Guitar Build? Need Advice.....

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Forum topic by SapeleSteve posted 06-02-2011 04:53 PM 1325 views 2 times favorited 10 replies Add to Favorites Watch
View SapeleSteve's profile


13 posts in 3074 days

06-02-2011 04:53 PM

Hi Everyone: After viewing a few online videos of how wood is selected, dried, prepared, etc.. for Guitar building, I have decided that a project like this is not for the average hobbiest. I really doubt that one could construct a Guitar & get even close to the quality & sound acoustics of a company built Guitar. My reasons being:

1. They pick & choose their wood from stock that we just don’t have access to.
2. They dry the wood in specialized kilns & age it accordingly to wind up with the lowest moisture content.
3. Their automated pressurized gluing, as well as hand preparation, is amazing.
4. The finishing techniques that they use would be very hard to duplicate.
5. Their electronic components, frets, strings, etc.. are of the highest quality.

I could go on but you get the picture I’m sure. So, having said all of that, would it be prudent to take on a project like this from scratch, or simply purchase one of the “kits” that are available from a vendor? I really want to do one of these builds but only if I can produce a Guitar able to be played & that will hold up over time. Oh, and I know that the more one builds the better ones skills get over time. What are your suggestions? Any good online vendors for kits or other components? Best types of wood to use? Thanks,


10 replies so far

View knotscott's profile


8140 posts in 3551 days

#1 posted 06-02-2011 05:18 PM

You can definitely build an electric guitar that will rival some very good factory made guitars. I’d imagine you can also do a nice job with an acoustic guitar, but I haven’t ventured in that direction yet. Factory made guitars don’t all use the highest quality components….in fact the cheaper guitars use a lot of junk in all aspects of the build to meet a price point, and are not difficult to eclipse in terms of quality. I’ve built two “real” electric guitars from hardwoods….I built the body and chose custom pickups, but bought the neck…both sound excellent IMHO. I even made a very cheap toilet seat guitar for my younger kids, and it sounds no worse than any of the < $200 electric guitars I’ve heard.

I wouldn’t hesitate to jump into a guitar build. I don’t even play, and knew nothing about it when I started my first build. There is lots of online help from forums like,, Places like, and Ebay are good sources for parts. I used curly maple and mahogany on the first project, and ash and curly maple on the 2nd. There are all sorts of good choices, and which to go with depends in part on what’s available to you at a price you want to spend, and what sound you want.

-- Happiness is like wetting your pants...everyone can see it, but only you can feel the warmth....

View Loren's profile


10477 posts in 3823 days

#2 posted 06-02-2011 05:22 PM

You can absolutely build a competent guitar on your first try if you
go slowly and educate yourself. Electrics are a piece of cake.

If building an acoustic I recommend staying away from the cutaway
design for your first guitar.

To address your concerns:

1. They mostly care about cheapness, supply and consistency.

2. Not really. 7% is fine for both furniture and guitars. If you are building
acoustic guitars you can buy the backs, sides and tops already dry. Such
thin woods air dry fast anyway, so if you get your woods fresh-sawn
to 1/4” thick, a year of air drying will be good enough for making
some guitars. The experienced acoustic hand builders in business for
a long time make extravagant claims about the age of the wood, but
it’s really mostly a way to lock out up-and-coming competition, imo.

3. Maybe. I don’t find anything amazing about guitar manufacture. It’s
less complex than furniture making.

4. Not. If you want to personally become a skilled nitro-finisher, that’s
a difference because you’ll need a booth and stuff to do it. If I wanted
nitro, I’d just send it out to a guy with the gear. All finishes work well
on guitars, even danish oil.

5. Incorrect. Many factory produced guitars are made with cheaper

Get the LMI catalog. They are the best US supplier for building acoustics.
Get Stewart McDonald’s catalog for building electrics and banjos.

View Roper's profile


1389 posts in 3888 days

#3 posted 06-02-2011 05:31 PM

I don’t know where you live steve but Red Rocks Community College outside of Denver has a great woodworking program with a huge luthier department, you can always give them a buzz if you need help.

-- Roper - Master of sawdust-

View SapeleSteve's profile


13 posts in 3074 days

#4 posted 06-02-2011 05:46 PM

Thanks for those excellent responses folks! Lots to think about now. Does anyone know of a good book that takes you through the process of Guitar building? I look on Amazon & found quite a few books but really don’t know if any of them fit the bill. Thanks again, Steve

View Loren's profile


10477 posts in 3823 days

#5 posted 06-02-2011 06:14 PM

What type of guitar do you want to build?

View SapeleSteve's profile


13 posts in 3074 days

#6 posted 06-02-2011 07:58 PM

Hi Loren: Well for now just an electric style, ie, Fender Strat. I don’t know anything about the electronics for this type of Guitar, which other than wood quality, I suspect is very important. I did find a nice kit on the Lmii website which I am looking into, it also come with a DVD on how to build it. I am fairly handy with wookworking especially hand work. I am sure that this build will be a real learning experience! Thanks again, Steve

View Lee Barker's profile

Lee Barker

2170 posts in 3025 days

#7 posted 06-02-2011 08:01 PM

I build electric basses, and have never built an acoustic instrument.

That said, I can’t concur with Loren that building a guitar is a piece of cake, although the most recent example of a “first off” that walked in here was very good. Even very very good. But he was a guitarist and understood the complexities of setup, that critical last phase which, given a pretty good construction upstream, can mean excellent playability or signal the creation of a lovely wall hanger.

There are things which are precision-critical, and since you are a non-musician, I’d suggest you do a little front end, back end education before you take the leap.

I suspect every guitar tech has been handed a guitar by a sheepish woodworker who built it and can’t get it to play.

For comic relief on this subject, go here.

So, my counsel is to go to a guitar tech (repair, setup, either will work) and ask, “When someone brings in a homebuilt guitar, what are the problems you typically have to deal with?”

The answer(s) will indicate where you need to pay particular attention through the build.



-- " his brain, which is as dry as the remainder biscuit after a voyage, he hath strange places cramm'd with observation, the which he vents in mangled forms." --Shakespeare, "As You Like It"

View SapeleSteve's profile


13 posts in 3074 days

#8 posted 06-02-2011 08:35 PM

Hi Lee: Thanks for the good advice! I will definitely consider doing what you have suggested. I do have a good friend who plays the Guitar & a Stepson who plays the Bass Guitar; so I will also get thier advice as well…....


View Loren's profile


10477 posts in 3823 days

#9 posted 06-02-2011 10:00 PM

The trickiest part for most first-timers is getting the neck and
fretwork right. With a bolt-on neck, alignment is considerably
more forgiving than in building steel strings, archtops or classicals.

View Ripthorn's profile


1458 posts in 3160 days

#10 posted 06-03-2011 10:18 PM

Melvyn Hiscock’s book is considered the electric guitar building Bible. You can build very good guitars. I am working on three currently and all three should turn much better than many factory guitars. I would say that PRS are the only factory guitars that have a really high quality level (personal opinion only) and all you have to do is not rush right through it. That is the hardest part for me, take time to make sure you do it right the first time.

-- Brian T. - Exact science is not an exact science

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