Guitar making is my primary woodworking activity, and I love sharing how anyone can make a guitar if they give it a try. Here are several articles containing instructions for making jigs, construction theory, and fun guitar making projects. I hope they help you on your way to making your first guitar.
Guitar Making Tip No. 46 is about the quality and patience of the guitar maker. Nothing else will determine the success of the build better than the person doing the work. The materials, plans, books, and tools you use are nothing compared to you. Here is why.
You Set the Standard for Your Guitar
Patience and the willingness to stop and learn when you encounter an information gap are going to be the keys to success for your guitar. It’s all in you to decide if you are going to have a good build or not.
A great builder can take wood from a pallet and produce a great sounding guitar. This has in fact been done before by several companies. They took the boards from their shipping pallets and made guitars that sounded excellent.
This was done by those companies to prove a point, that the materials you use have little effect on the guitar when compared to the maker of that guitar. This holds true for new builders as well. The nice thing is that you have the ability to overcome the lack of information as a beginner. You can do this one thing and be far more successful than most beginner guitar makers… Read more “Guitar Making Tip No. 46”
Guitar Making Tip No. 7 is about the time that it takes to make a guitar. While there are a lot of ways to schedule, plan and estimate the time it will take, the following method is easily the best and most productive way of working it out.
Don’t Worry About How Much Time it Takes
That’s right. Don’t worry about how much time it will take to make your first guitar. Don’t worry about the second and third either for that matter. The more you plan, the more you will feel like you are getting behind.
To be quite honest, you have absolutely no idea who long it’s going to take you to make a guitar, and that’s completely fine. It’s your first build, so how could you possibly know?
Mistakes happen on a first of anything, and there are a lot of steps to get right in making a guitar, so opportunities for failure are abundant.
Don’t add a schedule to the mix and make the process even more frustrating. Any time you put a deadline on something, you inherently increase the stress associated with that task. That part is bad enough, but the real danger in watching the timeline is this… Read more “Guitar Making Tip No. 7”
You should make a baton press for book matching instead of buying a press. The project is easy, and you can make it from scraps in the shop. Plus, a baton press that functions well makes gluing your plates much easier. Here is how it works.
How the Baton Press Works
Essentially the baton press is a jig that holds the two plates together tightly so that the glue can dry. It provides the pressure, which can be adjusted, and it also holds the pieces in place the entire time.
The boards on the sides are what set the pressure, which is based on the width of the opening.
All you do is clamp the board on the left and right so that the opening in the middle is a little narrower than the two plates. This causes them top pop up in the middle like you see in the picture. What you do next is the secret to the way the baton press works… Read more “Make A Baton Press for Book Matching”
Guitar Making Tip No. 51 is about design and execution. It is much better to execute a simple design extremely well than to butcher a complex design. Especially in the beginning, don’t overload the build with unnecessary weight. Here is why.
Making a Guitar Takes Time
Making a guitar takes a long time. For some it can be a matter of weeks. Others months, and others even years. There is already enough to do in order to create an instrument without adding more complexity to the build.
Every custom element, every design addition, and every detail you add to the build, you are extending the time that it takes to make the guitar. Adding a few small things is ok at first, but it can be really easy to get carried away.
Guitar Making Tip No. 57 is what I like to call the secret to guitar making. There really is no magic bullet or secret formula to making a guitar. It’s not about getting a few big things right as much as it is about getting lots of small things right. Here is how.
Guitar Making is a Long Process
Making a guitar takes time. It’s a long process. That being said, it’s also a process that anyone with some patience and dedication can complete.
The bad news is that you are not going to rush into the garage and make a guitar over the weekend. You are also most likely not going to make a world changing guitar on the first try.
The good news is that most of the steps are easy enough to complete that you can get through them even as a beginner.
All of the steps in guitar making are small, and if you break them down well, you can be successful. This is where following a good book, taking your time, and doing things one step at a time make a huge difference in the build. It’s really more about doing a lot of little things well than doing any one large thing well. Read more “Guitar Making Tip No. 57”
Guitar Making Tip No. 2 is about choosing a design for your first guitar. It can be tempting to go for a wild design on the first round. If you are making an acoustic guitar, going with a classic design can be a life saver. Here is why.
