Guitar Body.

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Forum topic by IDSkoT posted 12-14-2008 09:46 PM 1914 views 0 times favorited 8 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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6 posts in 3627 days

12-14-2008 09:46 PM

Topic tags/keywords: guitar body

Hey, guys. First post. Been reading up a bit, and I’ve decided I want to start a new project. I have limited wood working skills, and limited skills (and budget.) As thus, I have a Tablesaw (3hp Craftsman 10” saw, it’s belt driven. :D), and a drill… and that’s about it. My dad has an airsaw, I believe a jigsaw, circular saw, and maybe a sander.

I was wondering, what tools would I need to make a basic body of a guitar? Also, what kind of wood should I use? I’d like a nice wood style finish. Maybe even two-tone if it’s not too much.

This may be a project over time as I raise money. Currently, I’m an unemployed college student, and I can’t find a job anywhere for any amount of money. So, I spend most of my time dreaming. :P

Anyway, anyone have links or some insight, that would be awesome.

8 replies so far

View lew's profile


12381 posts in 3928 days

#1 posted 12-14-2008 09:50 PM

Do a quick search of this site. There are several guitar projects listed here.

-- Lew- Time traveler. Purveyor of the Universe's finest custom rolling pins.

View MattH's profile


27 posts in 3811 days

#2 posted 12-15-2008 08:16 AM

Here’s a list of tools, by type of instrument.

Electric (solid-body):

First, if you want to build an electric, read Melvyn Hiscock’s book about building electric guitars. It’s an excellent introduction. And then log onto the GAL (Guild of American Luthiers) website,, and the ASIA website ( and read whatever you can find.

Actual tools:

- some form of saw to cut out body – can be anything from a coping saw to a bandsaw; must be able to cut curves, to facilitate the outline of the body.
- a drill (forstner bits are useful) – these can be used to waste lots of the wood from pickup cavities so that routing will go faster, for drilling the holes in the headstock, and more.
- small router (1 hp is fine) with a straight bit with a bearing near the shaft (to do template routing for pickup cavities)
- Nicholson #49 and #50 rasps, and a Nicholson flat/half-round wood file – perfect for shaping body contours.
- small plane (block plane) and jack plane (Stanley #5) to do cleanup and help joint surfaces. Of course, if you have access to a power jointer, that will make your life easier, but it’s not absolutely necessary. Malke certain that the planes are tuned and sharp.
- an accurate square
- an accurate bevel gauge
- a very accurate rule – you’ll need to be able to measure in both english and metric.
- a compass (if you decide to slot your own fretboard by the rule of 18, this is a useful, if not 100% accurate, way of setting fret slots).
- saw for fretting, gauged to cut about a .022” slot (max). Japanese pullsaws do this well, as do the Bear saws you can get at the Borg.
- soft-face hammer (plastic or leather) for fretting – DO NOT drive frets in with a metal hammer, as they’re soft 18” nickel silver and will dent like crazy.
- lots of clamps of all sizes – I have about a dozen 24” bar clamps and a dozen of the quick-grip clamps, and some cam clamps. They’ll all get used, believe me….
- a set of small riffler files to cut nut slots
- a set of triangular files with the edges safed (sanded smooth) to dress fret ends (this is worth buying from or If you get a safed triangular file, you should also consider getting a pippin file….
- a razor saw (X-acto saw) for cutting small detail parts.
- Sandiing blocks and/or a hand power sander.
- assorted screwdrivers for affixing various parts (bridges, tuners, et cetera)
- allen wrenches to adjust bridges and such.
- a flat spokeshave for neck carving – these can be purchased used for not much money. Take time to tune it up (as with the planes) and you’ll come to love it. Try to use it without tuning it and you’ll hate it.
- one of the sanding stick sets for fret ends – they’re worth their weight in gold for final-tuning fret ends.
- dial calipers (in lutherie, .500” MEANS .500” – there’s not a lot of room to fudge, and this helps get it right).
- cabinet scrapers (better than sandpaper; keep them sharp and tuned).

Acoustics use the same toolkit but in general you’ll want to have access to a bandsaw, at least; it’s the most useful power tool in the shop for acoustics, as it facilitates making the many jigs you’ll need to make.

