There is something magical about building something with your own two hands. A lot of people try making things that they need around the house like furniture and fencing. Others create items that are closely related to their hobbies. If you are a musician who loves woodworking, then making your own guitar would be an ideal project. But just how hard is it to build a guitar? Well, it largely depends on your skills, your goals, your funds, and your tools. It could be fairly easy or definitely difficult depending on the situation.
Why Build a Guitar?
Before starting with this project, you need to have a solid grasp of your reasons for making an attempt. These will influence how you will tackle the challenges throughout the process.
1. You have no access to a guitar in your area.
Many will say that there is no point to building a guitar because you can always buy one from a store. While it’s true that this is a simple matter for a lot of people, there may be instances when there is no access to the instrument at all. Perhaps a person is living in a remote area like a farm or a mountainous region. Stores are far away but wood is plenty. Others may not have the funds to purchase a nice guitar so they’d like to try making one instead.
2. You want to test your woodworking skills.
For those who consider themselves as experienced woodworkers, building a guitar or even guitar body templates is a test of their skills and know how. It is an interesting challenge that will require a lot of finesse since guitars need to be assembled precisely to provide a pleasing sound. It’s not just about cutting, drilling, joining, and curving. You have to all of these at a high level with an uncompromising attention to detail. If you can somehow turn your vision into reality, then it is a truly proud moment that you can savor with every strum.
3. You want to customize a better guitar.
Perhaps you already own several guitars but are never fully satisfied with any of them. Buying a good brand does not necessarily mean that you will have an ideal experience. The guitar may feel too big, too heavy, or too unwieldy. It may feel uncomfortable to use after a long practice session. It may be too loud or too soft, too short or too long, too tinny or too strong, too plain or too gaudy. If you want something that fits all of your personal preferences, then you need to build your own.
What You Need for the Project
Guitar makers use a lot of tools to build fast with high quality. You don’t need to mimic a professional shop but you may want to get a few key pieces. For example, it would make your life easier if you had an electric drill with the right bits and a sanding disk. You should also have a jig saw, clamps, soldering iron, and a plunge router. Optional tools include a belt sander, a Dremmel tool, a drill press, and an orbital sander. You can always borrow these from friends or relatives.
As for the materials, you could opt of premade parts whenever possible since these will simply the project immensely. The neck, for instance, is actually difficult to build from scratch if you are going to include all of the contours that make it playable. You can use birch plywood for the body or any tonewood that you have around. If you are making an electric guitar, then you need to purchase the parts for the electronics and solder them together. This can be a challenge for many.
Tips for Self-building a Guitar
1. Set your expectations.
The success or failure of your project will depend on your personal expectations. Will you be happy with something that simply resembles a guitar and provides decent sound? Or do you want something that rivals the commercially available products with their exquisite finishes and impressive tones? Perhaps you lie somewhere in between? You alone know the true extend of your current skills so you can gauge your own capabilities. First attempts are often riddled with mistakes and that’s okay. You can always build another one to make improvements.
2. Get decent tools.
It is hard to make a guitar if you want something with a high quality. Putting the pieces together can be tricky with misalignments and other errors being common. You will have better outcomes if you have good tools to use. Ask friends for help if you lack anything. Perhaps they might even lend you their shop for the weekend to make this happen. Of course, you should get familiar in using these tools to optimize their utility.
3. Ask the experts.
No matter how well you study the process, you are likely to encounter road blocks once you begin building a guitar. You will realize how hard things actually are and appreciate the skills of professional builders even more. Sometimes you will be stuck because you can’t figure out how to make something work the way that you want it to. When this happens, do not be afraid to ask the experts. Seek out forums with DIY musicians and get their inputs.
4. Do it with a kit.
If this is your first time building a guitar, then consider using guitar kits rather than making one from scratch. Or even just starting with a guitar body template. It will make your life easier in many ways. You will not have to look for materials since everything you’ll need is already in the kit. Of course, you don’t have to limit yourself with what’s in the package. If there is something you don’t like, then you can simply replace it with a better alternative.
Guitar-making is a noble profession performed by talented craftsmen. Their creations are worth paying good money for. However, there is nothing preventing ordinary people from making their own attempts. Those with experience in woodworking may find the process enjoyable. It can be hard to get everything just right but it’s all worth the effort in the end if you can make sweet music.