, interviews with music legends, and historical accounts. Shane Speal, the “King of the Cigar Box Guitar,” shows how anyone can build amazing musical instruments from found items.


With the stunning imagery, great stories, and Speal’s accompanying YouTube videos, falling in love with cigar box guitars isn’t hard to

With each story, readers will discover the magic of the DIY music movement.Bass Musician Magazine

Musician Speal shares his decades of experience in building, playing, and customizing classic DIY instruments in this delightful guide. It was hearing Jimi Hendrix’s “Red House” that caused him to abandon his beloved thrash metal and punk, and go down a bluesy rabbit hole, eventually leading to cigar box guitars. Readers will learn not only how to assemble and play the basic three-string model, but how to customize it, whether by making sound holes using furnace grates, adding text to the neck with a woodburning tool, or installing an electrical pickup. Ideas for further customization, such as using a paint-can lid for an even more distinct tone, are also detailed, as are descriptions of additional DIY stringed instruments like a one-stringed violin, electric stand-up washtub bass, and even a microphone made out of a beer can, all accompanied by clear instructions, shopping lists, and plenty of helpful photos. Speal makes no pretense of having discovered the cigar box guitar all by himself, citing numerous articles and anecdotes that testify to the instrument’s well-established place in American music history. His passion for and obvious love of his instrument of choice shines through in this terrific study.Publishers Weekly

Anyone interested in folk music and old time music should pick up this book! It's crazy fun!Cleveland Public Library - Catherine Hankins, Librarian

This delightful book by Blues musician Shane Speal not only contains detailed instructions for how to make your own cigar box guitar, but wonderful stories about the Blues musicians that Speal has played with during his career and their handmade instruments. Speal carefully explains the why and how these instruments work, in spite of being made of inexpensive, common materials. Want to make an electric instrument? Speal also includes a section on electric guitars. The book has many crisp, clear photographs to guide interested crafters. A must-buy for public libraries that host MakerSpaces.Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools - Deb Jung, Librarian

Author Biography

Shane Speal is a musician, historian and instrument builder, self-proclaimed as the "King of the Cigar Box Guitar" and recognized as the creator of the modern cigar box guitar movement. He is the creator of, a network and history site for cigar box guitars. Shane has recorded more than 10 self-released cigar box guitar albums, and publishes Uncle Enos zine, dedicated to cigar box guitars and other primal poverty art/music.