Hello /Diy/ i really love guitars , i am not that of a good player , but i really like comparing , testing , checking out etc . i saw a few projects on youtube the other day and decided to take up a new hobby but the thing is , i have little to no experience in this field , neither do i have any tools .
>what tools do i need ?
>what tips would you give ?
>what should i watch out for ?
id really love to build an electric , not a big fan of acoustics / classics
Neck angle, neck pocket depth, fret placement, pickup placement, and bridge placement are the absolute most critical parts. You could make the most beautiful guitar in the world, but if those are wrong it'll sound or play like shit. It will be garbage and a waste of your time and money. Lmii sells fretboard blanks, but also offers a shop service for cnc slot cutting at custom scale lengths. I would assume at this point you understand what scale length is, what it effects, and how important it is. If not do a lot more research. The big thing about wood, once it's cut out of the stock if a million times more difficult to add it back in. Cut a hole too big or in the wrong place, you're basically SOL. The only real option is to cut a piece of wood that fits the hole, glue it in, cut it down, and reshape. This is difficult, and unless you have a lot of wood to choose from, the right tools to shape it, and a log of knowledge or experience it's going to look bad. Even with those things it'll probably look bad. Unless you're doing solid paint.
Depends on how easy you want it to be/how much money you have.
Are you making your own body or neck blank out of multiple pieces like in your picture? You'll need clamps for sure. If they're not perfectly flat on top you'll want to use a thickness planer to do that, either by buying one or finding someone that offers milling services. They charge hourly usually, so make sure you have both ready and do them at the same time.
Cutting curves into the blank for the body shape. Three common options, from cheapest to most expensive(longest to shortest time). Coping saw, jig saw, band saw. With all of those it's common to go back with a router and flush trim/router bit to clean up the edges. You'll need a template for the body. You can also sand it and call it good. Coping saw and sanding by hand may take you days, but you can the tools at a big box store for less than $20.
Easiest/cheapest way to make a template is with 1/4 inch plywood, a razor knife, and sand paper. Mark out your body shape on the ply, cut it with the razor knife over several passes, clean up the edges with sandpaper. The cool thing about templates is now if you want to build another guitar that looks like this one it's easily repeatable. You can also buy templates.
The holy grail for this job is the router. A good plunge router with a pattern bit can cut your body shape, neck pocket, pickup cavities, control cavity, trem cavity if you need one, and a channel for binding if you're using it. It can also cut a truss rod channel. The router is easily the most versatile tool you can get for woodworking, along with a table saw. You just need the right knowledge and bits. You won't need a table saw for this if you're buying pre made neck and body blanks or using s4s lumber.
You'll want an electric drill. You can get a cheap electric drill for the cost of screw drivers and a crank drill. Just do it, but buy a decent one if you can.
At the absolute minimum I'd say you need ACCURATE measuring tools(long ruler, caliper, protractor, etc), jigsaw(or bandsaw, which is way better), router and a few bits, some planes, rasps/files, a nice gentleman's or Japanese saw for fret slotting, a good hammer with a rubber face for installing the frets and a few other small jobs... I'm probably missing stuff but those are pretty much your bare minimum.
Oh and the other poster before was exactly right, make sure you plan every tiny detail and ensure that every single measurement is 100% or you're just gonna build a pretty piece of shit that won't stay or play in tune at all.
Check out Crimson Guitars on YT, Ben really knows his shit.
WillsEasyGuitar, obrienguitars and sully guitars are good dudes on YT as well. Research research research.
Here's one I'm working on.
You can get tons of specialty tools for this, check stewmac and lmii for ideas and prices. You don't need them, but they make it a lot easier to do, and a lot harder to fuck it up. At the very least I would buy some of their router templates.
We haven't even gotten to finishing yet, and you'll want to do a good job with that otherwise all the time and money you spent will be wasted on an ugly guitar. And I didn't even touch measuring devices and squares.
For building starting out though, I'd do
Clamps, for gluing
Assorted router bits, specifically a flush trim bit and pattern bit.
Sanding block and orbital sander
Every grit sand paper you can get up to 600
Pickup and bridge templates for router, neck pocket too. You can find some that are set for pickup, bridge, and neck placement so you clamp it down once go to town. Sets you up so that everything is aligned perfectly.
Probably not a bad idea to get some files and chisels and learn how to use them
thanks for contributing , everybody , i dont have a big budget since i am a student , what about paint , how do i paint , which paints do you recommend . i like swirled paints , whats your opinion about them?
Bumping for interest. What about cigar box guitars? I've seen necks for sale on the internet. How much of a body do I really need if the neck is prefab? Like, what is the minimum that I can get away with structurally and can I just bolt a neck on to it, or what?
