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Cigar Box Guitar Amp


I just built one of those cigar-box guitar amp kits…

I got the amp in kit form from GuitarFuel, for under forty bucks. It arrived in a couple days, was a very easy build, and I’m still on my first battery.

I’d found a cheap cheap deal on a Danelectro “Fab Echo” - which is their sort of retro-rockabilly slapback & reverb box - so I hacked the guts of it into the amp’s circuit. The results are pretty cool. It’s a toy, but it’s also NOT a toy - it’s a very useful recording tool for certain sounds that you’d be hard-pressed to duplicate otherwise. More on recording with it at this link.

It sounds better with a little gain, but I have a little overdrive box (hand made by guitar tech Tim Jauernig, who’s done some work on my gear over the years) which gives it a little bite. I also did the vocals, with the lovely Mrs. Cloudy supplying a harmony or two.

All the guitar tracks in this video were recorded through the little amp. For me, this video was really an experiment in getting flash animations into Final Cut Pro, and also integrating flash animation with live footage. It was fun, but man, what a tremendous amount of work.

For those into recording, there’s some more detail on getting some big sounds with this tiny amp at this link.

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11 comments to Cigar Box Guitar Amp

  • Hey, I love your video, good job! And I love the sound of your little amp. I wanted to ask a couple of questions about the amp, if You don’t mind.

    You say you hacked the echo pedal into the amp’s guts. COuld you be a little more specific about how you did that? I can pickup one of those Danelectro gadgets pretty cheap too, and I’m planning on building an amp like yours. As far as electronic know-how goes, I know about enough to get myself in trouble. But if it’s not too complex a deal, I can probably accomplish the job.

    Also, I wanted to ask which amp harness your cigar box uses. They seem to have a few rather simple one, with one volume pot stuck on the PC board, and that’s about it. They tell me that have another harness they are out of till Wednesday of this week, the MA3S, which has tone expander circuit in it. Is that the one you used?

    Thanx much, and kudos on your video, great job!

    Mike Vande

  • Cloudy

    Hey, thanks man -

    I used their original circuit for this amp, a tiny PCB board with the knob - after they saw the video they sent me their new one (nice guys!) but I haven’t assembled it yet, looking for a cool box.

    The problem with that little one is it ends up being sort of an octopus of wires - I think mine currently has a short in it. the solder lugs are tiny and you have to handle it really gently..

    To do the danelectro - well, I’m no electronics whiz - the Dano has two circuit boards; I wired a momentary toggle switch with a short lead where the little electronic footswitch was, and added that to the front of the amp - you need to use a momentary switch as that’s what the footpedal uses, a regular switch has to be cycled to kick in the delay.

    And where possible, I soldered shielded wire from the output of the dano to the input of the amp; I think for the input to the dano, I just soldered a piece of guitar cable (with a male jack) to the input jack, and “plugged it in” to the Dano circuit board.

    For the dano’s “active” LED, I replaced it with a longer one (the amp kit came with two colors to choose from, I used one of those) and it pokes out of the cigar box, so I have an “echo on” light.

    Then I installed the two dano boards into the case, where the two pot shafts could stick out. The pot shafts hold the bigger board to the cigar box - for the smaller board, I made sort of a shim that “clips” it onto the inner wall of the box, and just hot-glued that shim in. There’s a short jumper cable between the two boards, left that as-is.

    For power, I was going to try to put one battery in series, but I was in a hurry and just stuck a second battery connector in the box, so the dano has one and the amp has one.

    The only problem? The Dano drains the battery if its left plugged in, and a dead-dano won’t pass sound, even when it’s off - when I fix the short I may add a DPDT switch so I can shut off both batteries with one switch. The cigar box amp powers off with the volume knob.

    The kit comes with a spot to wire an external speaker jack - I didn’t use that, but my understanding is these things sound pretty awesome through, say, a nice 12″ speaker.

    One cool thing I did was record some tracks with a Cascade “fat head” ribbon mic (google it, they’re like $175) - the mic face almost completely covers the speaker - sounded BIG.

