If you want to learn how to make a guitar, (in this case an electric guitar) there’s a couple of directions you can go in.
How to Make a Guitar from Scratch (Option 1)
If you have decided to make a guitar from scratch you will need to begin by planning out the guitar e.g. map out the desired shape, pickup configuration, neck profile that type of thing.
Next you will need to source timber suitable for the guitar as well as all parts and electrical components. You can’t just use any timber you have lying around for making a guitar body so you will need to source something suitable.
It’s important to remember that you generally won’t find a single piece of timber large enough for an entire guitar body (at least not without a cost) so you will need to match the pieces as closely as possible. If you are staining the guitar this is very important as you will want to match the color where possible and consider how dominant the grain patterns are for each piece.
Following this you will need to consider the timber you will use to construct the neck which needs to be strong and handle a fairly high amount of tension (Maple is a popular choice). The fretboard is a separate piece of timber completely except in the case of a select few guitars such as the Fender Telecaster which has a neck that consists of a single piece of maple. Popular woods used for fretboard production include Ebony and Rosewood. Next you would glue the body blanks together and cut the guitar body to the shape you desire.
Following this you would rout out the necessary cavities in the guitar body for the electrical components and neck pocket (which is crucial to get right) to ensure a tight fitting neck. Next you begin the complex task of building the guitar neck. This involves getting the correct neck angle for the headstock, routing out the neck for the truss rod, cutting out the headstock shape and finally dressing the fretboard.
Dressing the fretboard starts with getting the camber of the neck just right and finally fitting the frets which involves several crucial steps and specialist tools such as a fret slotting saw, fret dressing files and fret cutters (*most moderately experienced guitar makers skip this step and get a professional to handle it for them).
Next you would prepare the guitar for finishing and finally paint or stain the guitar completing the job with a gloss coat and final buff and polish (*This is obviously a very simple way of looking at what is quite a complicated process. The actual work involved in making a guitar from scratch is far more involved and beyond the scope of this article).
Build Your Own Electric Guitar Kit (Option 2)
The second option is to simply buy a done for you guitar kit in the style of your choosing. Options include:
All the complex routing and fretwork is completed prior to purchase and all parts and components are included leaving you to merely assemble the guitar, cut the headstock shape with something simple like a coping saw and finish it in a color or stain of your choosing. There’s still a lot of room for creativity with far fewer risks. In the case of our guitars even the soldering is done for you.
Again this is an overly simplified way of looking at things but when you consider both options there really is only one way someone without experience or professional guidance could go.
Guitar Building Kits, Step by Step
It’s obviously much easier if you want to learn how to make a guitar to start out using a kit first but a kit guitar won’t build itself either.
While there is obviously a great deal less work involved it still requires an investment of time and patience, particularly when it comes to finishing the guitar.
Let’s break down the stages of making a guitar from a guitar kit in a little more detail.
- Take inventory and ensure all parts are accounted for and the guitar isn’t damaged in any way.
- Do a dry fit to make sure everything goes together as it should.
- Sanding to remove any bumps or blemishes.
- Priming the guitar
- Prepare the guitar for painting (e.g. grain filling if required)
- Final color or stain
- Gloss coat
- Final sanding and polishing
- Setting the guitar up
While it doesn’t compare to making a guitar from scratch you will notice there are quite a few steps involved and quite a few areas where mistakes can be made that will impact on either the look of the guitar or the tone of the guitar.
Don’t be Daunted
Anyone can do a great job of a kit guitar it just takes patience and the right advice which you will find on this site. Over the coming months we will be breaking down each of the steps outlined above to help you make a great looking and sounding guitar.