How To Notch A Box For A Cigar Box Guitar Neck

How To Notch A Box For A Cigar Box Guitar Neck

In this post, you'll learn how to notch a cigar box for a neck-through cigar box guitar design.

Notching a cigar box to build a cigar box guitar with a neck-through design is a simple thing to do. 

And we're here to walk you through the process using instructions taken straight from our popular cigar box guitar kit how-to guide.

What Does "Neck-Through" Mean?

Neck-through is a term that indicates how a neck extends inside and through the cigar box. 

As opposed to bolt-on neck, which means the neck is bolted onto the box, rather than extending through it.

Or a neck-on-top design, which means the neck is fastened to the outside and on top of the cigar box.

The instructions here are for notching a cigar box to accommodate a neck-through build.

Here are the tools you'll need to complete this part of your cigar box guitar.

Tools You'll Need

  • Ruler (something to measure with)
  • Saw (a coping saw is used in this tutorial)
  • File
  • Pencil or marker
  • Razor knife (optional)

A Short Introduction

The style of cigar box guitar you are building is called a “neck-through” design, where the neck extends all the way through the box. 

To allow this, two openings need to be cut into the box sides into which the neck will snugly fit. 

The process for making and cutting these openings involves several simple steps, as illustrated in the photos below.

Please note that the measurements shown in these photos are specific to the box type being used. 

Your box may be slightly smaller or larger, so be sure to measure carefully and do the calculations yourself. 

If your box has rounded edges, special accommodations may need to be made.

Now let's dive into the step-by-step instructions to complete this part of your project.

The Steps To Take

Mark the box

Usually, you want the neck to be centered on the box (though this is not required,) so measure and mark the center of both ends of your box through which the neck will extend.

Measure and mark the center of both box sides through which the neck will extend.

It's handy to use a scrap of 1 x 2 (~25 x 51mm)  for marking the box, such as a piece you may have cut from the length of wood you used to make your neck. 

If you don't have a cut-off from your neck, you can use the tail-end of the neck itself instead. 

If you use the neck itself, use a pencil instead of a marker for this step, so that the marks you make can be removed later.

Next, measure and mark the center of your neck stock. 

For a standard 1 x 2-inch piece of lumber, the center should be at 3/4-inch (19mm.)

Note that a 1 x 2 is actually 3/4-inch tall x 1 1/2-inches wide (19 x 38mm.)

On one end, measure and mark the center of the neck's width, or use a neck cut-off.

Next, line up the center marks you've made on the box sides and the wood.

Then, trace around the wood to mark the neck profile onto the box.

Match the center-points marked on the neck-end and box-sides.

Keep the neck profile marking as tight to the neck as you can.

This provides a snug, even, and flush fit on all sides.

You can always make the notch larger with a file after the cuts have been made.

As you know, once cut, you can't make the notches smaller.

Use the neck-end or cut-off to outline the neck profile onto the box sides.

You can make the whole process much quicker and more accurate for this and future builds by using a C. B. Gitty Cigar Box Guitar Neck Notching Template.

Cigar Box Guitar Neck Notching Template

Cut the notches

Once you have marked both sides of your box, it's time to cut the openings. 

First, if you have one available, you may want to use a razor to score the lines you've marked on the cigar box.

This step helps to prevent bits of the box from tearing out along the cuts your about to make.

While these little "tear-outs" aren't a problem for how your cigar box guitar will function, they may be unsightly for your tastes.

If using a razor knife, score just inside the lines where you'll also be making your cuts.

To make your cuts, we recommend that you use a small saw, such as a coping saw, but make do the best you can with what you have. 

It's best to keep the notch small on the first cut, as you can always enlarge it later with a file. 

Again, you want your neck to fit as snugly as possible into the openings. 

The photos below show how you first cut the straight side marks, and then use a two-cut method to cut the bottom of the notch.

Cut the straight side marks

Use a saw to make straight cuts down the sides of the outlined neck profile.

Two-cut method to the bottom: Cut 1

Make a sloping cut to continue the neck-notch.

Two-cut method to the bottom: Cut 2

Finish the neck notch with a final cut along the bottom of the outlined neck profile.

Hide unwanted box tear-outs or gaps between the box and neck with C. B. Gitty Cigar Box Guitar Neck Collars.

Cigar Box Guitar Neck Collars

Test the fit

Once cut, test the fit of your neck, and if necessary, use a wood file to enlarge the cut-outs carefully. 

Ideally, you want the neck to fit very snugly and to be flush with the top of the cigar box.

Test fit the neck into the neck notches.

Example of well-fitting neck in a notched cigar box.


As you can see, it takes only a few tools and a little time to notch a box to fit a cigar box guitar neck.

If you haven't already, you'll want to check out the following articles on 

How to Make a Cigar Box Guitar Headstock

How to Make a Cigar Box Guitar Headstock

How To Install Cigar Box Guitar Tuners

How To Install Cigar Box Guitar Tuners

19th Nov 2019 Ben "Gitty" Baker with Glenn Watt

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