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How to Mount a Snake Oil Mini Humbucker & Pickup Ring in a Cigar Box Guitar

How to Mount a Snake Oil Mini Humbucker & Pickup Ring in a Cigar Box Guitar

Want to install a Snake Oil mini humbucker and pickup ring in your cigar box guitar?

It's easy! Just follow the step-by-step instructions below to mount our most popular pickup in your cigar box.

Installation is Easy

What follows is a step-by-step account of how to install a Snake Oil mini humbucker and pickup ring. 

The great thing is, you don’t need a shop full of tools to install one of these wildly popular pickups.

As you can see below, the tools needed for installation are few.

Tools for this project

  • Painter's tape
  • Razor knife
  • Square
  • Ruler or measuring tape
  • Drill and bits
  • Phillips screwdriver
  • Hand saw
  • Rasp / file
  • Awl

Helpful optional tools

The pickup and mounting ring

Once you've got the tools listed above and a desire to make something special, it's time to build!

The Installation Process

Determining the pickup installation location

To begin, picture where on the the cigar box you want the pickup to be located.

Location Tips:

  • Installing close to the bridge produces a tighter and brighter tone.
  • Installing close to the neck gives you a fatter and darker sound. 

After determining the pickup installation location, put some painter’s tape in that spot on the box lid.

Find the box lid center with a centering-ruler

The painter's tape provides a surface to mark measurements and draw the pickup outline without making a mistake on the cigar box.

Next, find the center of the box lid and mark that measurement on the tape.

Life can be made much easier by using the centering ruler seen in the picture above.

Draw a line perpendicular to the centering line

Then, draw a line perpendicular to the centering line where the pickup will be installed.

This intersecting line forms a plus "+" sign with the centering line.

Center the pickup routing template

With the two lines drawn to denote the pickup installation center, place the pickup routing template on the lid.

The template has centering-hashes that align it with the lines drawn on the tape.

The template goes a long way from removing any guessing as to where, and how big, the pickup hole should be.

Pickup hole drawn on box lid

Next, run a pencil or marker along the inside of the template.

This gives you a space that, after cut out of the box, will fit the pickup near perfectly.

Now, the next step seems like a small thing but pays off huge rewards later.

Align the pickup ring with the intersecting lines

On the underside of the pickup ring, mark the center of each long side.

This little step allows for the ring to align with the intersecting lines drawn on the lid.

Then, using an awl or something with a firm, pointy tip, poke four guide-holes into the box lid through the mounting holes in each corner of the pickup ring.

Pickup ring mounting screw guide-holes

Here's why marking the center of the long sides on the pickup ring bottom is essential:

The space in the pickup mounting ring is smaller than the area drawn on the box lid using the pickup routing template.

Poking the four indentations in the box lid for the ring mounting screws saves you from guessing where the pickup ring should mount later when the larger space is cut from the box lid. 

Score the line to be cut from the box lid

After the ring mounting screw guide-holes have been punched, use a razor knife to score the area to be cut from the lid for the pickup.

This helps prevent too much of the lid from tearing out when the pickup hole is cut.

To cut out the hole for the pickup, perhaps you're fortunate to have a router at your disposal.

However, a router isn't necessary to cut the hole in the cigar box lid.

Instead, you can drill a hole in the corner of the rectangle drawn; one that's large enough to fit a small handsaw.

File cut edges smooth

And a handsaw is all that’s needed to make the cuts for the pickup hole.

After the space has been cut, it’s time to clean up the edges of the hole.

Nothing fancy goes on here.

A tried-and-true hand tool such as a four-in-hand, or a file, does the trick.

Drill for ring mounting screws

With the pickup hole cut and filed, drill the holes for the ring mounting screws.

Remove painter's tape

When all the cutting, drilling, and filing is done, it's time to remove the tape. 

And although you likely don't need to be told how to remove the tape, here's a little tip:

Start at the tape edges furthest away and pull them in towards the pickup hole.

If you've got a paper-covered box, this step helps prevent tearing the decorative box paper.

Mount ring to box

Next, dry-fit the mounting ring. 

Make sure you cannot see the lid through the two pickup mounting screw mounting holes.

Also be certain that the four ring mounting holes align with the holes drilled for them in the cigar box..

You may want to countersink the holes for the mounting screws. 

It’s not necessary, but the less stuff there is raised above the box lid, the more comfortable the guitar is to play for the strumming hand.

File pickup ring edges

When you mount the pickup ring and Snake Oil mini humbucker, you'll notice that pickup fits the ring snugly.

To loosen the fit, consider filing the inside edges of the pickup ring now, while the ring is fastened to the box.

Periodically stop filing to make certain the pickup passes through it with ease. 

Inspect installed ring from under box lid

In the picture above, you may see something that needs attention.

One of the pickup mounting screw holes on the pickup ring is a little too close to the edge of the pickup hole in the box lid.

That lack of space prevents proper installation and function of the pickup adjustment spring.

Ensure enough lid has been removed to accommodate pickup mounting springs and screws

So remove the pickup ring from the box and file the edges of the pickup hole to make room for the springs.

Insert pickup mounting screws through ring. Place springs on screws.

After the necessary room has been made, the pickup mounting screws go into the ring.

And the springs get placed onto the screws.

Fasten pickup to ring with pickup mounting screws

These next steps aren’t difficult, but a little patience is required.

Use one hand to hold the pickup mounting screws onto the mounting ring.

Your other hand positions the mounting tabs on the pickup to align with the mounting screws.

Then thread one of the screws into a tab, just enough to hold the pickup in place.

Mount pickup a little at a time with each screw

After one side of the pickup is secured, thread the other mounting screw into the other tab.

A little at a time, tighten each side of the pickup.

This raises the pickup into the pickup ring equally on both sides, in small increments; the preferred method to get the perfect pickup height.

Snake Oil humbucker installed in pickup mounting ring

With a few turns of the screwdriver, the Snake Oil rises through the box lid, ready to electrify your cigar box guitar. 

If your build is a neck-through design, check out this post by Shane Speal in which he describes how to reinforce the neck for pickup installation.


So, that’s how easy it is to install a Snake Oil humbucker into a cigar box guitar. 

As you can see, with only a few tools, it takes just a little time to transform your cigar box guitar into a glorious, humbucker-powered blues-machine.

Now, get in your workspace and start building.

And when you're done installing your Snake Oil Humbucker, send us some photos so we can feature your build on our website!

13th Jun 2019 Glenn Watt

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