A Jim of All Trades

Cigar Box Violin

with 2 comments


This year I thought a good Christmas gift for my sister would be a Cigar Box Violin. She has been playing violin ever since she was a child and, having made a few Cigar Box Guitars (1, 2, 3 & 4), I thought I’d give a violin a try. I didn’t come up with the idea of making a violin on my own, I came across a picture of one online over the summer and immediately knew I wanted to make one for my sister.

I won’t go into much detail about it here. There are some pictures below of the completed violin, a video, and after the jump are some pictures from during construction.

I really didn’t have to buy much for it, I already had the box and the wood. I did buy the bridge, tuners, strings, a bow, some rosin and maybe a couple pieces of hardware and some consumables. So overall it was pretty inexpensive, but very timing consuming. I started on it in mid-November and worked on it during the evenings and weekends for an hour or two at a time, finally finishing the week before Christmas. It just took a long time using the tools I have and since I was figuring things out as I went along (learned more about violins than I ever thought I would!).  Also, I purposefully worked slowly so as not to make mistakes or get frustrated with it. I doubt I’ll make one again considering how much work it was, but maybe my attitude will change in time. Don’t get me wrong, it was fun to do and I’m happy with how it came out, and most importantly my sister loved it, so it was definitely worth while.

Here are some pics of the finished product, and a video of it in action is below as well.

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My sister was kind enough to give me permission to post a video of her playing. This was taken shortly after she had opened it so she was still figuring out its nuances a bit. Please forgive the background noises, too.


I also took some pictures with my cell phone while I was making it. The picture quality isn’t great, but if you’re curious about it this will give you an idea of how it came together. (click link below)

Thanks for reading!

First off, please excuse my messy work area!

An initial mock up:


The neck was made form cherry and the finger board oak. Here’s an early picture as things began to take shape:


Marking for the cutout for pegs and strings:


I ended up adding oak pieces on top and bottom for added strength. Here the cutout is complete and the pieces glued on. The neck is fully shaped at this point with holes drilled for the pegs and some wood added for additional bracing and surface area for gluing to the box:

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And this is a final picture after the finger board was glued on, everything has been treated with Danish Oil, and the tuning pegs were added. The pegs are mechanical ukulele tuning pegs; they’re not overly precise but get the job done.

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Now on to the box…

There is a “bass bar” and a “sound post” inside of violins that help transfer the vibrations across the different surfaces, adding volume and shaping the instrument’s tone. I made mine out of dowel. You’ll see them installed shortly.


Wood glued in both ends for added strength/bracing (and don’t worry, I wiped up that extra glue):


A wood screw was put through the neck end for added neck bracing. Though not pictured, I drilled a hole in the base of the neck where it meets the box and when mounting the neck filled with hole with glue then slid it onto the screw. This was done so the neck won’t break from the box while under string tension, I was afraid just gluing it to the side of the box wouldn’t have been enough.


On the opposite end a lag screw was added for connecting the tailpiece.


The f-holes were made with a jigsaw. Here are pictures of them marked out then cut:

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From the inside, you can see the bass bar mounted as well:


Sound post placed in position:


The last major step at this point was to glue the neck on. My solution for clamping it was to set it in a drawer with bungee cords wrapped around. Very low tech, but it seemed to work well enough:


It seems pretty simple looking at it like this, but, for me, it was a lot of work. I skipped over a lot of things and missed taking pictures of the tailpiece, the nut, and modifications I had to make to the bridge. Oh, and measuring…. lots and lots and lots of measuring, but that doesn’t make for exciting pictures. ;) Anyway, this is it in a nutshell.

Thanks a lot for reading, hope you enjoyed.
Happy New Year!



Written by Jim

December 31, 2014 at 10:44 am

2 Responses

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  1. Wow, I’m impressed! That takes so much skill and precision (and patience). What a cool gift for your sister! I bet she didn’t already have one ;)


    December 31, 2014 at 11:50 am

    • Thank you, Sophie! Yeah, there wasn’t much risk of giving her something she already had. :)
      Hope your holidays are going great!


      December 31, 2014 at 3:31 pm


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