Making a Classic Design for Your Guitar
Building a guitar is by itself a long and detailed task. When you consider all the things you will learn, do, and discover, it is really a remarkable undertaking.
That being said, there is no reason to compound the matter by trying to make a Picasso style guitar on round one.
Sometimes the exuberance of the beginner overtakes common sense, and before you know it a big project becomes a huge project. I want to encourage you to dream, but to also lay a good foundation first.
There are a number of reasons to go with a classic design on the first guitar. Not only are you working with something that has been established, has a track record, and is common, you are also doing yourself a big favor that may not seem super obvious right away… Read more “Guitar Making Tip No. 2”
Guitar Making Tip No. 996 is about your finish. People are discovering that a guitar dipped in lacquer does not sound as good as one with a lighter finish. Many makers are getting away from the shiny gloss and going to a flat look with a thinner application. Here is why.
Less People Want a Lacquer Dipped Guitar
Guitar companies use lacquer to protect the instrument and keep it looking nice for as long as possible. The thicker the coating, the better the protection.
Especially on lower to middle end models, having a guitar that looks like it was dipped in clear plastic is very common. The guitars hold up well, because the thick coating is a huge barrier to scratches and dings.
However, over time people started using thinner finishes that gave the guitars a different look. It was a flatter and closer to the wood look.
This change in finishing technique and gloss level differentiates higher end guitars from entry level guitars in a couple ways. The gloss change makes the guitar recognizable as different, and the thinner finish actually does something pretty amazing for the acoustic guitar… Read more “Guitar Making Tip No. 996”
Guitar Making Tip No. 805 is about drilling for round inlays. Round inlays are some of the easiest in all of guitar making. If you can drill a hole, you can produce round inlays. There is one thing that you need to watch out for however, and here it is.
My First Mistake With Round Inlays
When I started doing inlay work, I was amazed at the detail and precision that some of the best builders used in their masterpieces. Not knowing how to do anything like that myself, I decided to start with round inlays because they were too easy to mess up.
I was wrong.
Having underestimated my ability to screw up something simple, I ruined a fretboard in spectacular fashion.
I was drilling on the press, and not only did I not set the depth stop correctly, I neglected to realize that the table top was not locked in place either. As I was running the fretboard through the small chute I made, I was drilling the holes all too deep. On top of that, the table was moving slightly with each hole, so my row of holes was veering off center. Here is what I learned about drilling inlays from this now-laughable experience… Read more “Guitar Making Tip No. 805”
Guitar Building Tips are one of the best ways that a beginner can jump start their learning process, and pull in as much as they can about building a guitar. As a new builder, the scope of a project this large can seem overwhelming. Don’t worry, here is how you learn faster.
Start Reading Guitar Building Tips
I love tips. I read tips. I tell others to use tips. Guitar building tips are such a quick way of learning small but important bits of information.
Most of the mistakes you will eventually make, you will learn from. These mistakes can be summed up in a few sentences. And those few sentences can be called a tip.
A well worded tip will stick with you, and you will remember the information hopefully before you make a big mistake. It’s in this way that tips are extremely valuable.
There is also another secret to guitar making tips that is really what sets them apart from other types of learning. The magic is in the fact that they are small, and this lets you do something differently with the way you spend your time studying… Read more “Guitar Building Tips For Beginners”
Guitar Making Tip No. 405 is about making a side bender. There are essentially two ways to bend the sides for your guitar. One uses a form, and the other is freehand. While there are benefits to both, you will discover for yourself which you prefer. Here is how.
Devices for Bending Acoustic Guitar Sides
The old standard for bending wood is with a hot pipe. This is the least fancy of all the methods, and the least expensive.
To get started, all you need is a small length of metal water pipe, a flange to attach it to a board, and a torch to heat the pipe. You press your sides against the pipe, and the heat helps you bend the wood. (See My Bending Jig)
While this is the least expensive, it is also the most difficult to learn. Not saying that it’s very hard, or will take forever to figure out, it’s just harder than the other methods.
You do get more control over your pieces with the hot pipe method, but again it can be a bit of a challenge to learn at first. If you are a little worried about bending wood in the beginning, there is a method that can help you get good results with a lot less worry… Read more “Guitar Making Tip No. 405”