This article will explain you the basics on how to make a guitar. This is a beginner guide and if you want to build your own instrument, you can of course start here.
Be aware than the learning process can be long and exhausting but it’s also very interesting, you will learn a lot by building bit by bit your little baby.
Ready to get started? Let’s go!
1. Your goal
What is it exactly? Do you want to build a guitar just to impress your friends and family or do you plan on becoming a professional?
If it’s the former, then this guide will be a great starter. If it’s the latter, this article will give you good advice, but that will not be enough to make you an awesome guitar maker.
You will certainly need to become an apprentice of an experienced luthier, and practice a lot by yourself. But if you’re really passionate about it, you can succeed.
2. What you need to know
There are two main ways of building a guitar. The first and traditional one is to buy all the materials you need and build it from scratch. The second is to purchase parts already shaped and assemble them.
The latter is obviously easier and can be a good way to learn how a guitar is built before doing the work all by yourself. I’d recommend then to start with kits.
Almost every person on earth know how a guitar looks like from the outside, but the inside cannot be shown easily. And still, it’s as important as the rest. That’s why you will need to know what are the different parts of a guitar before getting further.
- Guitar Diagram: the visible parts of the electric and acoustic guitar shown and explained to you.
3. Getting prepared
Have a clear idea of what you’re going to build is a crucial step before entering any shop and buying something.
An electric guitar is the easiest to construct as the acoustic one requires some really skillful wood work. You might also take a look at all the electronics you want to add to your guitar, and improve your knowledge on the subject.
Once you’re all set, you will need to buy some materials to create your instrument.
Which kind of materials? If you’re building your guitar with a kit, then you’ll probably have all you need in it. If you’re making your guitar on your own, you will require to buy some wood. A LOT of wood. But also fret wires, nuts, plastic or metal bridges, etc.
- Guitar wood: increase your knowledge in guitar wood in this section. This is really important if you want to make guitars as a living.
- Guitar frets: general knowledge on these pieces of metal.
Then you will need to buy tools. They will principally help you shape and design the guitar. Having a good idea of what you want to build is essential before starting to chop wood pieces. And so it is before buying tools. You don’t want to buy unnecessary equipment.
Here are a few tools you will require:
- String action gauge
- Screw, nut drivers and hex keys
- String winder: to tune your guitar more quickly (could be a hand drill)
- Wire cutters
- Soldering supplies
- Glue (with a syringe)
- Files (nut, fret leveler, file sets…)
Know that you can buy some tool kits on internet to make it easier (stewmac.com is a great online shop). But you might end up with unnecessary tools.
I’ll make an article later on to dive into more details as it is of really important matter.
4. Build your guitar
This is it. The time to put your building skills to the test has come. Depending on what you chose to make and how you’re going to make it, your path will be unique.
Don’t plan too hard on your first try. Everybody starts as a beginner. There’s a learning curve and you’re going to make mistakes. Embrace them, and learn from them.
There’s a lot to say on the subject. If you’re interested in making a classical guitar, watch the following documentary on YouTube showing a Korean guitar maker practicing his art:
You can also visit stewmac.com to learn more on how to make a guitar. You’ll find great advice there.
If you have any questions, write them in the comments below. I will do my best to answer them with short notice.