DIY Guitar

DIY Guitar? The Pros and Cons of Building Your Own Guitar

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If you’ve ever thought about building your own guitar, start here. We present the advantages and disadvantages of a DIY project—the things to consider before you dive in.

If you’ve been playing guitar for a while you may have considered building your own instrument. It can be a great project and learning experience that will result in your adding an utterly unique guitar to your collection.

Is a DIY guitar the right project for you? Here are a few pros and cons to consider before embarking on that voyage.

Before we get into the details, it should probably be noted that building a solidbody electric guitar is a much less challenging project than building a semi- or fully hollowbody guitar. Building the latter types from scratch involves sophisticated woodworking skills and tools that will be beyond the reach of all but the most ambitious beginners. And as we note below, designs with bolt-on necks versus set necks are more beginner-friendly.

Acoustic guitars—especially those with archtops—also offer a lot of challenges. An alternative is to go the kit route. For example, the Martin Build Your Own Guitar Kit includes all the components and instructions needed to build a high quality acoustic guitar. It could be a great way to get your feet wet before tackling a DIY guitar from scratch.

Martin Build Your Own Guitar Kit

If you’re unsure of your skills and don’t own a lot of tools, the Martin Build Your Own Guitar Kit makes a smart first DIY project before venturing into building from scratch.

Pros

It’s not a simple project, but many musicians and amateur luthiers have found that the benefits outweigh the challenges. Building and playing a guitar you’ve crafted with own hands offers enormous pride of ownership.

  • Customization - When you build your own guitar, you specify every element from the tuners to the tailpiece. Every component and design element is up to you. From the woods and body shape down to the pickups and wiring—the final instrument will be one-of-a-kind and completely unique to you.
  • Learning experience - Starting from scratch and going through the entire process of designing and building a guitar will teach you a lot about guitars. Every element affects the final sound and playability, and this understanding can make you a better player.
  • Rewarding hobby - Building guitars is a great hobby once you get into it. Your first build may be more challenging than you bargained for. You will make mistakes, get frustrated and perhaps have to start over on some steps. After your first guitar, however, it gets easier.

Cons

Building your own guitar isn’t without it’s challenges, but they’ll be less daunting if you know what to expect.

  • Learning curve - Don’t expect to build a masterpiece right out of the gate. There are countless small details that are easy to overlook on your first build. Errors can be costly and frustrating.
  • Cost - If you think you’ll be saving money by building your own guitars, you will be quickly relieved of that notion (probably before you begin). Wood, electronics and hardware costs all add up. You likely will need to invest in new tools. Buying a production model guitar will often be less expensive than building your own.
  • Time - Building a guitar is not an afternoon’s project. Finding and acquiring parts will take time. Drilling, routing, cutting, gluing and sanding all take time as well. Paint and wood stain take time to apply and dry, and you’ll need multiple coats. Building a guitar requires plenty of patience.

There is a lot of work and planning required to build a guitar. A successful project will also include significant research.

Get educated

If you don’t have basic woodworking and electronics skills, start there. To size up your skills and determine what you’ll need to complete your project, there are are a number of great books on the subject.

Build Your Own Acoustic Guitar from Hal Leonard

Aimed at the first-time builder, Build Your Own Acoustic Guitar from Hal Leonard walks you through every step from choosing materials to final finish coats.

Build Your Own Electric Guitar

For the novice builder who wants to craft a Stratocaster-style guitar, Build Your Own Electric Guitar approaches the project in a step-by-step manner that’ll help you get all your ducks in a row before you get started.

Other resources

The Official Luthier’s Forum is a great way to connect with both professional and amateur luthiers across the globe. You’ll find specialty forums that focus on everything from kit building to specialties such as resonator guitars.

Assemble your components

The most common DIY guitar projects are based on Stratocaster- and Telecaster-style guitars. The bodies, necks and other components are available from Musician’s Friend, and their bolt-on neck designs are beginner-friendly. Consider trying one of these for your first project.

Whether you want to create your own unique body design using exotic woods or start with a ready-made body and neck blank, you’ll find a huge selection of components at Musician’s Friend. When it’s time to zero in on the pickups, bridge, tuners and other components, you’ll find what you need right here.

Fender Telecaster body

This official Fender Telecaster body comes pre-drilled and finished in a beautiful sunburst. Pickup cavities are routed so you can drop in the single-coil and humbucker pickups to suit your sonic preferences.

Build Your Own Guitar

Whether you start from scratch or you’re modifying an existing guitar, remember to plan ahead, go slow, and don’t be afraid to ask for help. Before you begin, work out a schedule and make sure you have the time and budget to complete your project.

Tags: Electric Guitars Acoustic Guitars Guitar Accessories & Parts Guitar Repair & Maintenance

Comments  

# Chris 2016-11-23 21:48
Hi, will the shape of the body of a custom electric bass guitar affect the outcome of the bass sound or the shape doesn't have anything to do with the sound of the guitar as long as you have good pickups?
Reply
# Jason Huang 2016-12-13 16:06
Not really. The shape of an acoustic guitar helps with the tone and volume but in an electric guitar its mostly irrelevant.
Reply
# Jeremy 2016-09-20 17:57
Im wanting to build my own 8 string fanned fret with a 30" scale length and a bit more string spacing than a standard 8 string. My Ibanez rg8 has about 9mm from center of string to center of string. I figure I will build a few with cheap lumber from home depot without expecting to play it at all. I want a neck through style as well. Does anyone know where to find some info on building something like this and specifically how to properly set up the frets?
Reply
# Ara Pekel 2016-09-08 11:39
Hi, I wanted to reach out to anyone that is interested in building our own guitars...
I own and operate Solo Music Gear and we have a very large selection on DIY Guitar kits.
If you have any questions or concerns please reach out to me and I can use myself or my team here for any tech questions or recommendations.

