Thursday, January 10, 2013

The Best Thing About Cigars

I can now say with confidence that If it’s good enough for Sir Paul, it’s good enough for me. But, "good" does take a bit of work to find.

I recently saw a YouTube clip from the recent Sandy Relief Concert on 12-12-12 with Paul McCartney and Nirvana performing Cut Me Some Slack. Sir Paul was jamming with a small, left-handed cigar box guitar sliding  chunky chords up and down the neck and rockin’ the house.

Thought I’d check out these relatively cheap but cool retro guitars, so I hit the internet trail in search of 3-string, hand-made cigar box guitars (or CBGs as I quickly found they are affectionately called).

I found there are many available online in various configurations and styles so it took me a few days of part-time perusing a variety of sites (including eBay and Etsy) offering a pretty fair selection. Some were acoustic and cheaply made - basically cigar boxes with little more than pine broom handle necks - while others offered multiple guitar-style pickups (pups) integrated into more rare and expensive cigar boxes with mahogany, walnut, or red oak hardwood necks. The prices I found online ranged from $89 to $500 on up.

So, never having even played a cigar box guitar, I thought to myself, “Self? Maybe you can find someone right here in North Carolina, even in or near Asheville, that makes CBGs by hand. You know, a crafty, wood-worker artisan. You should check one out yourself, Self.”  

Again, I turned to the miracle of the "internets" and searched online for such a person quickly finding one that fit the bill perfectly.

His name is Milton Cable and he lives a bit less than 20 miles from my house. His well-appointed web site convinced me that I should check him out as a source of hand-made CBGs. Anita and I visited him this morning and I happily bought one of his beautiful CBG creations (seen above).

Milton warmly welcomed us into his workshop and spent a bit over an hour with us answering all of our questions, trading stories about our families, and laughing heartily together quite a few times as I looked at and handled over a dozen of his wonderful handmade CBGs. Milton is one great guy and we are glad we met him. He also makes small guitar/CBG combo amps, rustic banjos, bows and arrows, lamps, rocking horses, tables, and chairs. He's even made a unique tenor ukelele from a tennis racket. If you want something made well from wood, Milton Cable is your man.

It was very hard to decide which one to take home since they all were beautifully hand-crafted by Milton, and each one sported individual features like volume and/or tone controls, various cigar boxes, fretted or non-fretted, some with resonators (integral vibrating metal features that transmit sounds unique to each design), some with piezo electric pickups and one with a Milton-made hand-wound guitar pickup.

The CBG Anita and I took home with us today is a piece of musical art that rings like a bell. It IS the one that incorporates the Milton-made hand-wrapped coil guitar "pup", a laminated, fretted walnut neck, laminated oak barn-wood head stock, tone and volume controls, a fine Ashton ESG 21 Year Salute Cigar Box from the Dominican Republic, metal hinge tail-piece, rustic bolts top nut and bridge, closed tuning machines, original paper labels, and a small, distinctive hardware plumbing drain cover on the face.

All in all, our trip out to see Milton and his wonderful Cigar Box Guitar creations was a great experience, AND I came away with a one-of-a-kind instrument that I'll have great fun learning how to play.

If you are in the market for a cigar box guitar, cigar box uke, or banjo, check out Milton Cable. If you don't live in western North Carolina, you can buy with confidence through his web site. His prices are very reasonable and you'll end up with a quality, original musical instrument made by a good, talented man.


  1. Nice writing there the background info and the humor. Keep it up!

  2. Great article, Bill. I'm thinking of sending this article to a good friend ukelele musician of mine.

  3. Thanks for your comment. I would love you to forward this to a friend.