Cigar Box Amps

Great gifts for your musician friends, or for your own playing enjoyment!

TotalRojo amplifiers are portable little tone monsters, which belt out super sound, through GuitarFuel harnesses -- the SD-2W or the SD-MAH3, which should not be confused with 1-watt or less mini amps with 'big brand' names, or the poor quality and inexpensive versions readily available on the Internet.  GuitarFuel harnesses are simply the best!

Each TotalRojo amplifier is a one-of-a-kind creation with the following features:

+ Volume/On/Off Potentiometer
+ Red Power LED
+ Variable 10K Gain Control Potentiometer  (Clean to Crunchy)
+ Analog Overdrive  (Vintage/Rock/Metal)
+ Tone Expander Circuit  (Gives your amp a voice all it's own)
+ 3.5mm Stereo Output Jack  (Common to 'ear buds' for MP3 players)
+ Standard 1/4" Input Jack
+ Battery Clips
+ 9 Volt Battery
+ 4", 8-Ohm Speaker with Clips and Covers
+ Carrying Handle
+ Non-slip Foot Pads

Special Features:

     + 5 Watts Power
     + 5-15VDC Input  (Adapter Optional)

     + 2 Watts Power

                  Handmade, Unique, and Sound Great!




                                   (Photos of amplifiers used on this page are for design illustration purposes only.)

         Unless a special design is requested, or a particular cigar box is available,
         design and creation of any amp will be at the discreation of the builder.

                        Special Design Orders Accepted
                     and Priced According to Complexity

Contact me by email or phone

It's easy! Write or Call 406-370-4090

Order Today!
For That Special Gift


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Click on the link below for complete details on the creation of this CB Amp.


The Iron Cross

The Iron Cross is made to match the guitar of the same name, which I created for CPL Ryan Chase, a Canadian Marine stationed at Kandahar Province in Afghanistan.   It is a custom made SD-2W amp.


The 'Wide Dinger' 

Annually, my son Jay hosts a Father's Day ride for all his road bike buddies, from near and far. Guys and gals of all ages show up in their Spandex finery to sit on a razor blade-wide seat, on an expensive, skinny-tired, twelve-pound bicycle, to ride in a non-supported 35-, 65-, or 75-mile trek through hill and dale of central Ohio. It's known affectionately as the 'Peckerhead Ride'. I wonder why?

In a prior post, I wrote about the 'Peckerhead Guitar' that I created for Jay to show off at this year's event.

Well, after the ride, some of the guys were sitting around admiring the little three-string git, and questioning me about it. During the conversation, the subject of battery-powered mini-amps came up. I explained that phenomenon to the group, while they were giving me blank stares . . . 'little' guitars and 'mini' amps are to hard-core peddlers, what bathing and clean clothes are to a Harley rider . . . a mystery.

But, out of the crowd came a comment that got my attention. Jay's friend Tom Weidinger told me he had an old radio in his shed that he thought I might like for an amp. I tried to pay him for it, but his wife Jenny said no . . . I like a level-headed woman.

Geez, I jumped on that like a wino on a jug of Thunderbird.

The old tube-driven radio works had to be removed, and the speaker cloth replaced. I added a back panel with access door to cover the cavity which was originally open for the careless tinkerer to be electrocuted.

Then I installed a GuitarFuel amp harness, using two of the original radio knobs for controls and the other knobs are there to make it look original. An input jack is tucked in the outside corner, and voila, I got a cool not-so-little amp.

Here's the finished blower, which I call the 'Wide Dinger', named after my friend Tom, of course.


Thanks!, Tom and Jenny.



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.



After creating a dozen, as in 12, cigar box guitars, I decided to try my hand at building a CBG amp. These little critters are a hoot to see and listen to. Big sound out of a small box!