Regards,
Ara
Reply
# Jeffrey 2016-11-30 21:17
I am super interested in building my own guitar at a low cost for the first one. Any suggestions. Stratocaster body....
Reply
# APex 2016-10-29 19:49
I'm just beginning my first build here, a Telecaster that is needing finished, of course.
I am following someone's advice and simply applying straight boiled Linseed Oil, about 5 coats, and that's it.
I love any items of wood where the grain is prevalent, so my guitar ought not be an exception.

Any thoughts?

Thank you,

ADP
Reply
# RafaelF 2016-08-19 15:59
I Want To Be Apart Of A Band And See How Far I Can Go But I Have Thought About That Idea Not Working Out So I Thought About Making Electric Guitars For Other Artist. I'm Starting High School So I Got To Pick Whatever I Want To Be. My Final thoughts were about building guitars but what subjects do I need to focus on ?
Reply
# Cris 2016-08-26 07:03
Shop class. Woodworking class.

The best thing to do: Buy old used guitars from pawnshops,etc, take them apart, rebuild them, customize. You learn skills, later apply to building new guitars.
Reply
# Alden 2016-07-03 12:10
Hi I am looking at converting a short scale into a full sized guitar

Is this wise?
Reply
# JJ 2016-06-09 19:14
Just built one for $525 Canadian that about $2.50 US :)
If you have most of the expensive tools cost is not so bad. I used high quality hardware.
Reply
# Tom 2016-06-09 07:40
I'm currently looking to buy a DIY LP guitar kit as a first step to learning how to build guitars from scratch. I'm hesitating whether to go for bolt-on or set-in neck though... can anyone recommend either?
Reply
# Dan I 2016-05-09 16:35
I built me my own custom guitar in high school shop class and it was simple i made an Ibanez RG styled body and a Randy Rhodes/Alexi Laiho styled body just so i can swap the 2 when ever i want and i can say the cons are waaaaaaay over exaggerated cause it was VERY cheap to do it i spent a total of $350 to do it and thats even with the the EMG 81's i have in them. I mean yes its only a 1 pickup guitar on each but its how i want the wood was only $60 for an Ash body (thats for both of them not each) and i have a hook up to get free mahogany that i used on the neck for it and mine noooo one could tell the difference between an actual Ibanez RG or ESP Alexi Laiho's signature guitars the only thing that they were able to know it was custom was the head stock being my signature and the parts that were on it and color option i used is NOT used by ether of them but the time is spot on it took 3 months for me to do them but this was of course all during the course of 45 mins for 3 months so it would of been much faster without it being in school but then again i also sort of cheated with mine cause i have been doing carpentry work since i was 8 so i already knew how to do everything professionally
Reply
# Dan I 2016-05-09 16:38
Even now i make people custom guitars and have made a few for people in MO/IL a total of 23 made and they all love them and say they are the best guitars theyve played cause i work side by side to shape the guitars necks and bodys to fit most comfortably with them but i charge $2500-3000 for a guitar which is still cheaper than the big name guitar places
Reply
# Elizabeth 2016-03-26 07:58
I've always been interested. I just was looking at a site that has step by step instructions, really detailed, under Shop Tour.

RickMaguireGuitars {dot} com
Reply
# Rob S 2016-01-26 17:03
What are your thoughts on kit guitars? I was thinking it'd be fun to get an explorer kit for a couple hundred bucks, give it a shot and of nothing else perhaps learn more about working on my existing guitars.
Reply
# Dan I 2016-05-09 16:40
they are ok to use id definitely upgrade all the hardware on it before finishing it up though and depending on what it is made of id use better woods
Reply
# Thom 2016-05-05 14:53
My friend got given a kit guitar, idk how much it cost but it was an ok one, and the final build was not what you'd call great. If you have experience souldering and building then go for it and you might end up with something great but if not then don't expect to play the guitar after.
Reply
# Carl g 2015-03-08 20:06
Read benedetto ' s book. Not an easy task at all, expect to spend hundreds of hours working, reading , and fixing mistakes. Completely worth it at the end though.
Reply
# Bud Rubert 2015-03-07 07:07
The best way to have a great experience building your first guitar is to do it as a member of as class under the direction of a master Luthier. I built my first Tele-style guitar at Tulsa Wood Arts taught by Seth Lee Jones. You can learn a lot of the tricks and avoid some of the frustrations of doing it on your own. Plus, you make new friends and come away with a beautiful, quality guitar your first time out!
Reply
# john a. 2015-03-06 16:44
Any instructions, books specific to bass guitar?
Reply
# Glen g 2015-03-07 11:40
I built mine from a Carvin kit.
Reply

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