Heart of Louisiana: Cigar box guitars

PRIDE, LA (WVUE) - Many years ago, people who couldn't afford to buy a guitar would make their own out of a cigar box, and the distinct bluesy-folk sound of those homemade instruments is making a bit of a comeback. FOX 8's Dave McNamara found a man who's turning his passion for music and woodworking into making cigar box guitars. It's happening in a home workshop in the small town of Pride in the Heart of Louisiana.

After spending years working rodeos and managing highway construction jobs, Jim Rogers is considering a new career path - one that ties in with his lifelong interest in music.

"I just always had a fascination with guitars as a youngster and started playing and learning to play on my own by ear," Rogers said.

Rogers also enjoys woodworking, and he's found a way to combine those interests.

"A couple of years ago I was actually in a coworker's office one day, and he was a cigar guy and he had an empty wooden cigar box on his desk," Rogers said.  "And I said, 'Hey, can I have that?' It just immediately come to mind - I'm going to build a guitar out of that."

Many cigar boxes later, Rogers has turned his workshop into a cigar box guitar-making factory.

Shaping the maple guitar necks with their precisely-placed frets is the most complicated part. Rogers makes three-string, four-string and six-string models. All have a sound that's pure folk and blues. Rogers traces the history of the cigar box instruments to the Civil War.

"You know, it's always been associated with impoverished individuals that, you know, were working - everyday working people that couldn't afford to buy music instruments, so they would fashion their own out of washtubs or whatever they could find around to build an instrument out of," Rogers said.

Most of these cigar boxes come from eBay, where you can buy one for $6 to $10. And the size and color of the box really determines the style of the guitar.

There are a variety of shapes and body types, from a dark walnut look to brightly colored cigar boxes with matching necks. Rogers can see his horses from the doorway of his shop, where the work is enjoyable and therapeutic.

"You sit hours behind the desk at a computer, supervising people and whatever, and you know, to be all alone in your shop, making a little noise and dust and, you know, working with your hands is really good for the soul," Rogers said.

These musical creations are sold online through a business called Deep South Guitars.

"I've shipped guitars to Europe, Canada, a good part of the United States - all over," Rogers said.

And as the demand for these folk-inspired guitars increases, Rogers may have found a new day job.

The cigar box guitars range in price from about $200 to nearly $500.  If you want more information, click here.