A few years ago, this CBG caught my eye on eBay because it kind of resembled a jazz guitar with its deep 3" body, cutaway, and fetching trim.
This cigar-box guitar features a 3" deep body, funky pinstriping, and—believe it or not—a Higgins B-bender.
Several years ago I was bitten by the
cigar-box guitar bug. There’s something
wonderfully earthy about CBGs. Most are
one-of-a-kind handmade instruments built
simply for fun. They express someone’s
creativity—usually with a twist of weirdness
thrown in. Note: Not all CBGs are actually
made out of cigar boxes. Rather, many are
crafted to look like a cigar box with a squarish
shape and hinged lid.
LEFT: The G&L S-500 neck pickup
is a new addition. The Tele-style pickup arrived
DOA and while operative, the bridge humbucker’s
origin remains a mystery. TOP RIGHT: One end
of the bender’s cable attaches to a pulley on the
shoulder strap. BOTTOM RIGHT: The Higgins bender mechanism
mounts on the face of the headstock.
A few years ago, this CBG caught my
eye on eBay because it kind of resembled a
jazz guitar with its deep 3" body, cutaway,
and fetching trim. I scored it for $128, but
like most CBGs, I knew it would probably
have some issues—and it did. The Tele-style
neck pickup was dead, the bridge completely
unusable, and the wiring was a mess. So
I made a trip to Asheville (North Carolina)
guitar guru Jack Dillen to seek help.
Fortunately, I keep a wide assortment
of parts handy. To reduce repair costs, I
brought Jack a spare G&L S-500 pickup
and a shortened black Tele-style 3-saddle
bridge. Because the dead neck pickup
looked cool, I asked him to leave it where it
was and mount the S-500 close to the neck.
Now that would be enough to keep
most techs busy, but I also asked Jack to
install a Higgins B-Bender I’d just acquired
in a trade. There’s not much real estate
on a CBG to mount most benders, so the
Higgins seemed a logical choice for me. It
works by pulling downwards on the supplied
strap, which activates a cable that
attaches to the bender mechanism on the
LEFT: Two allen wrenches adjust the movement of the pull-string cam. RIGHT: The blue-and-white trim adds a folksy flair.
A week and $50 later, Jack had my CBG
ready. I was surprised by how easy it is to
play. The new neck pickup has a nice jazzy
twang and the bridge humbucker delivers
plenty of beef and volume. The Higgins is
a trip to use but definitely has a learning
curve. It also requires daily tweaking with
different allen wrenches, so I added a magnetic
strip behind the headstock to keep
these tools handy. The Higgins uses a different
motion than I’m used to, so I’m still
learning how to pull it smoothly, but it’s so
cool to have a bender on a CBG.
So is this a keeper? It has to be. I have
too much invested for me to ever come close
to getting my money back by selling it.
Bottom Feeder Tip #221: Never modify
a guitar thinking you’ll be able to recoup
your expenses later. It seldom works out that
way. For every dollar you spend on mods,
you usually get back only 20–50 cents on
resale. But if modifying a guitar means
the difference between playing it or not, I
always err on the side of playing. Guitars
need to be played, not hung on a wall.
is a founding
member of the
trio. He also does guitar
clinics promoting his
namesake G&L signature
model 6-string, and produces
artists and bands at his studio in
Asheville, North Carolina. You can contact
Will on Facebook and at willray.biz.