Other tools, none of which are absolutely necessary:

- Gurian fret file – useful but not necessary
- Stew-mac radiused neck sanding bars
- thickness sander – useful for smoothing glued-up acoustic tops and backs and sides, and solid-body blanks
- planer (also useful for helping dimension stock)
- power jointer (speeds up making good joints, but not necessary if you take your time with a good plane)

Good luck! The rule in lutherie is that the first one is where you get addicted….

-- Death before dishonour; nothing before coffee

View rikkor's profile


11295 posts in 4047 days

#3 posted 12-15-2008 11:41 AM

For an acoustic you will want William Cumpliano’s book. There are several internet resources available. I’d suggest you try the MIMF.

View douginaz's profile


220 posts in 4175 days

#4 posted 12-15-2008 01:23 PM

Hello IDSkoT, Welcome to LJ’s, You certainly know how to get things going, lol, a guitar right out of the chute is quite a first step unless you have made other projects your not telling us about. You are going to be dealing with some expensive wood and some precise milling and drilling operations. I don’t mean to sound trite but don’t you think you would want to hone your skills and techniques a little before the leap into the fray?

Please, I’m not trying to be a smart ass, but without knowing a little more about what you have done in the past it’s going to be tough to help you out. \\

Again, please take no offense, I only ask in order to help.
Doug in AZ.

-- If you need craft books - please visit our small business at

View rythmman's profile


1 post in 3624 days

#5 posted 12-15-2008 02:26 PM

As a guitar player and woodwoorker, I would say its a tough call. Fender uses alot of basswood for Strats and Gibson uses mahogoney for les pauls. The heaveyier the wood the more sustain it will have, on the other hand the lighter the wood the more it vibrates. The choises are endless. I would find a guitar that you like and try to use that shape. You can buy factory necks very resonable, that will make sure that it is in tune on every fret. A guitar is an exact science. one wrong cut and playability is gone. I would like to make my own, but I know after alot of time and work the result would likely be unplayable for any length of time. Grizzly tools owner has made guitars and lists parts for making your own on their website. GRIZZLY.COM good luck.

View Thos. Angle's profile

Thos. Angle

4444 posts in 4135 days

#6 posted 12-15-2008 06:52 PM

You might consider a kit from Grizzly. the owner is a guitar maker and supplies everything to build both acoustic and electric guitars and mandolins.

-- Thos. Angle, Jordan Valley, Oregon

View IDSkoT's profile


6 posts in 3627 days

#7 posted 12-15-2008 07:57 PM

Thanks a lot, Matt H. I think for my first guitar project, I’m going to buy a neck until I have a little more experience with wood working. The neck is the most important part of the guitar, so even a little off and you mess up nearly everything. But thank you for the list.

And Doug, don’t worry. I don’t take offense. I realize that it’s a tough job. But I figured that the only deciding factors while making a guitar body are straight and well-lined up holes for the pick-ups, and a straight and lined up bridge. (And of course all of it being linear to the neck.) I suppose I should wait to hone my skills… but while this thread is up, I figure I should find out what I need.

As for Rythm & Thos. Angle, thank you for the links. I’ll definitely check it out.

View Planeman's profile


97 posts in 3750 days

#8 posted 12-15-2008 09:23 PM

Having been through this from scratch (no kit) on an acoustic guitar I would recommend you purchase a kit or just the individual kit part. Stewart-McDonald ( or Grizzly ( have these. I know Stewart-McDonald will sell pre-cut necks, pre-bent bouts, pre-cut and slotted finger boards, etc separately. The power tools you listed should be all the power tools you need. After cutting out the basic neck and body, the rest is mostly hand work with hand tools. You can start from scratch, however unless you have some experience with luthery, its a pretty big learning curve. Get the books suggested above (available at Stewart-McDonald) and study them carefully. If its an acoustic guitar, use an inspection mirror (a mirror on a stick) that you can stick through the sound hole and examine the construction of the guitar (use a top-end guitar, not a cheap Chinese one) from the inside. Understand HOW every part of the guitar is put together before you begin.

It will be an interesting project and you will learn a lot.


-- Always remember half of the people in this country are below average.

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