  • Stephan Ziemba

    I sure wish this was on, on Saturday mornings instead of Josie and The Pussycats! How about a high-res audio version of this one as well? But keep the intro this time.

    I’m sure the last thing you’d want to deal with is a weekly 20 minute, but one of these a month would be SuhWheat! I hope you got a nice fee from Danelectro and the Cigar Box Amp people.

    Are the pickups stock on this one? I have one without the whammy bar and I love the sound, but something’s buzzing near the neck pickup.

    I sure hope there’s more to come.

  • petey twofinger

    on the dano fab delay , you can remove the timing resistor (it is surface mount , very tiny) then you cut in a pot to get much longer delay times . really cool easy mod .

  • burndog

    not sure how I found this video ( I came across your Teisco before pickup change on youtube )

    I just love this tune and video. You’re a talented guy. If I could get this sound simply by buying a cigarbox amp, I would be rushing out for one, but I think your playing, recording, mixing etc. makes this amp setup really shine.

    Years ago when I wish I had a better guitar ( than my cheap high-action “cheese cutter” my dad told me it is not the equipment so much as the player, and I think it holds very true here.

    Love your site and style…keep up the good work!

  • petey twofinger

    nice , i made a few of those too like last year , i have and echo chorus , both dano pedals . then i have one with flanger , dist. and univibe . all seperate batteries , but they last , and it has ac adapter in too .

    check mine out , workin on another , but i blew the amp/echo board (from a high powered karoake machine) today , with an aligator clip that slid under the board . :(

    need to find something small , the chassis is 7 by 7 square , and she’s a bute ! im so bumbed right now . i may just bite the bullet and pop for a dano hodad . i use kiddie tape deck amps for mine ! they scream though , but you have to find a loud one , most are kinda quiet . i can get feed back on the metal amp , its loud ! the karoake amp i smoked today was 3 watts . it had killer tone for guitar too :( man , i cant believe it smoked , the board wad tiny too , plus the tone / echo controls didnt have pots , just switches , so it woulda been super easy . i had matched the 2 pots i needed and everything ! shit , :(

    i try and do em as cheep as i can , but after all the hassle i may just get a hodad , and put it in this cabinet . the dano stuff , its just kinda cheesy , on the outside . not sure about the 2 speakers on the hodad though . . . could be a headache .

  • Cloudy

    Dang, sorry about your blowout! The guitar fuel folks sent me a no-solder amp version when I made this video, I recently put it in a cool box - I had a three-bottle wine presentation box made of old wood with a cool sort of logo burned into it, it made a great little amp - it’s about 10″ x 8″ x 3″ deep, I could have made a twin out of it but I didn’t have a 2nd speaker. I put an old cabinet pull on it for a handle and some rubber feet. Not a real intense DIY accomplishment, but it sounds nice and none of that soldering an octopus to a tiny little PC board, I dig it! It’s already had some 3AM workouts at the lake, too.

  • DancingKim

    Hello there, i’m a professional dancer. i would like to make a showreel to get my promotions. I also desire to use some animation. Can someone suggest me a superb animation studio, but definitely not very expensive? I’m here for 3 months for a tour.

  • but if you’re planning to browse the web alot from your PMP then the iPod’s larger screen and better browser may be important.

  • Howdy are using Wordpress for your site platform? I’m new to the blog world but I’m trying to get started and set up my own. Do you require any html coding knowledge to make your own blog? Any help would be really appreciated!

  • Cloudy

    Yes, and I do a lot of client work with it. You can use it right out of the box if your host has an automatic wordpress install (avoid godaddy, hostgator does great WP hosting). You can install it yourself but you need to use the control panel for your hosting to setup a MySQL database. You can get free themes or use the built-in theme. If you know some basic CSS you can really amp things up. And if you can suss out some php and cut & paste you can really get custom. But if your web hosting installs WP via the control panel, you don’t really need any tech knowledge. I’d suggest you check amazon for a good wordpress blogging book, that will save you a lot of time. Overall it is very, very easy to figure out and use.

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