In early America starting sometime in the 1860's, poor people of all walks of life began to make homemade guitars and other stringed instruments out of old wooden boxes and scavenged or found wood from places such as barns or old homes.

Many of the pioneers of early Blues and Rock n' Roll music got their start in music by playing these long forgotten homemade guitars.

My name is John McNair. I'm from New Orleans but I now live in Sparks, Nevada.


I have a small workshop at home and I ship guitars world wide. I can mail you one anywhere in the world.

I have many types of hand made cigar box guitars for sale, homemade resonators, vintage style acoustic 3 or 4 string and even left & right handed guitars.

  • Email me for the current price list at john@reddogguitars.com

In the South, it's common to hear stories about those Old School Bluesmen such as Lightnin' Hopkins, Scrapper Blackwell, Little Freddie King and many others who got their start in music by building their own homemade guitar.

If you wanted to play guitar and didn't have any money - you'd have to build a guitar yourself.

Just an old used wooden box, a stick made into a guitar neck, and simple down home music is the true history of the Blues.

Making music on a stringed instrument is as old as recorded time itself.

Sometime between the 1850's and the 1870's, the Railroad was formed in the United States. After the Civil War a new transportation industry that used the train instead of horse and buggy opened up shipping to many small towns across America. With the invention of the locomotive steam engine, a package could be delivered just about anywhere in the United States.

By the mid 1880's there was an abundance of empty wooden boxes once used in railway shipping and packing. These wooden containers came in many shapes and sizes, empty tool boxes, food crates and cartons, cigar boxes, glass and figurine shipping bins, just about anything that needed shipping was put in a wooden box. It didn't take long for people to notice that you could build an instrument from one of these leftover empty boxes. Some industrious individuals used lids and broken box parts and even home made from scratch their "homemade" boxes... You see what I did there!

This form of guitar building was really just old fashioned ingenuity at work.

Homemade instruments and cigar box guitars were popular through out much of the history of early America.

From the Mississippi Delta to the Appalachian mountains, poverty did not stop people from wanting to enjoy music and having fun with family and friends. In fact, it made the desire even stronger. Many people just went out and made their own instruments from stuff they found in their house, shed or barn.

These hand made guitars were usually just simple crude instruments that most often only had a few strings. From farm workers to street buskers, once you built your own instrument, there was an exciting new world of musical possibilities.

Homemade guitars are part of the past, but still part of the present.

Many times people have emailed me and said that just by hearing one of these guitars or seeing a photo of a cigar box guitar online has helped them find a new direction in life. Many of these people were coping with serious illness, trauma or some type of sadness. I have seen all kinds of people, from military veterans to lost teenagers, these guitars have helped them find a new path in life and even break out of the bondage of sadness.

I have seen this time and time again. I have seen peoples life change because of the happiness and healing these guitars have brought them. - Not to mention all of the people that have wanted to learn how to play a regular guitar in the past but never could learn the complex fretboard math and music theory.

Once people discover how easy it is to play and create great music on a cigar box guitar, a new spark of excitement happens in their life. There's a guy out there named Shane Speal who is evangelizing the world with that!


These guitars are easy to understand and fun to play. It's easy to learn how to play 3 string and slide guitar, more on that topic on the following page of this website.


So, what am I saying with all this?


I've spelled out a clear and good reason to NEVER bury your desires or give up on your dreams of learning to play guitar, Even if you are 75 years old, it is never too late!

This video above is just a simple recording of a 3 string guitar.

As the old saying goes, "listening is learning," so listen to the video closely.

-BUT, don't just listen passively, pay attention and watch and you will see nothing complex is happening. This type of guitar playing even a beginner can learn.

When I play, I let the guitar's natural vintage tone work for me. The sound of these guitars have such a powerful impact on people, you don't have play to much. I let the listener hear the instrument. I don't try to fill the music with constant play or finger movement. It really is a "less is more" approach. It's mostly just strings ringing out naturally in the background with a fretted or slide note played on top here and there to fill the music.

I also use reverb or slight overdrive on my amp settings to help give the music an aged quality. This type of music is real simple for anyone to learn.

Blues music is a primitive form of music and simple by its nature to learn.

If playing a standard guitar has given you problems, you'll enjoy the freedom and simplicity of playing one of these guitars. With a little dedication, you'll sound like a champ in just a few months.

What is best for a vintage sound? A 3 string guitar or 4 string guitar?

or, How about a resonator guitar?

What's the difference in that type of guitar?

Well, right up front, I can say that both 3 and 4 string guitars sound the same because they are both built the same way.

The difference is how they play. On a 3 string guitar, to find a "certain note," you will need to slide up or down the neck one or more frets, the 4 string will just give you an access to any one note at a different position on the neck.

The 3 string guitar has less repeating notes, but as for the actual sound or "tone" of the guitar itself, they both sound the same.

Just plug in and play, a lot of the guitars I build are strait wired to the pickup.

It's an old fashioned way to send the signal direct from the pickup to the amp.

...no knobs, no frills...just a simple fun electric guitar

I'm also just trying to declutter my life and the way I see and view the world.

I've decided in 2021 to paint my reality with broad brush strokes instead of fine tip pens.

Does that make any sense?

As for a resonator guitar, these guitars were invented and played in the 1920's and 30's before electric guitars were in use. The strings sit on a bridge that pushes down on cone inside the body of the guitar and it vibrates the center of the cone when you strum the guitar. Instant amplification, No electricity needed. They are great when you want to play without an amp, but plug on in and they become awesome little time machines.

