What You Need to Know Before Purchasing a Guitar Kit

The time is right. You’ve been looking at guitar-oriented forums online for months now, and you need a summer project to keep yourself out of real trouble. You’ve always had an interest in guitars, and you’ve set up and maybe even changed out some parts in the guitar you’re using currently, so you’re up for a new challenge…enter the guitar kit.

Here are some things you should keep in mind while you’re trying to decide on which kit you should purchase.

  • Acoustic or Electric?

The first step, naturally, is to realize what you’re getting yourself into. Most beginning luthiers start with electric guitar kits because they require the least amount of tools, space and woodworking skills—usually only the only tools needed are: a drill, a screwdriver or two, and a soldering iron. Electric Guitar kits can be a good “litmus test” to see of you have the patience and courage to try a more advanced kit.

Acoustic guitar kits require more tools, more woodworking savvy, and necessarily, more space to work.

 

  • Space

In order to start assembling whatever kit you decide on, you will need a few basic things: chief among them, space to work.  Make or buy a workbench, or use the kitchen table (if you have an understanding family). If you live in an apartment, or are renting a room in which space is at a premium, do what I did: buy a 24” square sheet of plywood and glue or screw some 2X4 rails to it. Presto! Instant portable workbench.

 

  • Tools

Even if you’re going to build a electric bolt-on guitar kit, you’re going to need to clamp the neck in place so you can drill the holes in the neck. Other than clamps, you will probably need to have:

A #1 Phillips Head Screwdriver

A #2 Phillips Head Screwdriver

A set of Nut Files

A Soldering Iron

Solder

The old adage is, “you can never have too many clamps,” and when building an acoustic guitar, you will need LOTS of them, of all different kinds. Look through the Stewart-McDonald Acoustic Guitar Kit PDF linked to below to find a complete list of all the different kinds of tools you should be expected to have to complete an acoustic guitar kit.


  • It Might Suck When You’re Finished

I know. I might as well talk about this elephant in the room. You’re going to make mistakes, You’re going to screw some things up. The point is, when you make these inevitable mistakes, make a note of them and LEARN from them so you do not make them again. You do not become great at something by doing it only once. It takes repetition and constant learning and re-learning. If you build a guitar that sucks, acknowledge that fact, and use that experience to make your next one better.

 

Online Manuals and Resources

 

Before even purchasing a guitar kit, it makes a lot of sense to scour the Internet for any and all information related to building guitars. Educate yourself about the steps involved in building guitars from scratch as well as from kits. That way, you won’t be surprised when you have to buy or build spool clamps to put your guitar together. Here are a few of my favorite online resources:

 

Electric Resources

Building a One-Piece Stratocaster Neck

Building a Strat

Gil Yaron Guitars

 

Acoustic Resources

Kathy Matsushita

Kit Guitar Builder

Luthiers Mercantile International

Lutherie Information Website

Building a Martin-style OM Acoustic

You should also read the Stewart-MacDonald guitar kit manual which is available for no cost in their website.

 

DVDs Available for Purchase

 

While reading posts online are a good way to learn how to do things, sometimes it’s more helpful to see the process as a video.  It often helps to see a procedure being done in front of you so you have an appreciation of the skill set you need to develop in order to complete a quality instrument. Here are some excellent videos that would make good reference materials in your guitar building library:

 

Electric Guitar DVDs

Making A Solidbody Electric Guitar

Assembling A Solidbody Electric Guitar

 

Acoustic Guitar DVDs

A Master Class In Acoustic Guitar Making

Making a Concert Classical Guitar

Acoustic Guitar Making, Build along with Frank Finocchio

Classical and Flamenco Guitarmaking

Building The Selmer Maccaferri Guitar

 

If you find spending $250 on a DVD set a little hard to take, and you’re in the United States, you might try smartflix.com. They have a huge selection of instructional videos available for rent netflix-style for a fraction of the cost of the full DVD purchase.

First Kit Recommendation

If you are at a loss about where to begin your building journey, let me suggest two electric guitar kits that are good quality kits at a reasonable price. They a re both kits made by the SAGA company. The first is the Telecaster-style kit, and the second is the Stratocaster-style kit.

Both kits contain all you need to build a functional guitar, and are a fairly low-risk way to test the waters and see if luthiery is something that you have a true interest in.

Get excited, but keep the end result in mind. If you rush through any of the steps when making your kit, the best-case scenario is that you may cause yourself more work in the future. At worst, you will ruin some nice wood and have to get another kit. Be Patient. Be meticulous. Have fun.

What You Need To Know Before Purchasing A Guitar Kit

The time is right. You’ve been looking at guitar-oriented forums online for months now, and you need a summer project to keep yourself out of real trouble. You’ve always had an interest in guitars, and you’ve set up and maybe even changed out some parts in the guitar you’re using currently, so you’re up for a new challenge…enter the guitar kit.

Here are some things you should keep in mind while you’re trying to decide on which kit you should purchase.

  • Acoustic or Electric?

The first step, naturally, is to realize what you’re getting yourself into. Most beginning luthiers start with electric guitar kits, because they require the least amount of tools, space,  and woodworking skills– usually only the only tools needed are a drill, a screwdriver or two, and a soldering iron. Electric Guitar kits can be a good “litmus test” to see of you have the patience and courage to try a more advanced kit.

