Saturday, December 25, 2010

Pix from the Show!

I only snapped two shots, before the guests arrived, but here they are. The weather was appalling -- sideways snow -- but the intrepid crowd gathered nonetheless and were treated to really great performances and lots of time to play on the instruments. A good handful went home with new CBG converts, so it is back to the woodshop for me!

Sunday, November 14, 2010

A Holiday Open-House!

Aron Packer of Packer-Schopf Gallery has most graciously invited the entire ChicagoCBG inventory to an afternoon of musical adventure. A whole slew of instruments will be on display and tuned up -- ready to play! So if you've never had a chance to savor the beauty of a simple 3-string instrument, this is a great chance!

The Details:
Sunday, December 12, from 2-4pm
Packer-Schopf Gallery
942 W. Lake St. Chicago, IL 60607
p 312.226.8984

And to add to the excitement, there will also be a mini-concert at 3pm, featuring some of Chicago's most innovative DIY instrumentalists giving their ChicagoCBGs a workout.

The current tentative lineup:
Pigtail Dick of the New Duncan Imperials
Miles Raymer
The Teen Girl Uke Squad
and our own Aron Packer and the DIY OT Band

Check back and see when we add more artists!

UPDATE! You can also find me at the Old Town School of Folk Music Annual Holiday Artisan Sale! I'll bring as many instruments as I can fit!

First Friday, December 3, 6 - 9ish
Old Town School of Folk Music
4544 N. Lincoln Avenue

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Cigar Box Guitars for Soldiers!

A group of us at the are committing to send as many instruments to active servicemen, servicewomen, and veterans as we can. I've built these first two to send off to my friend Matt who is stationed in a field hospital in Afghanistan with an international staff. I've got two more on the way which should be done in the days ahead. They are a little sturdier than my usual builds so they will stand up to a more vigorous life overseas. These are dulcimer tuned, because Matt is sharing them with folks who've never played before -- they practically play themselves because all the wrong notes have been taken out.

If you know of a active or retired servicemember who you think would like to own a ChicagoCBG (or one made by my brethren at the Nation!) drop me a line. It is bottomless cup of coffee!

Edited 12/25/10: Hey, look! This one made it to my friend Matt, safe and sound. Let's hope it helps keep him sane and sound!

Friday, October 22, 2010


I've just started making these for some of my favorite teenage musicians. The Indian Tabac boxes look as good as they sound. These have walnut fingerboards, tailpieces and bridges, and GHS black nylon strings.

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Little Tin Dulcimers

As I was getting ready for a workshop at the Old Town School, I finished a batch of these 17" dulcimers on vintage tins. No two ever sound exactly alike! I got a sunny day so photographed them even though they didn't yet have strings -- gotta catch the light when you can!

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Mountain Dulcimers!

Chromatic or standard dulcimer fretting, played in the traditional lap style! This one was fitted with a piezo pickup so the happy owner could play with his band!

I'm always on the prowl for matched pairs of boxes -- not so easy to find!

Sunday, February 28, 2010


Just off the bench, a batch with pickups so you can play on stage with ease and panache.

This one features a Ted Crocker Flatbed Pickup in ebony -- looks great on that CAO box. This is a one-of-a-kind instrument, featuring paired octave strings and goldtone frets. You can be the lucky winner of this guitar at the Old Town School Blue Jean Gala on March 6 featuring the incomparable John Prine!

Friday, February 12, 2010

Hot off the Workbench!

Just in time for the University of Chicago Folk Festival!

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Our Most Popular: The Stick Dulcimer

Just three strings and just the important frets! Anyone can play a stick dulcimer with about 3 minutes of practice. Automatically tuned to a major scale, and the addition of a capo at fret #1 shifts you to a minor scale so you can play those darker tunes, too! Easy to tune by ear, easy to play by ear!

New this year - the Blues-cimer with just those blues-scale notes! Even if your music theory skills are a bit rusty, you'll be playing the blues right from the get-go!

Open tunings like DAd or GDg makes every strum a pleasure.

The 3-String Guitar

Still the simplicity of 3 strings, but chromatic (all of the!) frets. Play major, minor, mixolydian, accidentals, blues - anything and everything! Same open tunings as our Stick Dulcimers.

4-String Tenor Guitar

Short scale, tuned GDAE - just like a mandolin or a fiddle. Lots of easy chords that need only two fingers. Pick out a melody or strum for back-up. We'll give you a chord chart to get you started!

The Dual 3-String -
where the magic really happens!

Kind of like a bouzouki, a mandolin, a Cuban trés -- a worldwide tradition! The extra strings are often paired in octaves to add even more sparkle to your playing. So much sound out of just a simple instrument!

Common tunings we've used are: DD-AA-dd, Dd-Aa-dd', Gg-Dd-gg, etc. When strings are paired in octaves, you can easily play melody lines on all strings and have them ring out.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Playing in a Jam Setting

I can guarantee heads will turn if you show up at a bluegrass or Old Time jam with your new ChicagoCBG. There is one regularly on First Fridays at the Old Town School.

You can download a little chord book of the songs that often appear at the First Friday jam.

There is also a jam sponsored by Mark Dvorak at The Grafton on first and third Tuesday nights.

If you've never played in a jam setting, here are some tips and pointers: