Wednesday, April 27, 2011

The 'Sully' is on it's way to Afghanistan

I mentioned in a post yesterday that I created a CBG for US Navy Nurse LT Virginia Sullivan.  Well, It's on it's way to Camp Bastion, Afghanistan.

This is not only one of the most personally rewarding guitars I've built, but I think it is the best sounding of all.  It has a nice mellow tone, which is attributable to the hardwood nut and saddle, I suspect.

The basis for the guitar is a Cohiba cigar box, oak neck and poplar fretboard.  It's a very straight-forward three-string guitar, which I chose to make acoustic only, because it will be easier for Virginia to enjoy in the Afghan sandbox, without messing around with an amp.

A TotalRojo CBG Goes to Afghanistan

I recently joined in with some other guitar makers from around the country to provide cigar box guitars to service men and women who are stationed in Iraq and Afghanistan.  The group was started by a friend (Diane) from Chicago, and it has really taken off.

We provide instruments at no cost to help them find a little enjoyment in what must be a most difficult time in their lives.  They never complain, but one only has to imagine, right!

A Navy nurse (LT Virginia Sullivan) serving at a field hospital at Camp Bastion in Afghanistan contacted the group about providing a guitar for her friend and fellow caregiver Carrie.  LT Sullivan wasn't asking for herself, because she claims she is not musically inclined, but I convinced her that she should give it a try.

Virginia's guitar will ship tomorrow, and I think Sam is sending his to Carrie tomorrow as well.

They promised to send us photos to post on our web sites and on CigarBox Nation.  Stay tuned for that, but in the meantime, I will post photos of the guitar I built for Virginia.

I'll provide guitars all day long for those folks!  It's the least I can do to show appreciation for what they are doing for our country.

Neck Stock

I mentioned recently that I had made contact with a cabinet shop that was providing me with custom stock from which to create necks for my guitars.

Well, it happened.  My new friend Matt (co-owner) at the shop cut me a boat load of neck stock using ash, maple, and walnut, and he also tossed in an equal number of fretboard pieces to round out the order.

While we were cruising around the shop, Matt showed me the area in which they produce the solid surface (Corian) counter tops.  I noticed that the scrap pieces of Corian being discarded were just the right thing for nuts and saddles on my guitars.  So, I now have another boatload of Corian material from which to do more creation.

The real shocker came when I asked Matt what I owed him for the stuff, and he said, "Nothing!, I like what your doing."

So, yesterday, I surprised Matt with a three-string guitar as a gift for being so damn kind to me.  He didn't say much, he's a real quiet guy, but I could tell from his expression that he was real pleased . . . but, not nearly as much me.

Thanks Matt!

Monday, April 18, 2011


I love building the little 'monster' amps in cigar boxes, and the 'Camacho' is the latest to get the GuitarFuel harness treatment. 

I wanted to do something a little different with this amp, because the box is so unusual.  So, instead of exposed controls and speaker, everything is inside the box.  The usual setup with volume, tone, and boost, plus the AC adapter connection, headphone and input jacks.

The speaker and harness are attached to a velvet covered wood sheet that is suspended just enough for the speaker to clear the floor of the box, but deep enough for the lid to close over the control knobs.

A small chain keeps the lid from opening too far to damage the hinges, and rubber feet on the bottom of the box keep it from creeping around, when it's fired up.  And, a simple drawer pull is used as a handle to tote the amp from my workshop to the next street corner . . . playing for pennies during the current recession/depression/obsession/and political regression.

Just another brick on my wall.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

A Helpless Crew!

My friend Jim, a good ol' Montana boy, went down this morning to sign his dogs up for welfare.

At first the lady he spoke with, said, "Dogs are not eligible to draw welfare."

So, he explained to her, "My dogs are a special case.  They are mixed in color, unemployed, lazy, can't speak English, and have no frigging clue who their dads are.  They expect me to feed them, provide for them with housing and medical care.  So why not?"

The lady looked in her dusty ol' welfare policy manual to determine what it takes to qualify.

The dogs' first checks arrive Friday!

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Something Special!

There's something very special about watching someone's eyes light up, when they are presented with a surprise they were not expecting. 

It happened several months ago, when I gave son Joe the 'Cujo Mojo'.  Again, last month, when son Jay received his 'Peckerhead' guitar.  And, today was no different.

