Guitar Building: Getting Started On Your Adventure


Guitar Building - Getting Started

This Portion Of The Ultimate Guitar OnLine Gives You Access To Required Tools, Templates, Forms & Jigs

Georgia Luthier Supply
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Guitar Building:

Guitar Building. Getting started with construction of a guitar? What comes first, second, third etc? Stick with us and learn how.

First Determine What Type of Guitar to Build

The very first thing you will want to determine is the type or flavor of guitar that you are going to build? Are you building it for yourself, will it be a classical, an acoustic? If, so what size, shape, neck configuration and on and on. If you like folk music, can fingerpick a bit or like country music, start out with some sort of acoustic guitar.

Handmade Guitar

Macassar Ebony Handmade Guitar

What Size Guitar do you Want?

Next comes the size question. If it's an acoustic guitar, do you want a 00, 000, dreadnought, or jumbo? Also do you want a cutaway? If so that is another operation to decide.

Can I make a few suggestions?

For a first Handmade Guitar, I would suggest a steel string as they are much more forgiving to make than a classical guitar. In the construction of a classical guitar, there are very precise operations to get everything assembled correctly, with no stress added to the wood during the construction process.

Stay Away From Big Guitar Construction

Secondly I would recommend to stay away from the big-bodied jumbo acoustics as they can be a bit more of a challenge and more susceptible to mistakes. So an ideal first guitar would be either a 000 or dreadnought shape. Good choice!

If your mind is made up to make a classical, that's ok too. Just take your time a bit more and don't force anything together!

Fox Bending Tool

Fox Side Bending Tool
Image Courtesy of Luthiers Mercantile Inc.

Gather Necessary Tools, Forms & Jigs

Next we have to gather up our tools that will be required. I will cover these in the Required Tools page, so look at that page for a detailed list, purchase location and pricing information.

Guitar Building Forms and Jigs: This is a big one. When I made my first guitars, I was on a limited budget, or worst yet no budget. I had to scrounge materials and do things piece meal. Again, I devoted a page to forms and jigs you will need. Most can be purchased, but if you are a bit tight on money, consider making them - you need the right equipment for that operation though.

Gather Necessary Materials

The next step in guitar building, we have to gather up materials. What type of wood do I use for back and sides? What type of top? How about the necks, fingerboard, bridge etc. Well, there are quite a few luthier supply houses around. I will direct you to some good ones.

For your first guitar, you may want to go with a bit more  conservative on your wood selection. In other words you may want to select a wood like Honduras Mahogany for $55/set rather than $550/set for highly figured Koa. Mahogany will make a good solid acoustic guitar, is easy to work, bend and finish, is quite free of splitting problems, sands nicely and is easy to finish.

Top wood for your first guitar should be Alaskan Yellow Cedar, Englemann Spruce or Sitka Spruce. All can be purchased for around $35 to $45.00/set. The Yellow Cedar is softer and will damage more easily, so you have to be especially careful with it.

Neck wood, I again, I would choose Mahogany for workability and finishing properties. Fingerboard? Ebony - of course. Miscellaneous materials will be discussed later.

Custom Cutaway

Custom Cutaway

Tools of the trade for guitar building are one of the most important decisions that we can make. We can decided to go more with hand tools rather than power tools to save money. But if you already have a full woodworking shop, go for it and make it easier.

Hand or Power Tools?

As for the hand tools for guitar building, and you will need plenty even with the power tool route, buy good ones. You have herd you can get injured by a dull tool easier than a sharp one? Very good advice. If you have a well stocked shop, you may be all set.

Humidity control in the shop? Absolutely essential in guitar building. This is on the "A" list. A must do. See my articles on Guitar Humidity Control for reasons and paths for you to take.

Honduras Mahogany

Honduras Mahogany

Your First Guitar Should be Conservative

For your first guitar, you may want to go a bit more  conservative on your wood selection. In other words you may want to select a wood like Honduras Mahogany for $55/set rather than $550/set for highly figured Koa. Mahogany will make a good solid acoustic guitar, is easy to work and finish, is quite free of splitting problems, sands nicely and is easy to finish.

Select Excellent Top Wood

Top wood for your first guitar should be Alaskan Yellow Cedar, Englemann Spruce or Sitka Spruce. All can be purchased for around $35 to $45.00/set. The Yellow Cedar is softer and will damage more easily, so you have to be especially careful with it.

As for neck wood - again choose Mahogany for workability and finishing properties. Fingerboard? Ebony - of course.

bending Iron

Bending Iron For Guitar Sides

Ok, let's move on to the next section with the selection of your guitar plan. I have (4) different varieties to choose from. Take a look at them and see what you think - or make up your own or find one more to your liking. It is up to you. It is however essential to have an accurate plan to start things out.