Acoustic guitar kits require more tools, more woodworking savvy, and necessarily, more space to work.

  • Space

In order to start assembling whatever kit you decide on, you will need a few basic things, chief among them, space to work.  Make or buy a workbench, or use the kitchen table (if you have an understanding family). If you live in an apartment, or are renting a room in which space is at a premium, do what  I did: buy a 24” square sheet of plywood and glue or screw some 2X4 rails to it. Presto! Instant portable workbench.

  • Tools

Even if you’re going to build a electric bolt-on guitar kit, you’re going to need to clamp the neck in place so you can drill the holes in the neck. Other than clamps, you will probably need to have:

    • A #1 Phillips Head Screwdriver

http://www.amazon.com/Klein-P18-Phillips-Tip-Screwdriver-8-Inch-Round-Shank/dp/B0000BYEPU/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1310767244&sr=8-1

    • A #2 Phillips Head Screwdriver

http://www.amazon.com/Klein-603-7-Phillips-Tip-Screwdriver-Round-Shank/dp/B0006M6Y70/ref=sr_1_2?s=hi&ie=UTF8&qid=1310767340&sr=1-2

    • A set of Nut Files

http://www.stewmac.com/shop/Tools/Special_tools_for_Nuts_and_saddles/Double-edge_Nut_Files.html

    • A Soldering Iron

http://www.amazon.com/60-Watts-Soldering-Iron-listed/dp/B0006NGZK0/ref=sr_1_2?s=hi&ie=UTF8&qid=1310767551&sr=1-2

    • Solder

http://www.amazon.com/Kester-Rosin-Core-Solder-Spool/dp/B00068IJPO/ref=pd’r_cp_hi_2

The old adage is, “you can never have too many clamps,” and when building an acoustic guitar, you will need LOTS of them.  Look through the Stewart-McDonald Acoustic Guitar Kit PDF linked to below to find a complete list of all the different kinds of tools you should be expected to have to complete an acoustic guitar kit.

  • It Might Suck When You’re Finished

 

I know. I might as well talk about this elephant in the room. You’re going to make mistakes, You’re going to screw some things up. The point is, when you make these inevitable mistakes, make a note of them and LEARN from them so you do not make them again. You do not become great at something by doing it only once. It takes repetition and constant learning and re-learning. If you build a guitar that sucks, acknowledge that fact, and use that experience to make your next one better.

Online Manuals and Resources

Before even purchasing a guitar kit, it makes a lot of sense to scour the Internet for any and all information related to building guitars. Educate yourself about the steps involved in building guitars from scratch as well as from kits. That way, you won’t be surprised when you have to buy or build spool clamps to put your guitar together. Here are a few of my favorite online resources:

Electric Resources

http://ahandkerchiefsandwich.wordpress.com/2008/10/25/building-a-one-piece-stratocaster-neck-part-1/

http://web.mac.com/adnrebyavner/Site/Building_a_Strat.html

http://gilyaronguitars.com/page1.php

Acoustic Resources

http://home.comcast.net/~kathymatsushita/index.html

http://www.kitguitarbuilder.com

http://www.lmii.com/CartTwo/FinishOverview.htm

http://www.liutaiomottola.com/

http://web.mac.com/adnrebyavner/Site/Building_an_OM_Acoustic.html

The Stewart-MacDonald guitar kit manual is available for no cost here: http://www.stewmac.com/freeinfo/i-5295/i-5295.pdf .

DVDs Available for Purchase

While reading posts online are a good way to learn how to do things, sometimes it’s more helpful to see the process as a video.  It often helps to see a procedure being done in front of you so you have an appreciation of the skill set you need to develop in order to complete a quality instrument. Here are some excellent videos that would make good reference materials in your guitar building library:

Electric Guitar DVDs

http://www.stewmac.com/shop/Video,_DVD/Solidbody_guitar_building/Making_A_Solidbody_Electric_Guitar.html

http://www.stewmac.com/shop/Video,_DVD/Solidbody_guitar_building/Assembling_A_Solidbody_Electric_Guitar.html

Acoustic Guitar DVDs

http://www.stewmac.com/shop/Video,_DVD/Acoustic_guitar_building/A_Master_Class_In_Acoustic_Guitar_Making.html

http://www.stewmac.com/shop/Video,_DVD/Acoustic_guitar_building/Making_a_Concert_Classical_Guitar.html

http://www.stewmac.com/shop/Video,_DVD/Acoustic_guitar_building/Acoustic_Guitar__Making,_Build_along_with_Frank_Finocchio.html

http://www.stewmac.com/shop/Video,_DVD/Acoustic_guitar_building/Classical_and_Flamenco_Guitarmaking.html

http://www.stewmac.com/shop/Video,_DVD/Acoustic_guitar_building/Building_The_Selmer_Maccaferri_Guitar.html

If you find spending $250 on a DVD set a little hard to take, and you’re in the United States, you might try smartflix.com. They have a huge selection of instructional videos available to rent netflix-style for a fraction of the cost of the full DVD purchase.

Get excited, but keep the end result in mind. If you rush through any of the steps when making your kit, the best-case scenario is that you may cause yourself more work in the future. At worst, you will ruin some nice wood and have to get another kit. Be Patient. Be meticulous. Have fun.

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