Since banjos and ukuleles have a rather small sound box, the idea of using a wooden cigar box has been fascinating from early times. Such boxes are often made of valuable cedar wood and imaginatively decorated. The oldest building instructions are from the late 19th century from the environment of the young boy scouts movement. Even Sam Kamaka produced cigarette box ukuleles (now available as replicas). During the Great Depression in the 1930s, the idea experienced a new upswing in the US. Early 21st century set a new boom. Nowadays prefabricated kits are sold, but by itself there are no standards for the dimensions or the number of strings of homemade instruments. In 2004, the private National Cigar Box Guitar Museum opened in York (PA).

Pictures and Videos

Herb Ohta Jr. plays on a Kamaka- “Cigar Box” Ukulele from about 1940

Justin Johnson: Rooster Blues
on an electric ukulele

morbanjo: Hesitation Blues on Cigar Box Uke

Collection of ukuleles, banjos and guitars from the National Cigar Box Guitar Museum
Commercial prefabricated kit

Construction report for a prefabricated kit


The construction and the materials used make the ukulele sound like a banjo – a bit tinny (sic!) and with very percussive attack.1)
Modern revival is sometimes due to interest in jugband and the DIY culture, as a cigar box is relatively inexpensive when considering other factors, such as strings and construction time.2)



2) Shane W. Speal: History