How To Build A Cigar Box Violin

How to build a cigar box violin by Justin Hilts HiltsBilt

How To Build A Cigar Box Violin!

How To Build A Cigar Box Violin Part 1

How To Build A Cigar Box Violin Part 2 Sound Check

All Images and blueprints on this page are Copyrighted. You can print and use them for your own needs, but not monetary gain. Please contact me to use my pictures for anything other than reference for your own build.

violinbuildSide Here is the Pdf for the side view of the build. I would recommend turning off "resize to fit" on print options or it won't be full size.

neckTemplate Here is just the neck templet on its own, it should print on one page to full size as long as you have the "resize to fit" in the printer options off.

Building to Box

The First thing that I had to do was build my box. The reason I built my box and not used or bought a cigar box is that of the size limitations. I know that there are boxes out there that a suitable but I wanted to build mine so I knew what kind of woods were used. The sides of the box are made of mahogany and the top and bottom of the box is western red cedar from here

Box Dimensions: 6" x 13" x 2.25"
Traditional Violins are 14" long but I subtracted an inch so that I would have a little longer neck to help playability.
With the box being 2.25" thick it is too thick to use an over the counter chin rest. If you want to use a chin rest 1.5" - 1.75" thick would be better. I did fit a shoulder rest on the fiddle and at the moment I don't think I need a chin rest.

I wanted to make the box as close to a cigar box look as possible and I found a good video by Steve Ramsey on box joints or finger joins jigs here VIDEO

The Next thing I did is glue the violin tail block and neck blocks on. I just winged it on the size, but I did know that I wanted to sink the neck into the box by 1/2 inch. After the glue dried I set up my Shopsmith into a drill press and clamped on some blocks so I could drill a 5/8 hole for the dowl (1/2in dowl would be just as good & the dowl might not be necessary at all with building your own box).

After I did that I then thinned out the sides of the box to about 3-4mm to help with more vibration since the sides on a traditional violin are 1mm thick (I was too scared to thin them that much lol). To do this I had to clamp down some stopping blocks on my router and a fence so I would not go too far over and mess up the "ribs" of the side. I also set my blade at the hight that I wanted to take off. After I was done with the router I squared yo the edges with a chisel. 

Next step I put the dowl in the box and glued up the sides. Then I started on the lid of the box by cutting out thin strips and gluing them to the cedar that would become the bottom.

Building The Neck

Once the bottom lid was made for the cigar box violin I was then able to start on the neck. I had glued the woods together a few days before so I could have the strip of maple going down the center of the neck. You could also just use a 2"x2" of hardwood of your choosing. The woods used in the neck are mahogany and maple. I used some spray on glue to glue the templet on the side of the blank, a glue stick would probably work just as well. Once that was on I was able to cut the side profile out on my band saw.

After the side was cut out, I used my fingerboard ( Link here ) to trace out the top "templet" to cut out. For the headstock, I just made it a simple shape that would not impede my hand. Once I had my rough out of the neck I could then cut the notch out in my box that would fit the neck and drill the hole for the dowl going into the neck.

You can see in the picture that there is a notch taken out of the neck for the top of the "cigar box" to go. I do that with most of my necks on my CBGs so I don't have to cut a notch out of what will be the soundboard of the instrument. 

Once all the mock-up was done for the neck I could then shape it, glue on the fingerboard and shape it some more. To do that I used a few different files and sandpaper until I was happy with the feel of it. 

(EDIT: make the bass bar a little thicker, it will help the top from sagging like mine is now a little, it's hard to tell but I might need to make a new top in the future if it cracks) Before I could glue the top on I had to make and glue in place the bass bar. If you don't know what a violin bass bar is a quick google search will tell you all you need to know, and you can also get some good starting measurements from This Site. After the bass bar was in place (make sure it's on the correct side, the bass string side) I was then able to glue the top on and once that was dried I cut my sound holes. I should have cut the sound holes out before I glued on the top but I didn't and made a little more work for myself. With the 6" wide box I did know that I needed some kind of cut out so the bow doesn't hit when you play, that is something you should keep in mind for your own build. The next step was to glue on the neck, and I only could use one clamp.

Fit and Finnish

During this whole process, I was constantly dry fitting things and triple checking my measurements to make sure the angle of the neck was right and making sure everything was lining up right. At this point I could see the light at the end of the tunnel, So I did the wood finish. For the finish, I wiped on two coats of poly and then wet sanded with linseed oil. Why linseed oil? Well, I don't like a shiny finish and I figured if I sanded through the poly the oil would mask that. I also usually only use linseed oil and a little paste wax on my guitars for an easy smooth finish that is easy to "touch up" with just a little oil. If you don't like a simple finish like I do, then do something different.

Once the finish was dry and good to go (the next day) I was then able to assemble the cigar box violin WOO HOO.  For the bridge, you can either make one or order bridge blanks (the link fo the ones I used are below). The nut I just made it out of a piece of mahogany that I hot glued on, I also put in a sound post with a drop of hot glue so I can open the box without it falling out.

Parts I bought: (links are NOT affiliate)

Western Red Cedar $10.45
Fingerboard $9.99
Violin Tailpiece $5.90
Ukulele Tuning Pegs $7.65
Violin-Bridge-4/4-2PC $6.19
PAITITI 4/4 Violin Bow $19.99 (going to upgrade)
Light Violin/Viola/Cello Rosin $5.91 (going to upgrade)
D'Addario Prelude Violin String Set, 4/4 Scale $16.92
Total Cost:  $83

You can make this cheaper by making some of the parts that I bought. The only wood I needed to buy was the cedar, the rest was built from scrap for building cigar box guitars.

Thank you so much for visiting and good luck with your build.
here is a slideshow of all the build pictures.


So I have noticed that over the last 2 weeks of playing that the top of the fiddle was starting to bow in and the back was bowing out. There was just not enough support with the 3mm top and bottom. So I had to add some bracing. on the bottom plate, I added a peace on 1/8th mahogany that spans all the way across, that way it would take out the bow that the wood was starting to "remember". On the top plate, I added a small piece of 1/8 mahogany to prevent the sound post from ever punching through and to help support the bridge. So far so good, it seems to have done the trick. Guess that's why flat top acoustic guitars have all that bracing since there is not a curve top to spread out the weight.

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