How cigar boxes become guitars
Rather than relishing the solace of empty afternoons, Charlie Rehfeld and his wife Nina made it their mission to enjoy retirement by bringing the sounds of past Jug Bands and fretless folk tunes to life through their company, the Tejas. Cigar Box Guitar Company.
Based in their San Antonio garage, Charlie Rehfeld transforms vintage cigar boxes into instruments and works of art while Nina Rehfeld takes care of the business side of their business.
âI think people are just drawn to our guitars because they look so weird. From a distance they look like boxed guitars with a wooden neck, but when they get closer they can really see and hear the difference, âsays Charlie Rehfeld.
Rehfeld created his first cigar box guitar ten years ago for his son’s band, seeing it as a fun project to try out at home. He enjoyed it so much that he built one for himself as well as for a few friends and from there a new business was born. It was 2012, shortly after Rehfeld retired from a career as an electrician, and he and Nina have since spent many weekends visiting craft fairs, markets and festivals in music across the south to share the guitars.
The process of making the instruments takes a lot of time, energy and mileage, Rehfeld says, but the payoff is well worth it. For starters, he visits vintage stores and cigar shops across the region to collect empty cigar boxes or cigar humidors that have clean, scuff-free exteriors. Once the boxes are acquired, Rehfeld returns to his garage and makes a wooden guitar neck by hand for each box. From there, he creates a fingerboard that will hold the strings of the guitar and secure them both to the box. After sanding each guitar neck until it has a smooth finish, Rehfeld begins the most tedious part: adjusting the guitar with strings. He merges and stretches each string until it fits snugly on the fingerboard and on the box. After a final polish and days of work, his masterpiece is complete and functional.
âNormally I spend a few hours at a time in the garage and sometimes my wife even has to come in and remind me to come to bed or have dinner because of the length of my work,â Rehfeld explains. . “Time is eluding me, especially if we plan to go to a festival or fair this weekend, where we know we could potentially be on the verge of selling in full.”
In addition to guitars, he and Nina also recently introduced cigar box amplifiers that cigar box instruments can be plugged into.
At each market and fair, the couple places the instruments on one of Nina’s colorful tablecloths. Whether he sells instruments to longtime musicians or art collectors, Rehfeld enjoys seeing others find joy in his work. A quiet retirement may be for some, he says, but for him, the days are much better spent working on something he loves.