My 8-year-old son, N, and I enjoy doing projects together. We’ve built Lego sets, model rockets, and pinewood derby cars. Our most recent project was a cigar box guitar. The idea for the project came from a school assignment. N’s teacher asked each student to make a musical instrument. Since N and I both play guitar, making a homemade one was a no-brainer.
I scoured the internet for some ideas. Although I found a few good plans, I decided to use my guitar as the model. I sketched the plans on sheet of paper and identified all of the materials that we needed for each part of the guitar: Fretboard, tuners, strings, body, nut and bridge. I had N, label all of the parts and add his own design for the sound holes (he chose an “S” shape).
Later, we searched eBay and various cigar stores and acquired a nice variety of cigar boxes. After reviewing the selection, N chose a Cohiba cigar box to use as the body. We also managed to find some cheap guitar strings and picks on eBay.
The rest of the materials came from discarded items around my house: Tuners from a broken toy guitar; a wooden slat from an old bunk bed; a ruler; and various pieces of scrap wood from my garage.
With all of the materials and tools identified, N and I set-up our workshop in the back yard and commenced building. I try not to be one of those dads who takes over a project and builds the whole thing. I try stay out of the way and give my son guidance as we work as a team.
“Okay, buddy,” I said. “You’re in charge. What do we need to do first?”
N looked at our plans and decided to start with the guitar body. He drew the sound hole pattern on the box and I helped him to cut it out and drill a few holes to enhance the design. Next, I cut a hole for the fretboard in the cigar box and N glued it into place. We cut the old ruler in half and used it as the bridge and added a piece of scrap wood to the neck for the nut.
N was thrilled when I handed him a pair of safety glasses and told him to drill the holes for the tuners and the strings. Few things are more exciting to an 8-year-old boy than handling power tools (that feeling never goes away even into adulthood). I held the guitar steady with one hand while guiding N and the drill with the other. We installed the tuners and began adding the strings. Because of space restrictions, we only used three strings (A, D, G).
The project took us about two hours to complete. During this time we talked and bonded. It was a great afternoon of quality time with my son.
After we finished, N placed the guitar across his knee and played the first note. His face beamed with pride as the music emanated from the guitar he had built with his own hands and a little help from Dad.
Questions: How do you like to spend quality time with your kids? Have you ever built anything together?