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.
Here are a few of my best guitar making posts, which are sure to help any new guitar maker get started on the right track. Some of these are pretty old, and others are newer. Since I post several times a week, the good stuff can get lost over time. So, here they are.
My Best Guitar Making Posts…so far
These are some of the best and most popular guitar making posts from my site, in no particular order. Each one can help you accomplish a guitar making goal, and they can get you moving forward on your build.
They range from tips and tricks, to jig builds and helpful advice. They are all easy reads, and give you exactly what you need.
Guitar making is a really enjoyable hobby, and it’s a lot easier than it looks. In the beginning everything seems harder than it really is, and making a guitar is no different.
You are going to learn so much on your first few builds. It’s going to be an amazing experience, and you will certainly make more guitars afterwards. Here are my best and most popular posts, enjoy… Read more “My Best Guitar Making Posts…so far”
Guitar making tip number 37 is about working with someone who also makes instruments. If you have the opportunity to work with another instrument maker, this can be a huge resource for your development. Books and online resources are great, but it’s hard to beat a real person to talk to. Here is why:
Working With an Instrument Maker
If you have the opportunity to work with an instrument maker, you need to jump all over it and start learning from them. Making instruments is different from other types of woodworking in the fine details. Having someone help with those details can help you advance much faster in many cases.
There are many instrument makers in the world, and there are sure to be people that live near you who build. It can take time to meet those people, but you can do a few things to advance the process.
Joining a forum online, especially one that is from your country can be a way to meet new people. Also, if you have a Guitar Making supplier or a guitar building school near you, frequent place and get to know people. The same for a woodworking store that sells guitar making supplies. Here is the one thing that working with a real person can do that no book can… Read more “Guitar Making Tip No. 37”
The easy way to slot a fretboard is with a jig. There are jigs available online that carry a price tag, but they are nice tools and can save you time if you go with them. You can also make a jig yourself. I encourage you to try making a jig first, and here is why:
The Easy Way to Slot a Fretboard
When you make a jig yourself, you increase your understanding of the tool. Not only will you know it really well, but you will be able to use it better. Anything you make will work the same way. This gives you an advantage, because you will already deeply understand your tool.
Since you are about to make a guitar, which is a large project, comparing it to making the jig almost seems like no comparison at all. If you are making the guitar, then it would seem that you are over qualified to make the jig.
Try making a guitar fretboard slotting jig yourself before you buy one from a store. You can save a lot of money like this, and over the course of several fretboards you will actually get all your time back as well. Here is a nice easy jig that you can follow along with, and make yourself a fretboard slotting jig… Read more “The Easy Way to Slot a Fretboard”
Guitar making tip number 170 is about practicing carving the braces. This is a basic skill for all guitar makers, and thankfully it’s easy to master. The beauty of this kind of practice is that you don’t have to worry about ruining a guitar. This is very close to the real thing, but not actually attached to a guitar. Here is how you do it:
Practice Carving the Braces
The first thing you are going to need is a piece of Spruce that you would normally make guitar braces from. Cut it into several smaller pieces, following the directions from a book or a set of plans. Make sure to cut as many different styles of brace as you can.
Once you have all of these pieces, you need to glue them to something. I recommend a 2X4 or something similar. Cut a piece that is a little longer than your longest brace, and glue them all down with some space between them for carving.
Next, clamp the board to the bench or grab it with a vise. Now, you can practice carving the braces down to final shape without worrying at all about making mistakes. If you do, just carve the brace away and replace it with a new blank. Once you are confident that you can carve your braces well, then you can complete the process on an actual guitar.
This kind of practice is great, because you are working in a consequence free environment when it comes to how the guitar will turn out. Since there is no guitar to ruin, relax and learn about carving. Here are a few things to focus on as you practice… Read more “Guitar Making Tip No. 170”
Guitar making tip number 90 is about finding wood in the hardwood store. You can find great looking pieces of well quartered wood in the store. You just have to spend the time looking for it. Here is why, and the reward for your time:
You Can Find Quarter Sawn Wood in a Hardwood Store
Most hardwood stores sell flat sawn wood, and some quartered. In most of the bins you are going to find a lot of flat sawn wood. This is because the mill saws the entire log like that, and then only a small number of pieces end up quartered by default.
It does take a long time to search through the bins to find these gems, but they are in there and they are worth the time.
