A question that often arises in discussions about building cigar box guitars is ‘what is the optimum distance between the strings?’ The response is often that there are no rules and whatever is comfortable is good. But this isn’t always enough guidance for a first time build.
Getting it Wrong
When I was building my first cigar box guitar I simply referred to one of my regular steel strung guitars and measured the distance between 3 strings at the nut and then at the bridge. Then I closely replicated this on my cbg. But the strings were far too close for me, especially at the nut end. So I did a little research to find out what string-spacing veteran-builders use.
Spaced Out Pros
Roosterman (Ben) is a veteran cigar box guitar and instrument builder of some repute in the UK cbg scene. He painstakingly builds some of the finest cigar box guitars available today. Take a look at the gallery on his website for some great inspiration: Roosterman's Gallery.
When building a three string cbg he tends to use either a fixed 15mm (0.59 inch) spacing from nut to bridge. Or, if the build employs an adjustable bridge, he uses 13mm (0.512 inch) at the nut increasing a little to 14mm (0.551 inch) at the bridge.
Country Boy Style
Michael S. of Country Boy Guitars likes to use a neck width of 1.75 inches (44.45mm) and string spacing of half an inch (12.7mm).
One of the great things about building cigar box guitars is that you can customise them to your own exact requirements. So if you have large fingers you may want to be generous with your neck width and the space between your strings. If you have small hands and fingers, or maybe you’re making a guitar for a child, then the strings might be a little closer together.
Another cool thing about making your own cigar box guitars is that you can experiment and change things if you don’t like them. I mentioned at the start that on my first build I used a regular six string guitar as a guide when spacing the strings and this just didn’t work for me. But it really wasn’t much trouble to cut some new slots in both the nut and the bridge to reposition the strings around 13mm or 0.5 inches apart. So don’t be worried about getting it wrong.