After researching construction ideas on the web, I headed off to the Shack to pick up the required parts. No problem converting a cigar box. All I need are parts to light it up. Forty bucks later and enough anxiety to cripple a Clydesdale, I put the crap back in the bag and thought about another day to build. I'm just not an electronic wizard, and besides I figured I'd screw up the stuff, burn hell out of my fingers with errant solder, and then what . . . I returned the stuff to the Shack for a refund.

To soothe the frustration, I accessed eBay and went searching for amps. Not long into the search, I discovered a CBG amp harness supplied by A 9-volt battery- powered harness complete with tone and volume controls; dc adapter so it can work off the current in my house; headphone jack; four-inch speaker; and all necessary parts to complete the build.

Yes, a 9-volt battery powered system. Don't laugh, this thing is a MONSTER! It produces GREAT sound, and it's LOUD, too. It'll blow the paint off most factory amps, while being small enough to fit in my hip pocket.

Why would anyone who has a serious urge to make big noise not want one of these things. They're inexpensive (box - $5 up; parts - $44+; carrying handle - $2.50; speaker screen - $? whatever you can salvage; labor - priceless) and they're easy to build.

If you have questions, ask me. If you're ready to build, write Ty at or visit Ty knows what he is doing and he is a great source of information and help. . . to say nothing about the wonderful customer service he provides. You will do no better elsewhere!

It's easy, it's fun, it's inexpensive, and it's a great way to get big sound out of your CBG!

Here are some pics of my creation.


'The Traveler'  ---  Case with built-in amp

It's about time for me to consider how I'm going to carry around with me, any one of the sixteen guitars I've built. So, a couple weeks ago I got the hairy idea for building a case, not just any ol' case, but one which is a little unusual, and which would include an amp for the days when I decide to do a street-corner gig.

After a little noodling on the idea and a sketch or three, the vision of an oak box large enough to handle any of the cigar box guitars, with the exception of the bass, and complete with storage area for picks, slides, amp cord, extra strings, and built-in amp, I hit the workshop.

The top and body framework is covered in 1/4" oak veneer (1-1/2" lid, and 2-1/2" body) and hinged with a brass piano hinge to match all the other metal trim pieces. Inside is a padded velvet body cavity which will accommodate any of my guitars, and adjacent to this is a padded neck rest with leather strap to secure things. On the lid is a velvet covered pad which holds the guitar in place when the lid is closed. To keep things out of sight and secure is a neat little area with hinged lid held in place by a wood turn-'shoe'.

Next to the storage compartment is a recessed area (a margarine container salvaged from kitchen trash) which is a recess for the speaker mounted in the lid . . . maybe, if I do a street-corner gig, someone will toss in a coin or six to show their appreciation for an old guy banging out sound on a groovy looking instrument.

And, finally, I installed another monster amp provided by my friend Ty from Guitar Fuel. I already explained the amp thing in a prior post, so I'll spare you the repetition, but suffice it to say this is a cool case with a real purpose.

Yes, I'll build one for you, just lay on some long, lean, Green.


'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!



'Blondie' is a monster amp constructed from an Acid Cigars Blondie Belicoso cigar box. The GuitarFuel harness and speaker is powered by a 9-volt battery (AC, when using an adapter) and controls include volume, tone, and tone expander.


Connecting Speakers

One word to remember before reading any further: Ohms! 

Ohms together with '+' and '-' is what we need to be aware of when connecting speakers.  If you don't have your ohms right, then you might end up with a burned up amplifier.

Every speaker has ohms.  The term is Nominal Impedance and the unit is ohms.  If you don't know the nominal impedance of your speaker(s), look for something called ReRe is resistance of the voice coil, and is close in value to the nominal impedance.  Another thing to remember is SERIES and PARALLEL.

Series connection means we simply add each driver's impedance for a total impedance.  This is described as:

Rtot = R1 + R2 + . . . . . .

A parallel connection is a bit more tricky.  The total impedance is described as:

1/Rtot = 1/R1 + 1/R2 + . . . . . . .

