Since the 1860's, it was common for poor people in early America to make their own homemade guitar or stringed instrument out of old wooden boxes and scavenged or found wood.

Many of the pioneers in Blues and Rock n' Roll music also got thier start by playing these homemade guitars.

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


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

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

  • 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 hand made stringed instrument is as old as time itself.

Sometime between the 1850's to 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. It didn't take long for people to notice that you could build an instrument from one of these empty wooden boxes. These wooden containers came in many shapes and sizes, empty tool boxes, food crates and cartons, cigar boxes, glass and figurine shipping bins, and 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.

These hand made guitars were usually just simple crude instruments that most often only had a few strings.

From farm hands to street buskers, there was now an exciting new world of musical possibilities.

This painting from 1868 is of a doc worker named "L. Rupert" at the G.D. Flynn Brewery

- New River Falls - MD

Homemade instruments 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.

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 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, upon hearing the music these guitars make, it has helped them find a new path in life and even break out of the bondage of sadness.

I have seen time and time again peoples life change and these hand made guitars lead them into a new hobby and pastime that offers a true sense of inner happiness and healing.

- Not to mention all of the people who 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 a 3 or 4 string guitar and that they can create music that they never imagined they could, 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 very 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, that 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.

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!

It does provide a substantial volume boost when playing acoustically. They are great when you want to play without an amp.

As far as the sound of a resonator, they 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 ring out in your hands.

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 in broad brush strokes instead of fine tip pens.

Does that make any sense?

I build guitars in many styles - 3 string, 4 string, Resonators, solid body and acoustic.

If you are looking for a one of a kind guitar, email me. I have many types old school box guitars for sale. I can send you my latest guitar models list.

email me at john@reddogguitars.com

Watch this short video and let's take a trip down memory lane...


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

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 and I can mail you a guitar anywhere in the world

email me at john@reddogguitars.com

I will send you a list of my current cigar box guitars I have for sale.

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 out there, the Vox mini is such a great 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 is 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.

It's a lot of fun to record music at home. You don't have to have expensive gear or any experience. Box guitar blues music is easy to learn and you can just pick up these simple guitars and start playing and record yourself right away.

Have a listen to this natural acoustic recording, it was made with nothing but a homemade acouctic 3 string guitar and a hand held recorder sitting in front of me on the table.

Russian soldiers from 1917 - World War 1

The history of homemade instruments really are 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 thier own.

Since the 1990's and the invention of online forum and auction sites, these old homemade guitars have been turning up in many countries around the world. The more poeple search attics and barns, lots of new history is uncovered.

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

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!

I have many types of homemade cigar box guitars for sale, blues resonators, electric, old school acoustic, 3 and 4 string.

If you have seen anything you like, just email me and let me know.

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

Have a listen to this old public domain recording from the 1930's.

This is some of the history of homemade Americana.

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

This photo is of my shop table. As you can see I mostly use screwdrivers, some small drill bits, pliers, some basic hardware store odds and ends and a pocket knife. You don't need many tools at all to build a homemade guitar.

On the flip-side, it's kind of interesting if you think about it?

Hey, the body is just an old used wooden box and that part is already done for you!

That's what is so fun and interesting about this type of guitar construction, these box 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 and the music that these type of guitars creates, clearly you are a great canidiate for this hobby. Your down in the fine print, we'er at the bottom of the page! You should give it a try, you should try at least once to make one, you will have a blast.

Well, I am officially at the bottom of this webpage. 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.