How to Make a Guitar – Beginner Guide

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How To Make A Guitar At The Fender Guitar Factory
A set of three Fender electric guitar bodies, inside a factory.

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.
The Inside of a Taylor Guitar
The Inside of a Taylor Guitar

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

And also:

  • Soldering supplies
  • Glue (with a syringe)
  • Files (nut, fret leveler, file sets…)
Screwdriver Set
Having different sizes of screwdrivers is really helping.

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.

8 comments

  1. Hi, I know nothing about guitars but my son trained as a carpenter and taught him self how to play he is very good – will send him the link to your site

  2. Hi!

    That would be really cool, and fun to build my own guitar – would probably be quite a bit of work and takes lots of practice to perfect guitar construction, but the accomplishment would be satisfying for sure. I’m assuming one would need a router to cut the initial shape of the guitar out?

    1. It surely takes a lot of practice to build your own guitar but as you say, it’s worth it. It all depends on what guitar you intend to build. I totally recommend you to start out with an electric guitar.

      You can use a router to trim the wood smoothly, yes. What is important before doing the job, is to have the shape of the guitar already drawn if you don’t do everything together (like for an electric guitar, or if you do the back and sides together of an acoustic guitar).

      You can cut the wood with just a saw (preferably a Japanese hand saw) for the top and back if you’re doing an acoustic guitar. The sides are certainly the hardest thing to do, as you will need to bend the wood. You’ll need sand papers, files and rasps, chisels/gouges, not to mention a whole set of rulers.

      I will make a whole article on this in the near future. It’s a hard task, so there’s a big need to be prepared before. And I can’t just cover it on a comment like this 😉

      Thanks for the comment by the way!

  3. This article has induced me to try and build an electric guitar for my very own. I play guitar and actually helped a friend a few years ago custom-fit a Fender neck to a broken guitar body he caught at a concert. It worked!
    I am bookmarking this website so as to learn more about the details of the wood, the electronics, and the assembly. What would you recommend as to what brand of finish to coat the finished guitar body with? How many coats before it is complete? Thank you for this valuable information.

    1. Hi Kenneth, first off, thanks for the comment! There are two types of finish: glossy and matte. A glossy finish is of course preferred for an electric guitar. But it’s a matter of choice.

      One of the cheapest choice is the polyurethane and it’s easy to apply. Nitrocellulose is great as well and very popular, but the issue is that you will need to make a lot of layers before getting a good glossing result. So I would recommend you polyurethane, like the Minwax Wipe On Poly. You can get it here. Before applying the finish, it’s recommended you use some linseed oil to protect and seal the wood. You can even mix it with color, mineral spirit, and a Japan drier (which will makes the oil dry quicker).

      You need to let the product rest 24h before applying a sanding sealer (once or twice). The sanding sealer will prevent the first coatings you’ll do to soak into the wood. You need to apply it quickly as it dries very fast. Let the guitar body rest for a few hours to make sure it’s completely dry and then, you’ll have to sand the wood again to smooth the surface, and clean with some alcohol afterwards to eliminate any residue that might have stayed.

      Now, the coating process can be done in different ways, and that would be long to explain. So, to answer your question, 5 to 6 coats is enough for a great finish. After each coat you need to wait two or three hours as it needs to be dry. At the end of course, you will need to level sand the whole thing. It’s recommended you do one side at a time (top, sides, and back).

      If you want a natural result, is to apply the coat once, let it sit for a 5 minutes, and wipe the excess. That way, you will have a great even layer applied on your guitar. Do it 5 or 6 times and sand and polish everything after. Now, the whole process will be tackled in a future article, it’s pretty long and hard to explain with words. I hope I answered your question!

      If you’ve got any other question, don’t hesitate to ask.

  4. This is an awesome post! I am an artist and I bought myself a wood burning tool a while back to teach myself to put images on wood. I have a cousin that plays and tried to get him to let me practice on one of his older guitars, that didn’t happen. He said he would rather me tattoo his kids than draw on his guitars hahahaha! I had thought about learning how to build guitars and put my own designs on them. I might take this as a start to do it!

    1. Wow, that would be cool actually, to put designs on the guitars. But it’s true than not everybody would let you do that. Guitars can be pretty fragile. Anyway, that’s an excellent idea, and if you need any advice in your project, let me know!

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