Founder & Owner of MGB Guitars & Parts Supplier Michael Breedlove talks about the best ways to prep cigar boxes for a CBG build.
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hi let's take a few minutes and talk about finishes on the cigar boxes before you build a guitar out of them I know by talking to a lot of guys some guys take a lot of time and put a nice finish on them some guys just use them as they get them no finish no no no changes to the outside of the enclosure which is okay whatever you decide you want to do feel free to go ahead and do it give you a little bit of my experience and what I like to do and how I like to finish my boxes and we'll talk about how we finish them first off one thing to keep in mind the cigar box is that most of us build from that most of us use only had one intended application and that was to hold a bunch of cigars and take them from the factory or the distributor to the retail or to the end consumer and just hold the cigars until they were done wasn't expected to be made into a guitar that could last on for years and years or generations and generations so they really didn't do too much I'm always surprised that they did as much as they did I think they really spent a lot of time and usually came up with some pretty nice boxes but when I get boxes tell you kind of what I like to do one of the things that I always look at is will I use the box or am I going to send it on down the road to somebody else and if I know I'm gonna use the box I go ahead and get it prepared ahead of time here in my shop I probably have or boxes that are ready to go and when I say ready to go I mean I've already put a finish on them because I'm not a guy with a lot of patience and if I'm gonna build a guitar I'm usually not good at taking two or three or four days or a week to put finish on while I'm trying to build it so I like to go ahead and get them ready before I even built them so if I get a box like this one that I thought it's really cool I go ahead and put a finish on it and just set it aside then at some point I'll be building something out of it typically what I run into and I'm sure you run into is a couple of kinds of boxes there are they all wood boxes you can see this one is just a natural wood box all four sides top bottom it's all wood and when it comes from the factory it has a decent minimal finish on it but I like to improve upon that you also see a lot of other ones that'll come that will be just paper this is a Toronto that's kind of unusual that I really like I knew that I would want to do something with it it's got a really large size it's kind of a nice box so again this is one that I went ahead and as soon as I got it because out of a thousand boxes I've had or seen I've only seen one or two of these so I know someday I'm gonna be building something out of this so I went ahead and put a finish on it and I'll talk about that in a moment there's other ones obviously that you see really popular and those are the ones that are lacquered highly lacquered lots of coats of lacquer on it those are really nice and they're really shiny this is one that a friend of mine gave me that I've been looking for for a long time trying to get finished lacquered you'll see a lot of those Camacho's you'll also see a lot of them that are just painted this one a curio is one of my favorites it's a beautiful box black great shape great feel nice finish on it it's a really good box you could put a finish over the top of this if you want to or you could use it as is then there's some hybrids this is interesting again this one is the hybrid because it's not only paper but there's also some wood exposed and there's two different things in two different processes and two different concerns when you're doing one of these hybrid boxes and of course then we get the boxes that are always just paper covered these toronto's are one one of my favourite boxes paper cover and the paper happens to be a coated paper and it's got a good coating on it now if you want to you come back and you can put an additional coating on these but I probably would because I think that the coating on the paper itself is in pretty good shape so let's talk about the finishes I use I've experimented with a lot of stuff and used a lot of cans of spray finish of my days and I really kind of always come back to this rust-oleum I get them at Home Depot it's a national brand you've all heard of rust-oleum I get it in either the set and clear enamel or the crystal clear and that's basically really shiny and this one has a little bit of a soft finish and I really like either of them and I use them both but they work out well kind of the reason I like them is they're spray the reason apply and they're only three dollars and cents a can and I can usually get four or five boxes out of a given camp and I want to talk about that because I guess out of all the things I'm going to say today this is probably the one tip that I think will really help a lot of you I've been a hobbyist and been doing stuff for thirty years or more you know making stuff restoring stuff fixing stuff finishing stuff and most of the time I wound up using spray cans one of the tricks I learned early on that has been really really helpful and I continue to use it to this day is before I'm going to spray something I will take a can of spray paint and I will go in or can of spray finish in this case go into my house put it in the kitchen sink turn on the hot water and let the hot water run by doing that I'm heating up the can and all of the all of the ingredients inside that can and that does a couple of things and I've learned this over time works really well first off inside the can as you know you have the finish and then there's kind of the aerosol and what will happen as you heat this can up of course the gases that are in there that are the propellant will begin to expand and they'll put more pressure on the on the ingredients that are in there and give you a finer finish throughout the life of the camp if you've grabbed a can right off the shelf when it's full you know you get a real nice good spray because there's a lot of pressure as you use up the ingredient it becomes less and less and this this stream is a little bit weaker and it's not so nice so again by heating this up you're heating up the gas and expanding it and putting more pressure and it will flow a little bit better the other thing it does I have found over time is that by heating up the material that's inside you're changing the viscosity of it and it flows a little bit smoother and I've also noticed that when you put it on there and it's warm it tends to dry faster not a big big significant difference but I have noticed a difference and so whenever I'm spraying something I like to heat up the cans and it makes a big difference especially for you guys that are living up north now as the winter is coming on and it's getting a little bit cooler and maybe you're doing the finishing in your garage or in your basement and before when it was nice and warm and not hot now it's kind of cooled off and so this is a little trick that can help you one of the things again I like to do is when I'm spraying something I follow the rules the rules are pretty much spray it and put several coats on it come back within an hour so I'll put another coat on it and just slowly build up if you don't get it done within an hour or two you really need to wait hours for it to set and so that's why I like to do them here in the garage and do multiple coats I'll put a couple of coats on it let it set come back two or three days do the same thing let it set come back another two or three days later and put more coats on it and build up a pretty nice finish on it and I'm really happy with them the big thing I really have to focus on is those that are all wood because what happens typically is again the wood wasn't finished very well at a minimal spray on it probably wasn't sanded so I put a coat on there then I'll come back and sand it I also to suggest you get a microfiber cloth because that does a really good job of taking the sawdust off or the sanding does as you're getting ready to put on the next coat and so I like these to be a little bit smoother I like the feel when you could slide your hand across it and it's really nice and smooth I just think it makes for a better build doesn't take a lot of time again spray it let it set come back sand it repeat that two or three times and you'll wind up with a pretty smooth box so those are some of the things I do again just depends on what you like finish the box the way you want to have them finished again some guys like to use them just as they are I tend to like to put a finish on them it's a little more protection one of the things I also find is it helps hold the paper down a little bit tighter especially along the edges where it may not a big move by putting some glue on there some superglue under there gluing it and then coding it tends to hold together really well so I hope this is helpful does a great job for me and I hope you also experiment with heating up your cans of paint and see how that works thank you