Beginner Friendly Guitar Kits
Electric guitar kit for beginners.
Interested in building your first guitar, but prefer to start with something simple?
In the following article, I’m going to explain what makes a beginner-friendly guitar kit. I’ll also introduce you to 5 beginner friendly guitar kits, and provide some simple, and effective finishing techniques you can use to ensure a great finish with minimal time and effort.
So, if you have been interested in building your own custom guitar but have been putting it off because it looks too difficult, this article is for you.
What makes a beginner friendly guitar kit?
Unless you have completed a guitar or two previously it can be difficult to know what makes a guitar kit simple or complex to assemble.
For the most part, a beginner friendly guitar kit includes the following:
- Simple to assemble neck: Correct positioning of the neck within the neck pocket is crucial for intonation. We recommend beginners avoid set-in neck joints and instead opt for a bolt-on neck. Bolt-on necks take the more difficult aspects of the assembly including scale length and neck alignment out of the picture allowing you to focus on simpler tasks.
- Simple to assemble electronics: Beginners should avoid kits that involve complicated wiring. Instead, opt for a standard pickup configuration with basic tone and volume controls, along with an easy to access control cavity.
- Less contoured body with few hard edges: Prepping a guitar for finishing requires quite a bit of sanding. In most instances, a non-contoured body is easier to prepare and achieve a flat surface, ready for staining or painting. Hard edges can also be problematic with regard to sanding. Once you have a layer of paint or stain on the guitar, sand-throughs can occur quite easily around the edges of the guitar body.
Aside from selecting a guitar that fits the requirements above, I would also recommend the following custom options if ordering from our Custom Shop.
- Select a non-porous body-wood: Your choice of body-wood will have a bearing on the amount of preparatory work needing to be done prior to painting or staining. In general more porous timbers e.g. Mahogany and Ash require grain filling to ensure a flat surface, suitable for applying finishing coats. If this is your first guitar select a closed grain timber that won’t require grain filling such as Alder. Alder is also a semi-hardwood, meaning you will find drilling into the body a little easier than typical hardwoods.
- Hardware included: Sourcing your own after-market hardware can be appealing but it’s best avoided if this is your first guitar as ordering the correct fitting parts can be difficult. The hardware that comes with your kit guitar is guaranteed to fit perfectly with minimal effort.
- Body veneer: The highly decorative maple veneers we offer (flamed, quilted or spalted) look great on a finished guitar, but, they can be problematic if you have limited experience with sanding and staining. Due to the nature of veneers, it’s not terribly difficult to sand through or saturate the veneer causing air pockets under the surface that are difficult to repair.
- Body binding: Aside from looking great, binding protects hard edges and prevents moisture entering the end grains of your timber, causing swelling. However, binding also introduces the need for masking if painting or staining (to prevent absorbing paints or stains) which tends to make finishing a more complicated and tedious process.
- Bridge and tailpiece holes: Along with correctly positioning the neck, the bridge assembly is also important with regard to scale length and intonation. First time builders should avoid drilling their own bridge and tailpiece holes as the correct placement requires an understanding of scale length and compensation for accurate intonation.
- Pickup and electronics routing: Routing a guitar body requires specialist tools and experience. We recommend having the routing taken care of by us, so you can focus on the rest of the assembly.
5 Beginner Friendly Guitar Kits
The best guitar kits for beginners from Guitar Kit World.
The LP Junior is one of our easiest kits to assemble. Utilizing just the one lone pickup and one volume and tone control, the electronics are as straightforward as you will find.
The bridge assembly is also a breeze as the guitar does not use a dedicated tailpiece, instead utilizing a wrap-around bridge.
Be sure to read up on how to install your strings however as the bridge assembly is slightly different to the more traditional Tune-o-Matic bridge.
Available in both a double cutaway and single cut-away version, I recommend the single cut option as sanding in and around the cutaway of a guitar can be time-consuming.
The TE Guitar kit is also a great option for beginners. Featuring a flat, easy to sand body and mostly pre-installed electronics, by virtue of the pre-loaded control plate.
The TE guitar kit is one of our least complicated kits to assemble.
Just like the TE kit above, the ST guitar kit is one of the simplest kits to assemble.
Featuring a pre-loaded scratchplate, most of the soldering work is already completed leaving you just the input jack wiring to complete.
While the body does include a small amount of contouring, much of the body is flat and simple to sand and prep for painting or staining.
The SG guitar kit, while a little more complex than the LP Junior, TE and ST, also features a flat body reducing the time required for preparation prior to finishing.
The wiring is slightly more complex as the guitar does not come with a pre-loaded pickguard. But, if you are comfortable with following a relatively simple wiring diagram SG guitar kits are also a great option for beginners.
EXP Guitar kits are popular (thanks to James Hetfield) and are also one of our more beginner friendly kits. Featuring a very flat body, preparing and finishing is a breeze, although you are advised to take care when sanding to avoid sand throughs on the hard edges.
The electronics and hardware, while not pre-assembled are also on the simpler side. And, just to make things even simpler for you we have an article showing how the EXP can be assembled in just one day.
Beginner Friendly Finishing
Guitars can be finished in an endless number of ways. From graduated finishes including the classic sunburst to super glossy, mirror-like finishes.
But, all things being equal, one of the most appealing and simplest finishes you can apply to a guitar is to use a finishing oil such as True Oil or Tung Oil which can be wiped on using a rag.
Wipe on finishes of this nature, allow you to avoid concerns about overspray, or for the most part inhaling toxic fumes (check the manufacturers' safety recommendations). They are also less forgiving should you use too much, or too little.
One thing to keep in mind however, if using an oil finish is your choice of timber.
I’ve already pointed out that if you want to avoid grain filling you are best advised to select a dense timber such as Alder. The good news is Alder is an attractive timber, featuring a uniform grain pattern.
While not offering as interesting a grain pattern as Ash or Mahogany, using a clear finish such as True oil on Alder will give you a great result. And, if you prefer, you can always apply a stain before applying true oil.
If you use a stain, I’d recommend a water-based stain which is safer to use and won’t require you to wear a mask or require excessive ventilation.
Sanding and Preparation
While oil finishes are fairly self-explanatory e.g. once the guitar is prepped you simply wipe on the finish, be sure to focus most of your time and effort on the sanding process.
Ensuring a flat surface, free of scratches is key to achieving a beautiful finish on a guitar. Below are some basic tips to ensure your guitar is prepped to a high standard:
- Always use a sanding block on flat surfaces. Avoid flexible sanding blocks and instead use a hardwood sanding block to ensure you remove any raised areas on the surface.
- Start with a medium to heavy grit paper e.g. 220 - 400 grit and work your way up to 800+ grit. Take care to remove the scratch marks left over from the previous grade of sandpaper.
- When you think you are done, wet down the timber just a little to raise any loose fibers and then sand using a high grit paper.
- Replace your sandpaper regularly.
- Carefully clean the surface of the guitar once completed to remove any dust or residue left over from sanding before applying your first finish coat.
I’ve been asked many times over the years which kits are the most beginner friendly. My answer has always been the 5 kits listed above as they are ideal for beginners due to their lack of complexity with regard to wiring and flat surfaces making it far more likely to achieve a great finish.
Like anything worthwhile however, guitars do require time and effort to assemble and finish, regardless of how beginner friendly the kit you choose is. Seeking out inspiration can really help the process. To see previous projects and some of the great guitars members of the Guitar Kit World community have put together, be sure to follow Guitar Kit World on Facebook and Instagram.
You will find a number of completed builds by our customers and, who knows, your first build might also be featured one day and serve to inspire other beginners.