Resourceful pickers have been
building cigar box guitars since as far back
as the mid 1800s. And besides being an
amazingly cost-effective way to get your
rock on, cigar box guitars strike a primordial
chord in the maker and player that celebrates
form, function, and a funky D.I.Y.
aesthetic. Vintage 47’s handmade cigar box
guitars come from the hands of Mezzy Hiles,
a cat who has been making wondrous, if not
gig-able, cigar box concoctions for a few
years now. Sporting sturdy necks, lacquer
finishes, adjustable saddles, and a singlecoil
pickup with Volume and Tone controls,
these guitars (direct prices are $198
for three-string models, and $245 for fourstring
models), are an absolute blast to
play, and take the artistry of cigar box guitars
to the nth degree.
The Vintage 47s sport a “convertible”
nut that allows you to jack up the action
for slide, or keep it low for regular fretting.
In true cigar box fashion, this conversion
works by simply squeezing a little brass
roller under the strings to raise them up.
Be careful, though, because this little piece
of metal is easy to lose!
Whether set up for slide or standard
playing, the Vintage 47s played remarkably
in tune up and down the neck. The Volume
and Tone controls are sturdy as can be, and
facilitate getting different amplified shades
from these one-pickup wonders. Still, how
does a cigar box with a pickup up in it sound?
Well, in the case of the Vintage 47s, pretty
cool. In fact, these guitars are shockingly
full-bodied sounding, and ready to snarl at
the drop of a hat. Plugging into a ’52 Fender
tweed Deluxe, I tuned a four-string “Victor
Sinclair” cigar box to E, B, E, G# and immediately
lost myself in the funky growl and
honky howl. With tones that are happening
enough for stage or studio, these boxes definitely
sound more primitive than your regular
weapon of choice, but not in a cheap
way. Think raw. Think slinky. Think out of
the box, so to speak.
Perhaps the coolest thing about these
guitars is that you will play differently
when you pick one up—something about
a cigar box with a 3-string neck that has
more in common with a broom handle will
do that. But that’s cool and inspiring. No
two are alike, and each one comes with
two glass slides. Couple that with their
extreme affordability, and you have something
Kudos Funky, hip-looking, one-of-a-kind
instruments that inspire visually and musically.