Rat Ukes

Radical Artistic Treasures by Roy Cox
Welcome to RatUkes.com


Rat Uke CBU-001CBU-#001 Completed 5/7/12 ~The first Cigar Box Uke. A local music store provided the neck and bridge. A new Hilo ukulele arrived damaged and the music store owner knew I was looking for a uke neck and was able to help.

A vintage PLEIADES cigar box marked Paris, with label intact, and without health warnings; paired nicely. A hand carved brace was added to the sturdy build. Tone is warm and it stays in tune. This uke has travelled to concerts, uke circles and festivals. Del Rey played it "backstage" at Jamey's House of Music and Lindsey Young and Chaz Justice from the Red Stick Ramblers signed inside at the Delaware Valley Bluegrass Festival.

Privately owned - NFS


Custom UkeCBU-#002 ~ This Ukulele was custom built for a 9 yr. old boy . There are fanciful touches such as a bright yellow felt lining and colored tuners. The neck is from an unnamed ukulele.

The cigar box is from a Wall Street cigar club.
Prominently shown is the sticker given out by Fleamarket Music. These folks are great suppliers and instrument makers. When their parts are used, I try to attach their sticker to the Rat Uke. You can easily talk to staff at Fleamarket and they have been helpful with advice and encouragement.

This Rat Uke is privately owned and NFS


Cigar Box Ukulele Hand Made with Wendell Hall Red Head Neck

Wendell Hall Red HeadCBU #003 ~ The Wendell Hall Red Head neck came first. This Is a rare piece and needed to be fitted correctly. The cedar box used held 15¢ cigars from Pennsylvania, House of Windsor Palmas. The inside label is red in theme and red felt lines the box where the lid joins.

There are Grover "stay tight" friction tuners installed, instead of the violin tuners sometimes used. The bridge is secured with screws. I have found too often, the glue joint needs support to keep in place.

To allow the box to be opened there is the added feature of "lid creaks". You could secure the lid and lose the "creak" but do you really want to do that?

How about the finish ? The surface is cleaned and a mild furniture oil is applied .

Hilo black strings from Flea market music were used. These are good and broken in. With metal frets, you can safely use wound strings also.


Resonator Rat UkeCBU # 004 ( Blues , Resonator ) Built in June of 2013, this is a first resonator build. In true Ratuke fashion, it took a variety of techniques to assemble a new internet resonator, a 14" scale ukulele neck from somewhere, and a Punch Gran Puro cigar box !


  1. The resonator is biscuit bridge style 6 1/2 " diameter at bridge . The supporting mechanics are hidden and my secret.
  2. The neck is from ?. 7" from nut to 12th fret and same to bridge. An odd shape to the fret board says, homemade or modified. Position dots are inlaid.
  3. There are friction tuners in place that came with the neck. Aquila concert strings (all nylon) were installed.
  4. The finish is rough and free of glossy touches.The biscuit bridge is easily adjusted, which helps. It is otherwise tight and holds GCEA tuning well.

This Ratuke is currently NFS, at the builders request. Will accept assignment to build similar Ratuke.


Regal Tenor Cigar Box Guitar

Regal Tenor Cigar Box GuitarCBU #005 - What do you do with a very old tenor guitar that has a useless body but a fine neck with a classic Regal decal? Get a great old cigar box, some store bought parts, and put together a classic RAT* instrument. 

* Radical Artistic Treasure 

This RAT tenor guitar is fitted with new Grover " stay tight " friction tuners. The bridge was made by a U.S. A. manufacturer and styled after Regal ukulele bridges. It was adjusted to fit the cigar box better and allow playable string action. The strings are attached at the lower bout by guitar pins . I used classical guitar strings with ball ends . You could try extra light steel strings if you need that sound. It's tuned D , G , B , E like the bottom four strings on a guitar.

Update: A reset of the neck angle was required to improve playability. Improvement noted. (much lower action). The volume needed a boost, so a K&K contact pickup from Fleamarket Music was installed. This is now an electric/acoustic RatUke - Yoohoo! Appearance needed some work. Some stain and two coats of polyurethane spruced this baby up. It is fitted with a guitar strap attached on the lower neck and bottom of cigar box.


CBU #006 - CBU 006A friend brought me a Uke that was previously restored, but continued to have problems. A cigar box Uke transformation was suggested and luckily, I had a matching cigar box.

The neck was glued to the troublesome body. It was sawed off with the determination of a Rat. Then It was attached nicely to the cigar box . The frets, nut and tuners are original. A set of Hilo black strings from Fleamarket music are in place and stay in tune. The bridge was made by a craftsman in the southern United States.

This Ratuke is owned by a fellow Uke player, and featured here as a courtesy to the builder.

Thank You, Bluesboyroy


Cigar Box Ukulele With Vintage Harmony Neck

Harmony Cigar Box UkuleleCBU #007 - Harmony instruments made ukulele manufacturing and playing available to the masses. I consider the plastic molded fret board to the ukulele equivalent to the what the model T Ford was to automobiles. My opinion.

This rat uke was my first plastic fret board build. The neck, tuners and bridge are original to the instrument, salvaged from an early 50's soprano Uke. It is paired with a light weight cigar box. I believe, that the wood is cedar laminated. The box measures 7 1/2" by 8 1/2" and 2 1/4" deep. Some bracing was installed at pressure points, especially near the bridge. The finish is rough. I like to leave everything as original as possible as long as it plays well. 

The markings read. TE-AMO. Churchill natural. Labels on the inside are intact. Two hinges and an opposite end latch are original to the box. There is a little chipping of laminate on the back and inside. The top and sides are clean, other than manufactures and builders marks. 

WTTW: Never install metal or wound strings on plastic fret boards. 

This fabulous cigar box ukulele comes with its own handmade lightly padded and reversible gig bag.
Update: In addition to what is presented already; this instrument has been stained and sealed with polyurethane. It was fitted with a contact pick-up to enhance the sound. You can now plug it into an amplifier. Woo Hoo!


A Peter Pan Rat Uke Cigar Box Ukulele and Handmade Gig Bag

Peter Pan Rat UkuleleCBU #008 - The neck is an original soprano, measuring 6 1/2 inches at the 12th fret. It has numerous inlays, that are intact and original. The fretboard is old and has a split in it but the frets are even with some rough spots on the edges due to shrinking wood. The nut, tuners and label are original and intact.

The original label was cut from the uke body (which was damaged beyond repair) and glued to the inside, along with other identifying info. Peter Pan ukuleles were made by Regal in the 40's and were distributed by the Progressive Musical instrument Co., New York.


Gaucho Rat Uke Cigar Box Soprano Ukulele

Gaucho Rat Uke Cigar Box Soprano UkuleleCBU #011 - This cigar box ukulele stands on its own, literally, made from a thick cigar box with side hinges. The neck comes from an old Chicago instruments ukulele sporting the Gaucho logo (partial decal) in place. The plastic fret board was broken at the bottom, but fit adequately. A new American made bridge was used and had to be shimmed to prevent fret buzzes. The Gaucho logo was cut into the top to stay with the theme and a provide a sound hole. Gold strings matched nicely with the black and gold color scheme of the cigar box.