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One-String Teardrop Guitar, Springtown, TX

Updated: Jan 10, 2022

This primitive one-string guitar was a labor of love for the builder, who planned out a neck-through-body design with a bent wood teardrop shape. Although its history is unknown, the patina and cracked varnish that covers the instrument gives the feel of something created at least 100 years ago.

Like so many instruments in the Cigar Box Museum collection, this one-string guitar was found at an estate sale. In this case, it was in Springtown, TX at the home of an elderly woman back in 2018. I acquired it from an antique dealer on eBay in 2021.

The guitar arrived without a string or bridge. I crafted a new wooden floating bridge and strung it up with a .022 bronze wound banjo string. The loop end of the string fit perfectly in the nail that was placed at the butt end as a string anchor.

The frets are large roofing staples which were pounded into the hand carved neck. The positioning of the frets on this 17" scale neck is incorrect for either chromatic or diatonic tuning. This is a common mistake seen in many antique cigar box guitars and DIY instruments.

The teardrop body has a top and back made from rough-cut 1/4" wood. The sides appear to be an 1/8" thick piece of wood that has been bent around the teardrop shape.

A closeup of the angled headstock shows a hand whittled tuner. The headstock and neck are all one piece of wood. In fact the entire neck goes through the body and is heavily routed out inside.

The wooden nut has split in two at the center where a groove was originally cut. I have placed a section of roofing staple at the nut as a floating "zero fret" to make the instrument playable again. The guitar is loud and resonant, however, the incorrect frets deliver a scale that is out-of-tune to a normal western scale.

Here are the specs of the One-String Guitar from Springtown, TX

Scale length: Approx 17"

Materials used:

  • Wood

  • Metal Roofing Staples

  • Slotted screws

  • Nails

  • Varnish

Dimensions: 21 x 7.25 x 2.75" (53 x 18.5 x 7cm)

Cigar Box Guitar Museum Catalog # AUN.2021.001

Currently in curation and slated to be shown at the Cigar Box Guitar Museum in New Alexandria PA at a future date.

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