DIY $10 Guitar Practice Amp in a Cigar Box

Aug. 2, 2010, 1:19 p.m.

If you ever wanted to use your electric guitar to jam along with a group of friends playing acoustic outside, then this is the project for you.

It's easy to make, and only takes about an hour.  I made my circuit based on the following instructions, but modified some component values based on what I had on hand. http://makezine.com/projects/make-09/the-5-cracker-box-amp/ It sounds great and with the gain all the way up, is surprisingly very loud.  The sound is very distorted, both leads and powerchords blend well with acoustic guitar.  Dialing the gain back provides a usable tone, but tends to sound a little bit lo-fi and cheap (well, it does only cost around $10)  in a bad way. It's a great project to get started in electronics, and is actually practical.

  • what types of capacitors did you use? i see the disk capacitors, and are the cylindrical things capacitors too? i just need to know what their specifications are since i cant seem to get a list or schematics from the link.
    Andrew - March 13, 2013, 8:34 a.m.
  • The toggle switch can be any single pole single throw switch. It acts as a simple on off switch. It has two points, on: connection is made between the two points; off: connection is broken. The LM386N is just an Integrated Circuit(IC) amplifier. http://www.radioshack.com/product/index.jsp?productId=2062598 The chip could be soldered directly to the board but the socket, http://www.radioshack.com/product/index.jsp?productId=2062604, makes it easy to remove the chip or replace it and also prevents heat damage to the chip while soldering. Speaker choice isn't too important, amp is not capable of a lot of power, so wattage isn't so important. I used an old 3" or so 1W 8ohm speaker I had laying around, but the amp has worked fine with other speakers. 10 ohm resistor is just a (brown black black) color coded resistor. Almost all projects you will encounter work fine with 1/4 Watt, 5% tolerance resistors. If you're getting started in electronics, get used to these and learn to read their color codes: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Resistor 1/4" mono phone jack is exactly what you want. It is the name used for a standard 1/4" guitar cable. I believe it comes from use in phone switchboards back in the day. It's kind of a crappy design, but it's standard for guitar or line outputs and gets used often. Hope this helped!
    jordancolburn - Feb. 5, 2012, 7:26 p.m.
  • Hey, so I'm trying to build this project as well, but I'm pretty inexperienced at this. When I took the parts list from the cracker box amp to radio shack, the guy there said that some of the parts listed werent really specific enough, so here are a few: -the toggle switch (single pole, single throw) -the LM386N audio amplifier/8-pin DIP IC socket (Are these the same thing?) -Speaker with 8 ohms impedance (The issue here is that no wattage/size is specified) -10 ohms resistor -1/4" mono phone jack (it says phone jack and that worries me. Will it still accommodate a guitar cord?) For most of these the problem was just that the parts list was too vague. If you could give me a very specific list of the parts you used in your design i would be very thankful.
    Ryan Gilbert - Feb. 5, 2012, 5:36 p.m.
  • The gain knob acts as an overdrive control mainly, so that might be redundant to have. An LED isn't necessary either because the toggle switch shows you if it's on or not. To add an led, you could probably use a dpdt toggle switch instead of spst, i'm sure there's easy guides on the internet, something meant for 9V guitar pedals would probably work as well. Tone would be easily added with an extra circuit you could find online, but it would just be easier to use the tone knobs on your guitar. It's not really a high quality amp, so I wouldn't put too much thought into it unless you just really want to see how much you can do with it.
    jordancolburn - Aug. 8, 2011, 9:49 a.m.
  • Hi, a big thanks for the help! Just a question, I have in mind of having OverDrive, Gain, Volume and Tone for this project. plus a LED. Is it possible? Do I need additional materials for this? And to clear my doubt, regarding potentiometer and rheostat - which is for volume and which is for gain/tone? Thanks for the valuable information!
    Hafiy - Aug. 8, 2011, 9:30 a.m.
  • Hey, It's a pretty easy project if you have any soldering experience. Otherwise, it could be a good inexpensive project to learn on. The link in the post takes you to a magazine that lists parts, schematics, and the basic steps to start the project. You can do the whole thing buying parts yourself and putting them together on perfboard. http://www.scribd.com/doc/6368059/crackerboxamp
    jordancolburn - Aug. 8, 2011, 8:17 a.m.
  • Hi, I saw your self-made Cigar box guitar amplifier. I'm really interested in this project but I dont know where and how to start, and what other custom made amp you make or provide? Is it possible for me to just buy the eletronic components and solder it all myself? do you think you can list down all the parts and components thats need for this project? Really appreciate your help. Thanks! With regards, Hafiy
    Hafiy - Aug. 8, 2011, 7:37 a.m.
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