The Divine Bolt of the Cigar Box Guitar

Today's Five Cool Things blog is a special addition - just One Cool Thing I've never revealed before

Why are we using bolts as the nut on cigar box guitars?  Here's the story.

I didn't invent the cigar box guitar.  It was an instrument that has a history going back to the mid-1800's, created by America's poor who had a desperate need to make music. They would use whatever found objects were around them, from baling wire for strings to old fence posts as the neck.

What I did was simply popularize it, starting in the early days of the internet.  Because I gave away free plans on how to build one, many people copied the same parts I used... from a poplar 1x2 stick, A-D-G strings tuned Open G, woodburned frets and a bolt that serves as a nut.

The poplar wood was suggested to me by my stepfather, an avid woodworker.  I got the idea for woodburning fret markers because I had a woodburning pen from a kit my dad gave me as a teenager.  But what about that bolt that serves as the nut?

My original cigar box guitars had bone or plastic nuts, salvaged from broken guitars.  When I was first building cigar box guitars in the 1990's, my only guide was a crude set of plans from an old issue of Guitar Player magazine.  Those plans used salvaged bone nut material for the nut and a whittled bridge.  I would look for old broken nuts from guitars for my bridges when I built a new one.  The whole design became radically easier with the idea of the bolt nut.

Here's the secret:

The idea of using a bolt was given to me by the Holy Spirit at a church service in 1995 or 1996.  I was walking in to the sanctuary before the service, looking around to get a seat.  Out of nowhere, I heard the words in my head, "use a bolt as a nut."  It wasn't audible, but it was like a thought in my brain...only it wasn't my thought or idea.  I knew without a shadow of a doubt it was a simple little invention tip from God, given to me out of nowhere, at a time when I wasn't even thinking about guitars.

That was it.  And it blew me away because it was the perfect part to use as a nut!  The grooves held the strings and enabled builders to position the strings according to their preferred spacings.  It was genius!  And it was from God.

Thousands and thousands of cigar box guitars have been built over the last couple decades as this instrument experiences a Renaissance. I would guess that many...maybe even half or more sport bolts that serve as a nut to guide the strings.  

Now you know it's origin.   


ps. I was inspired to write this blog after reading EXPERIMENTAL, a blog by Chris Michals.  Chris is documenting an invention that creates a new form of energy.  His entire design has been divinely handed to him from God through dreams and visions.    


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