Hey buddy , i am interisted in being a luthier. I live in Brazil and i took classes With a luthier called Wagner Gabriel, i found his knowledge to be quite bad, just as his classes. I study guitar for 6 years and i was looking for a way to really study guitar making, do you have any tips? I was interested in olny acoustic guitars
Cigar box guitars are a fun project to learn to the basics with or just for fun. Ben at Crimson is actually doing one right now on YT. It's literally just a neck attached to a cigar box.
Universidade Federal do Parana has a pretty reputable program or so I've heard. Other than physical schools the only thing I can say is books and YouTube. I personally like YouTube anymore because it allows me to see how other luthiers do things - its a never ending learning cycle. At the same time though, for beginners you likely won't get all the info from YT that you could get from a school or books.
A great book to start with, if you can get your hands on it:
Guitar making tradition and technology
By Cumpiano and Natelson
Yeah Will's a good dude, I support this statement as I've said in a post before in this thread I believe.
Crimson guitars on YT is another good one, IMO Ben goes into a bit more detail in his non-paid-for(YouTube) videos. I guess I'm a bit biased as I'm part of Ben's guild. Full disclosure. Kek.
They both have premium, paid for, step by step videos on their websites.
Other good YouTube luthiers are Dark Luthier, O'Brien guitars, Fletcher guitars and sully guitars. All worth a watch.
Even if you find one luthier who teaches you everything, I believe it's important to watch as many as possible, as everyone teaches different things and does things differently. It's so nice to find an easier way you've never even thought of.
I mean I agree, but the thing is, skateboards are expensive.
In the end building a guitar isn't cheap at all, and the wood is pretty much the cheapest part...
You can probably find a cheap guitar on CL around 50 bucks and reuse all the parts, just build a new body and maybe a new neck to fit the parts to.
Aye, what's the best way to sand down a guitar to refinish it.
I have a few I'm working on, new to the whole thing, and I only managed to sand down 80% of one in the course of a month and a half. I still can't get the horns or whatever sanded down completely on this old strat.
Really touch grit but the issue I'm having is the horns. I can't get any sander in there, and doing it by hand feels futile because I can see almost no change even after the longest time.
Luhierbro here again.
There's always a clear coat finish. Usually either polyurethane or nitrocellulose. The other poster was referring to that.
Anyway, I agree with his statement on the heatgun. I do refinish jobs in my own shop quite often actually.
I heat a small area and scrape the finish and paint right off. Takes maybe a half hour to strip a whole body. The only thing left will be the primer.
From there sand it down with some 80 grit on a random orbital being careful to stay even and not create any dips or ridges. Or any other defects for that matter. Once you reach bare wood, work up the grits to 220, then wipe it down with a damp towel to raise the grain and hit it again with the 220. You're now ready to finish it prime/paint.
If you don't have access to a heat gun (I recommend getting one, they're cheap anyway) you can use 60 grit on a random orbital... But it'll take you a whole day probably, and you run the risk of digging in and leaving gouges.
Me again my bad didn't read this post before replying to the other.
Inside the horns is always a bitch if you don't have a oscillating drum sander. An easy way without having to buy a $200 machine would be pick up one of those cheap drum sanding kits they sell at HD or Lowes, etc for about 10-15 bucks. Use it with your power drill. You'll be able to shred through it pretty quickly. Just gotta be careful to cover the whole area evenly.
Hell, with some know how you can even build your own sanding drum...
Bonus points - if you have a drill press, you can use the drum kit and lock the press down and have a nice stationary drum sander ;)
Side note, here's what I'm working on now:
Over the last three days I've glued up the 4-piece laminated flamed maple neck, cut then reglued the scarf joint for headstock angle.
Today I routed the truss rod channel on it, then I slotted the lacewood fretboard and glued her in place. Not a fan of lacewood myself desu, but hey customers get what they want lmao.
Tomorrow its time to cut the rough shape on the bandsaw, then route the final shape on the router table with my templates and patterning bits. After that she gets her frets and then I have a date with a spokeshave, some rasps and files to shape the backside. I'm excited for tomorrow. It's my favorite part!
Didn't really get too too much done today though desu, spent a lot of time today doing unrelated things and cleaning the shop. I also realized I lost the mounting plate I use for my router table so I made a new one. Gotta wait on glue to cure all that bs anyway so yeah.
BTW, excuse the dryer, my shop isn't heated so I had to bring it all up to the house to glue it up over some waxpaper so the wife doesn't murder me in my sleep. Also I know I didn't use clamping cauls, they aren't THAT tight and its all hard ass wood anyway - plus, like half of the fretboard is going away anyway when I radius it. Also I know my clamps are shit, I broke a bunch recently because they were garbage, and I had to use what I could scrounge together until I can buy more. I'm a luthier, I'm poor. Lol
Okay I'm done rambling.
Luthierbro here again.
Update: Didn't get much done today due to personal issues. Did get the neck bandsawed into rough shape, and then routed off the templates... but that's really all I managed to fit in today.
My life sucks sometimes lmao.