My friend Jeff's eyes were as big a silver dollars when I unwrapped the 'Maker's Mark' CBG and handed it to him.  Instantly, he looked it over, and said, "It's so much more than I had expected!" 

It was a toss up between the 'Bad Acid' amp, and the guitar for the first few moments, but then Jeff got down to business.  He turned the guitar in his hands, taking in every little detail, and softly touched the surfaces.  When he saw the flames, he said, "Man, this thing's on fire!" 

He plugged in the guitar and proceeded to entertain us with various songs, a couple he had written, and others he just likes to play.  Guys were coming and going at the Burning Leaf, but Jeff wasn't distracted, he just kept pickin' and grinnin', and the guys stood around listening and enjoying.

I'm not sure, but I think I was as happy as Jeff.  There is nothing as gratifying as to see the sparkle in the eyes and the look of happiness on a person's face, when they are pleasantly surprised.

Enjoy Jeff!   Because, I enjoyed building it, just about as much as watching you play it!

I had to check it out before passing it along to Jeff.

Son Joe took it for a test run.

Jeff is in another world right now!

Are those faces of happiness, or what?
Jeff and me, and the git makes three!

'Bad Acid' Monster Amp

This is Jeff's 'Bad Acid' mini-amp.  Don't ask me why he requested that I build the amp from an Acid cigar box, just let it suffice that he has been a rocker all his life and that he loves to chill playing his guitar . . . loud!

It is a very straight-forward build created from a GuitarFuel harness, supplied by my friend Ty, with components installed inside a small (7" x 7" x 3-1/2") cigar box.  

This little blower has power on/off; tone expander (peak, flat, bright); volume; and boost (clean, overdrive, metal drive) controls.  It can be lighted up using a small 9V battery or a 15V AC adapter, to push sound through a 4-inch speaker.  And, if you're brave, you can listen to the blast with headphones plugged into a jack on the side.

It's simple, sanitary, and sounds great!

If you're interested, I'll build a 'Little Monster' for you.
Just write me a note, and I'll take it from there!

'Maker's Mark'

The 'Maker's Mark' is a six-string, semi-hollowbody, electro-acoustic cigar box guitar, created from a rare 8" x 13" cigar box made to commemorate Maker's Mark whiskey. 

My friend Jeff, owner of Burning Leaf Fine Cigars, Columbus, Ohio, asked me to create this guitar for him.   It is my interpretation of what he imagined and shared with me.  His only request was that it breathe fire, 'cause, as he said, "I really like flames."  

In order to make the skunk-stripe Strat neck work with the 3-1/2" box depth, it required a bit of creative fabrication inside.  I didn't want attachment screws to spoil the backside  of the box, so I created a mounting surface inside that would be a rigid base which the neck could be firmly attached to, while still being removable.  This method allowed for maximum open acoustic space for sound to bounce around.  There is just enough added wood to counterbalance the weight of the neck, and when the guitar is played with a neck strap, it feels good and the balance is just right.

Fender light strings travel from the adjustable bridge over a single-coil bridge pickup to the tuners.  The action is set close for easy play, and acoustically it is what one would expect from a semi-. . . moderate resonance, loud enough, but not annoying.  But, when plugged in the sound is vintage Fender, with volume control on the box.

I didn't mess with the integrity of design on the box top, because that is what makes this guitar unique, and besides it is a really cool design. 

Soundhole covers are drawer pulls I found while cruising around The Home Depot, and they're just right for the box.

On the back, I did what I think will satisfy Jeff's desire for fire.  The flames are hand painted 'fire red' 1-Shot enamel laid down with a long bristle gray squirrel brush, and outlined with a 'rust' mixed to a hue that is complimentary, but which does not detract from the flames.  To highlight flame tips, I chose 'ivory'.

And, to allow Jeff his fun while working, he asked me to build a mini-amp to push sound around the smoke-filled confines of his really cool cigar shop.  His friends and customers can enjoy a fine cigar, be entertained by a good musician (Jeff), and relax watching the Ohio State Buckeyes demolish their competition.

You'll see that post soon, so stayed tuned to the blog.

You can be the next Bo Diddley with your very own handbuilt cigar box guitar.
Just drop me a line, tell me what you'd like, and away we go!