“I decided to build one and never stopped:” Plattsburgh man finds success building cigar box guitars

Local News

With its entrancing sound and its unique look, this is not your typical stringed instrument — it’s a cigar box guitar, and some of them are being made in Plattsburgh.

Scott Hanley, owner of Hanley’s Cigar Box Guitars, said he started building his first one about two years ago, “and never stopped.”

“We were at a cigar shop buying a cigar, and my wife saw a box, told me to buy it, build it, instead of talking about it all the time,” he says. “She went to work that night. I had some old hardwood flooring in the garage. I built a neck out of it, went to the local guitar shop bought some tuners and strings. By the time she came home, I was playing it by the fire.”

The North Country native says he prides himself in never making the same instrument twice. Each one is unique, and each one has a different sound to it. “It takes about three weeks,” he said. “A lot of times more than that because every one’s been custom made for the person.”

Hanley says he’s completed over 150 guitars. His craftsmanship has captured the attention of famed guitar players such as Roger Fisher, one of the founding members of the band Heart, and Zakk Wylde, the current lead guitarist for Ozzy Osbourne.

One of his proudest moments are the guitars he built for Samantha Fish, and was able to personally deliver. 

“I thought it was a joke at first, and the next thing you know I’ve got money coming in, in the mailbox,” he says. “And I was like, ‘This is the real deal here,’ you know, so we went and we looked for certain boxes to build hers off of and then I wood burned her portrait on the back of it. When we went up I was nervous, she was the nicest person you’d ever meet.”

When she came out they were hitting me on the shoulder going ‘that’s your guitar, that’s your guitar and I was like oh my god I can’t believe this you know!

Hanley says he doesn’t plan to expand his business anytime soon. He just enjoys making cigar box guitars and the joy it brings to those who play them.

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