Building Your Own Guitar: A Guide to Different DIY Options


Why People Want to Build Their Own Guitars

Guitars are built by specialists called luthiers. They are skilled in working with wood, as well as in understanding how every facet of building a guitar affects its playability, tone and aesthetics.

A guitar is more than just a musical instrument for guitarists: for many, it is a symbol of their musical identity and individuality. While it is possible to modify every aspect of a standard factory, or hand-built custom guitar, there are many people who want to build a guitar from scratch.

Some of them do it to save money. Typically these people already own the necessary tools and have a good, solid knowledge of woodwork, as well as the theory behind guitar design and building.

Other people want to own and play a guitar that they made, to feel more connected to the instrument, or for a feeling of accomplishment. If it is made well, a self-built guitar can sound good and look spectacular.

The smallest group of DIY guitar builders, are those that want something so unique, or so outlandish, that they cannot get custom guitar makers to build it for them. Also, custom luthiers charge a whole lot more for customer-designed guitar bodies.


Choosing What You Want

You need to find and select a design to work from. There are many templates available for free, or as part of a course or book on guitar making.
You can order and buy the blocks of wood you need for each part, or you can buy them ready cut, in kit form. These kits still require a fair amount of work and skill to assemble them correctly. Kits are great, because you can mix and match parts made from different kinds of wood, so that you create the tone you desire.
Once you know what design you are using, research and select the kind of wood you want. Decide beforehand whether you will use a natural finish, or a paint finish. Wood choice has a big impact on how your guitar sounds, as do the pickups and electronics on an electric guitar.


The Basic Tools You Need

There are a number of essential tools that you need, if you are going to build a guitar from blocks of wood and custom-ordered components. Acoustic guitars require quite a high degree of skill to build and are a lot more complicated. For your first project, an electric guitar is probably a better choice.

Because of the many different makes and models of tools and consumables needed to build a guitar, it is difficult to come up with an accurate, useful reference cost for each item. The cost also varies depending on where you live and whether the tools are new or pre-owned.

Since there are many different makes and models of tools and consumables needed to build a guitar, it is difficult to come up with an accurate, useful reference cost for each item. The cost also varies depending on where you live and whether the tools are new or pre-owned.

Building Your Guitar Using Books

Using a well-written book to guide you in your DIY guitar building project has the following advantages: the plans and schematics are all there and the instructions are easy to follow and refer back to.

You need a reasonable amount of woodworking knowledge and skill with tools, when working from a book. You should at least be able to make basic items, such as cupboards, chairs and tables, before tackling guitars.

Printed books are only published if they have merit, and it is best to buy a DIY guitar building book that has had many editions. Badly written technical books don’t get reprinted.

You can keep your book with you in your garage or workshop, while you are building your guitar. If you cover it with clear plastic, it won’t get damaged from dust, paint or varnish.

Books are not expensive and unlike DVD’s that get scratched or deteriorate, the information in book form is available to you for a long time. One of the most popular DIY luthier books is Make Your Own Electric Guitar by Melvyn Hiscock.

In Most Guitar building books, the practical woodworking is difficult to explain in text form. This is where video has the upper hand.


Building Your Own Guitar Using Videos

There is a wealth of information available for free on the internet on DIY guitar building. There is no “catch” to the free instruction, other than custom guitar part manufacturers, professional luthiers and tonewood suppliers promoting their products and services in the videos.

On Youtube, you can watch every stage of guitar building in detail. FBI Guitars have a series, which is comprehensive, but chopped up into little 4-minute long episodes. This is annoying, because it bloats the number of videos to 500.

Ruokangas Guitars are custom guitar builders and they have a good series on making a guitar, in the form of a video diary. This is also on Youtube.

Basically, the internet is full of free video material for guitar building. All it costs you, is download time and bandwidth to access it. The advantage of using video material, is that you get to learn exactly how to use the tools safely and correctly, and how to put the guitar together properly.

If you are willing to spend some money and save a lot of time, you should definitely try the great DVD called A Complete Custom Electric Guitar Build by Antony Dewar.

The disadvantage comes from needing to take notes for measurements and for parts lists. It is sometimes difficult to match video footage and instructions, with a kit or design plan that is not directly related to the video. You will also probably need a laptop to use in your garage or workshop, so that you can refer back to instructions easily.

You should know how to use tools safely and the basics of woodwork. Most videos are comprehensive and can guide you in the finer details. Assuming you already own most of the tools and equipment, this method of learning is very cheap.

Enrolling in a Guitar Building Coursestrong

This is the ultimate learning method. By going on a course, you have access to all the tools you will possibly need, there will be expert guidance and tuition, and you are guaranteed to have something to show for your efforts.

Going on a DIY guitar building course means that you work in a safe environment and you learn how to do it the right way, without wasting time and effort. An example of a really good course, is the Bailey Guitars series of building courses. They offer various levels of instruction and to build your own guitar from scratch, takes between five and thirteen days, depending on the complexity of the design and whether it is electric or acoustic.

The course costs $1,630.00 to build an electric guitar and $3,715.00 to build an acoustic guitar. Prices vary, depending on how many modules you do and if you stay overnight.

The only real disadvantage to this method of learning, is the steep price. However, if you consider that a single custom built guitar can cost between $2,000 and $5,000 on average, then investing in a course like this worth it.

The best part is, you are not required to have previous woodworking knowledge or experience—you don’t even need to have your own tools.

Where can I find a school for guitar building?

There are guitar building courses almost everywhere.
Enter Guitar Makers Online luthier school directory to find a guitar building school near you, and start building your own guitar today!


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