Learning how to build a guitar offers appealing personal and professional benefits for both amateur and serious musicians. The prerequisites include some basic woodworking skills and access to tools because the job can be quite demanding. However, if you’re committed to the process, you can take however much time you need to finish each step.
The rewards of learning to build a guitar include generating a great sense of personal satisfaction and creating a bond with your instrument that can improve your playing skills, if only through a placebo-type effect on your attitude and perception.
If you build a guitar passionately, you might even produce that rarest of accomplishments—a guitar that impartial music lovers feel has astonishing sound quality and tone. The following YouTube video, “Making A Custom Guitar From Scratch” can give you some visual ideas about the process and styles of guitars that you might build:
Instructions on Building a Guitar
Building a guitar requires patience, some level of woodworking skill and lots of specialty tools. If you lack one or more of these necessities, you can still build your own guitar using a build kit, which are available from various manufacturers online – learn more about where you can learn about building guitars here. You can learn a lot about guitars by building one, and shaping a guitar to your preferences affects sound and playability. You’ll inevitably become a better player
This how-to article will focus on building an acoustic guitar, which many music lovers consider to be more complex and personally satisfying instruments. The basic steps of the process include:
Planning Your Guitar
You need to select the wood for the body of the guitar and choose the style of the guitar that you want to build. Experts differ over what kind of wood to use for the top, back and sides. Some builders recommend Sitka spruce for the top and rosewood for the rest, but you can put your personal stamp on the project by choosing your own wood after researching wood characteristics.
Maple is a hard wood that has excellent tonal qualities. The top of the guitar is also known as the soundboard, and the type of wood you choose is critical in determining sound tone. The guitar neck is usually made from mahogany or maple.
Drawing a template is helpful. Determining the scale length is the length of the string from saddle to the nut. Scale length determines how far apart to place the frets—classical guitars have frets about 650 mm apart. Placing the frets too close will result in a mandolin, instead of a guitar. Frets that are further apart transform your guitar into a bass or baritone guitar.
Preparing the Wood
Cut the wood in the shape of your template using a jigsaw. The edges of the wood need to be trimmed and sanded flat for a precise fit. You can use a block plane for the detailed work. Bending the wood for the sides depends on the shape of your custom guitar. Bending irons are heated metal pipes used to bend the wood at around 150° C or 302° F.
During this stage, it’s helpful to cut all the pieces you need using a jig or hand saw. You should design the neck, fretboard and headstock and cut, trim and sand the parts.
Gathering Other Parts
You will need a capstan, which is a cylinder on the headstock with a hole for inserting the guitar strings. The nut is a piece of thin material that supports the strings, and it’s usually made of brass, ivory, ebony or synthetic materials. You can see that the McCartney/Jackson partnership on “Ebony and Ivory” had a clear double meaning.
Tuners, aka machine heads, are needed to rotate the capstan and wind the string around a gear to increase tension. You will need a pinion or worm gear as well.
Rosettes are inlaid patterns around the sound hole that distinguish your guitar, and common designs include flowers or botanicals to match the term “rosette.” You can overlay the soundboard with your drawing template to mark the guitar for drilling the sound hole and drilling a surrounding gully to attach commercially made decorative rosettes.
Pickguards, aka scratch plates, can be made of wood, metal, acrylic or a more exotic material. Bridge pins, usually made of wood, bone or polycarbonates, position the guitar strings precisely over the bridge. Classical guitars often use tie blocks instead of pins. The saddle is a piece of plastic or bone that lifts the strings to the optimal height.
Bending the Curved Parts
Bending the sides is one of the tasks that seem more daunting to guitar builders than any other step in the building and assembly process, but the actual process can be easy with the right tools and design. You should cut pieces of plywood in the shape of your guitar sides. Cover the bending surface with aluminum flashing, and create a steam box or use a commercial bending iron. Clamp the wood to the mold, and you can bend the side pieces easily once they’re properly heated or steamed.
Finishing Key Components
At this point, it’s time to assemble as much of the guitar’s body as possible. You’ll need some wood for bracing the front and back from the inside. You can use glue to connect the different pieces of the body, and use clamps to hold the pieces in place while the glue dries for 24 hours
Drill the sound hole and channels for any rosettes that you want to add for design purposes. Add the guitar neck, and reinforce it with a block. Guitar necks can be quarter- or flat-sawn, which depends on the dimension, construction technique used and personal preferences. If you’re uncertain, play instruments with flat-sawn or quarter-sawn necks to see which you like best.
Reinforcing the neck is critical. Most people use truss rods to prevent the necks from twisting or warping. You can attach the neck to the guitar body with nuts and bolts. Blanks for bolt-on necks are widely available, and these are usually 13/16″ thick. You need to thin the blanks to ¾” t match standard Fender specifications for ¼” fingerboards. Standard fingerboards are laminated, which reduces some of the steps that would otherwise be necessary.
The finishing process is where you address the issues of setting up your guitar to prevent fret performance problems like string buzz. Doing the work will take some time and consists of setting up the guitar strings at the right height, leveling the fret and grinding and polishing the fretboard. You can take your guitar to a professional to set it up as well, a good option for inexperienced players.
Education and Fine-tuning Your Guitar
Additional research will be required to choose your acoustic guitar style and produce accurate templates of the different parts needed. If you don’t have the skills for woodworking, you might want to educate on the skills needed to build your guitar. Guitar kits are a practical option for anyone who is in way over his or her head. It’s also a good idea to choose a helpful local hardware store. Big box stores are nearly impossible to navigate and find what you need if you don’t have a lot of experience.