Resonator guitars have a distinct bell like metallic sound. If you are someone trying to replicate vintage 1920's and 30's music, a resonator guitar will take you back in time.

Since the 1990's and the invention of online forums and auction sites, these old homemade guitars have been turning up for sale all across the country. The more people search attics and barns the more history of the instruments is uncovered.

It's exciting to see new stuff when it shows up for sale online. Ebay is king for finding old instruments.

This is where the "Blues" all started.

An old used cigar box, reclaimed wood made into a guitar neck, and homemade music.

This painting above is of "L. Rupert" 1868 at the G.D. Flynn Brewery New River Falls, MA

What is The Blues?

Some people think it's sad music....well, it could be.

but can you be happy and play the Blues? ....totally possible!

I'm from New Orleans, they tech us in school that Blues music is a way of communicating your feelings or experience through music..... they don't define it as happy or sad.
To learn more then that, Muddy Waters would tell you that you'll have to discover it for yourself.

Have a listen to this short Blues video, how does it make you feel?

I have many types of guitars for sale - email me at john@reddogguitars.com

Many Blues and Rock musicians today still enjoy playing these homemade guitars for a more vintage and authentic sound that they create in their music.

Listen to this video below. It is a recording of Ry Cooder's song called "Billy The Kid."

It is preformed by Billy Gibbons of ZZ-Top. He is playing a guitar built by Kurt Schoen.

This song is an excerpt from a Mark Maron interview from Youtube of a previously recorded 2015 Podcast. All Copyrights for this material are the property of their respective owners. Click Play below

It's a lot of fun to record music at home. You don't have to have expensive gear or any experience. Blues music is easy to learn, - you just express yourself by playing what you want to hear. This type of music is not built with complicated structure. With very little practice you can play well and record yourself.

Have a listen to this natural acoustic recording, it was made with only an acoustic 3 string cigar box guitar and a hand held microphone recorder sitting on the table.

The Electric Guitar Pickup and Amplifier - Two pieces of a puzzle.

Eletcric guitars capture sound through a pickup. The sound is then tranfered by current electricity to a guitar amplifier. The guitar amp is one of the most important aspects of your overall sound and something you don't want to overlook.

There are so many great choices of amplifiers out there, the Vox mini is such a great sounding amp for about 100 bucks, so is the Roland micro cube....and those cheap Fender Mustangs are always on ebay for under a 100. Yes, under a 100 bucks! They are such a great value for what you get.

As for the adventurous persons, you can hack into the back of many old radios and use them as guitar amplifiers.

Homemade guitar amps built into small radio bodies and other vintage electronics with speakers is another fun avenue of exploration. It's easier than you think.


To learn more check out the website - radio-guitar-amps.com - on that subject alone.


Vintage electronics have such a raspy and scratchy sound that it gives your music a charm and rustic vibe of days long ago that modern amps just can't produce. Long before digital chips took over our lives, it was glass tubes & radio transistors that ruled the world.

I recorded myself with a 1988 Fostex Tape deck - Are you still thinking about that fancy digital CD quality????

Not here! I grew up with those bootleg cassettes they sold downtown. This is outdated Lo-Fidelity : )

Hey, I got a picture of the guy who sells them out of the trunk of his car. - Be on the look out for this guy

Watch this video. Just remember, if you get lost just stay on the trail!

The art was drawn by Dave Lynas, His art is a treasure and so is he

email me at john@reddogguitars.com

I might have the perfect guitar for you

I ship guitars Worldwide. If you've got a house I will get it there

The history of homemade instruments are really worldwide. In most peoples family history there is usally someone in thier past who had a passion for music, yet didn't have any money for a proper instrument. They did what everyone else did a 100 years ago, they made their own.

August 2022 - I am still working on several different test versions of this short video for the Roku channel.

If you have Roku on your TV, do a search for Red Dog Guitars. The channel should be live by the time you read this or sometime end of summer 2022. It's been alot of work and it's just me and my 13 year old daughter building it. It's gonna be just music videos of Blues and Rock music.

email me anytime and ask for the current guitars for sale - john@reddogguitars.com

Whatever you do, don't pass this video by

Listen to this Victor recording from the 1930's. It's a master class on how music is made and constructed. There is so much you can learn from this video, even 80 years later.

What's old is new again....it's like we've went Back to the Future

Like beans for breakfast, homemade resonator guitars have that "tin can" sound

These simple guitars are built with just a few basic hand tools that most people already have.

You mostly use screwdrivers and glue along with some basic hardware store odds and ends and a pocket knife. You don't need many tools at all to build a homemade guitar.

The body is just an old used wooden box and that part is already done for you, once you start, you'r already half way done!

That's what is so fun and interesting about this type of guitar construction, these guitars are simple by nature. They can be built using old or used guitar parts, or you get creative and make your own parts with stuff from around your house.

If you have read this far, you'r down in the fine print, we're at the bottom of the page. You should either try building or playing one of these fun little guitars, you'll have a blast. There's a lot of history that you'll hear and relive every time you play a cigar box guitar.

Well, I'm officially at the bottom of this page. I do sell fully built guitars, and also hand made guitar pickups and other box guitar blues stuff as well, it's all on the next page.

The current guitars I have for sale are listed at the bottom of the next page.