Wood Art Transfer Technique for Cigar Box Guitar Necks

This step is entirely up to you, but I like to have some sort of branding on the guitar neck whether it be a logo or a name, or both.

I have used many different types of guitar decal in the past, from self-printed transfer paper to custom made decals and although the finished product looks good, it is expensive and if you don’t get it right first time its money down the drain.

Now, the whole philosophy of cigar box guitars is that it’s meant to be about using stuff you have lying around your house, or that you can easily pick up from a hardware store. Spending up to £20 on a custom decal, when the guitar itself costs about that is a huge waste of money, so I decided to look for an alternative.

Looking around on the internet I came across a technique of transferring images to wood that doesn’t break the bank and can be repeated again and again. Wood Art Transfer has been used in the arts and crafts scene for many years and uses something called gel medium to transfer your image onto the wood.

What you’ll need for a Wood Art Transfer:

Gloss Gel Medium – I use a brand called Liquitex, but similar brands should work. I got a small tub (237ml) for around £7.50 and it will literally do hundreds of transfers.

Laser Printer – For the wood transfer to work you have to use a laser printer; I have read somewhere that using a photocopy works too, but I haven’t tried it.

Cheap printer paper – Cheap printer paper is better to use instead of high quality paper as its thinner and easier to remove.

Clear Spray Lacquer – Use the clear lacquer to protect the design and give the wood a nice gloss look. You can use automotive spray lacquer, but I prefer to use nitrocellulose lacquer as it sprays thinner and is more controllable.

Your design – Whether it’s a name/logo or both, you must make sure that the image is mirrored (most drawing packages have a mirror option) before it’s printed or it will be the wrong way round when transferred to the wood.

Once you have all the supplies it’s time apply your design to the neck.

Basic Tools for Making a Cigar Box Guitar

Here are some of the basic tools needed to build your own cigar box guitars; most of them you will already own or you will be able to borrow off friends and family.


Rulers and set squares are essential tools for cigar box guitar building and pretty much all DIY projects ever, so having a decent range is a great help.

1 Metre Steel Ruler, Set Square, 15cm Steel Ruler and Circle Template.

Cordless Drill and Drill Bits

A cordless drill is another essential tool for guitar building and is used for drilling the holes for the guitars machine heads and the sound holes in the cigar box. A good selection of drill bits and hole saws is recommended.

Cordless Drill, Drill Bits and Hole Saws.

Mitre Saw

Mitre saws can cut a variety of different angles and are easy to set up and use.

Mitre Saw

Razor Saws

Razor Saws are ideal for intricate cuts and finishing cuts, as well as fret slots.

Razor Saws and Attachments


Chisels are great hand tools for removing chunks of wood from hard to reach places.


Wood Files

A selection of different files is recommended for cigar box guitar building. These are used when carving the neck or rounding off corners and are very versatile tools.



If you are going to do any gluing then wood clamps are essential; make sure you use scrap bits of wood when using clamps to protect the parts you are working on from damage.



Tape, especially low tack tape is great for using when you’re marking out your cigar box for cutting; after cutting remove the tape without damaging the finish underneath.

Double Sided Tape (top), Painters Low Tack Tape (middle), Masking Tape (bottom).

Router and Router Bits (optional)

Routers can be used to profile the back of the neck, route out the shape of the neck with a template, and route pickup holes if needed. If is not an essential tool, but when used correctly can save a lot of time and provide a professional finish.

Router and Router Bits