So, how does one connect in series and parallel? Well, I'll try to explain by using esamples and figures.

Example 1 - Series Connection of two 4-ohms speakers.  Let's say we have two subwoofers that have a nominal impedance of 4 ohms each.  For a series connection, the total impedance would be 4 + 4 ohms = 8 ohms.  The connection is done as shown in the figure below.  This connection would give a final impedance of 8 ohms.

Example 2  -  Parallel connection of two 4-ohms speakers.  For a parallel connection, we would get a total of 2 ohms.  Mathematically speaking, it would be 1/Rtot = 1/4 + 1/4; 1/Rtot = 0.5, which means Rtot = 1/0.5 = 2.  To connect said woofers in parallel, see the figure below.  This connection would give a final impedance of 2 ohms.

Example 3 - Series/Parallel connection of four 4-ohms speakers.   Let's say we have four woofers that each has a nominal impednce of 4 ohms.

For a series conncetion, we would get 4 + 4 + 4 + 4 = 16 ohms.  Since most amps can handle down to 4 ohms bridged, a series connection would be quite a waste of amplifier power.  In theory, you would get 4 times the power going from 16 to 4 ohms.  And, since we learned before that parallel connections achieve lower impedance, let's see what happens if we try to hook the four speakers up in another way.   This connection would give a final impedance of 4 ohms.

Two series, of 8 ohms each, that are parallel connected, will yield a 4-ohms total impedance. 

Mathematically speaking:  1/Rtot = 1/8 = 1/8;   1 Rtot = 0.125 + 0.125;    Rtot = 1/0.25 = 4 ohms.

(This information provided by Jonas Holmgren.)


'Big Chief Buffalo Nickel'

I mentioned in a previous post that the 'Indian' guitar sold to a Montana fella who wanted me to build a matching amp to go along with the git. He's already renamed the guitar. It's now 'Big Chief Buffalo Nickel', because his favorite bluesman is Leon Redbone, and one of Leon's song titles is the name Bruce picked.

Well, I've learned that the Indian Tabac cigars are not the most popular, so boxes are not as readily available as other smokes, which made it difficult to create a 'matching' amp. Besides, I didn't really get all that excited about using a similar box for the blower . . . it would be too boring.

So, I got to looking through the hundred or so cigar boxes that I've collected to keep my hobby going, and I spotted the perfect shell, a Saint Louis Rey cigar box that is just the right size for an amp. And, in this case, the basic box design lends itself perfectly to the build.

Ideas started to rattle around in my mind and I called my son Jay to see if he could put his Photoshop genius to work on some art for the box. Of course, he said yes, and I was off and running to my shop. I wanted this amp to have a little 'old west' flavor to go along with the guitar, but I won't bore you with design details, because you can see that in the photos loaded here.

The guts of the amp are the same as all my other amp creations . . . GuitarFuel SD-MAH3 harness . . , because the GF harness is simply the best there is to choose from. It's a little pricier (a little) than some of the other junk you can find on the web and eBay, but 'you get what you pay for', a super product, and my friend Ty Falato is a great guy to work with.

If you like what you see, let me know. But, if you don't like it, go roll a smoke and and in a couple minutes your attitude will change and you'll be wanting me to build something for you.

Here's the 'matching' amp:


Amp Creations

I worked my butt off the past two days creating eight new amps for the Art Center Holiday Fair, which is opening November 19. These will compliment the 17 guitars I have displayed.

All my amps carry GuitarFuel AD-2W or SD-MAH3 harnesses, which are either 3w or 5w little monsters. It's easy to tell the difference when looking at thephotos . . . the 2W has only two control knobs (Volume-On-Off and Tone), while the MAH3 has three control knobs (the extra knob is for 'Gain').

Like all my stuff, I've named the amps in order of presentation . . . 'Rox'; 'Exodus'; 'The Freak'; 'Naked Lady'; 'The Brick'; 'Temple Hall'; 'Casa Magna' and ''Louie'