In most cases, a nicely quartered piece of wood will be separated from the stack at the mill and put with other quartered wood. The process for cutting wood like that is different from flat sawing, and a bit more wasteful. For that reason, as well as for the difference in looks, they charge more for the wood.
When you dig through the bins yourself, you find pieces that should be worth more, but they are the same price as the flat sawn stock. This is great for you, because you get the stability and the beauty of quartered wood, at the same price as flat sawn wood. Here is how you do it…
Look at the Ends of the Boards
When you are looking for quarter sawn wood, look at the ends of the boards in the bin. You are looking to see the grain lines going from face to face. This should be up and down when you are looking at the end of the bin. Try both sides of the wood pile, since the ends can be coated and hard to view.
If you can’t see the ends of the boards, the job gets a bit more difficult. However, the savings is worth it, and you get to spend more time in the wood store, which is fun too. Start looking at the faces of the boards, and look for pieces where the grain lines go end to end. This is how you can spot quartered wood.
Flat sawn wood will have grainn lines that make rings or circles on the faces of the wood. This is visually different than quartered wood. As you are digging through a bin, when you find a quartered piece it will jump out at you. It will almost look like a different species of wood in some cases.
Ask the Wood Store Staff for Help
I’ve been in some wood stores where the staff is awful, and it’s an inconvenience for them to even ring you up for your purchases. I’ve also been to some that are willing to help you and answer all your questions. Depending on the type of service that the shop offers, they may be able to point you at some quartered wood in the pile.
If you are new to picking out wood, the staff should be able to do it much easier than you can. Having been working with wood for a long time, I can spot the style of cut from across a room, and instantly tell what I am getting. People that work in wood stores are even better than that. Enlisting a little help can make a big difference.
Let them help you, and they can quickly show you what you are looking for. At some point you are going to need to tap the pieces and do some guitar maker magic to decide on what board you want. At that point you can let the staff know you are all set, and they will leave you be while you make them wonder why you are listening to the boards make noise.
One More Thing
Please make it a point to stack up the wood after you are done going through the bin. I have seen people destroy a wood bin and walk right out without putting any of it back. Yes, the store has a staff. However, they are not expecting their customers to destroy their displays and walk away.
Put away your pieces when you are done. It will make a big difference for someone, and it will only take you a small amount of time. This can also do something else for you that you may not have thought of…It may lead to some good karma.
I was stadcking a bin in a Woodworking store where the staff would give you the evil eye right near the end to make sure you were putting things away. They saw me putting away the wood that I went through, and one of the employees came over to help me do it. He was shocked that I was actually cleaning up after myself. I’m an adult, so that’s what I do.
The employee ended up showing me some high end Rosewood that I ended up buying on a really good deal and making several great bridges from. All I did was pick up my own mess.
1,001 Acoustic Guitar Making Tips for Beginners
Tip No. 90 is from my book, 1,001 Acoustic Guitar Making Tips for Beginners, which has a thousand more great tips to get your first few builds on the right track. There is no secret to guitar making, just a lot of small things that you need to get right. These tips will help you.
If you have any questions about Guitar Making Tip No. 90, please leave a comment and I will be glad to answer them. Also, please Subscribe so that you don’t miss out on anything new. Happy building.
Nothing will ever sound as sweet as the guitar that you make yourself with your own two hands. Even if the guitar is never used as an example of ultimate craftsmanship, you made it, and you will love it. Here is why:
That Guitar is YOURS
You put in the effort, and you made that guitar. No instrument that you ever buy will feel the same way as the one you make. You will also understand that instrument more than any other. For those reasons and more, you will love playing your handmade guitar.
I remember twanging on the low E string for a long time when I first strung up my guitar. I loved the fact that the thing I made could produce sound, and I sat there like an idiot just plucking that one string over and over again.
It was such an exciting moment, because I had created an instrument and it actually made sound. I don’t think I put the rest of the strings on for about 10-20 minutes after I strung the low E. I just kept on playing and enjoying the sound. If you are a guitar player, and you do some woodworking already, then you really owe it to yourself to make a guitar.
No guitar you own will ever sound as sweet as the guitar that you made yourself. It’s an incredible experience, and you will never sell that first guitar. There are other benefits to making a guitar and playing guitar, and they can help you in a number of creative ways… Read more “Nothing Will Ever Sound as Sweet”
Guitar making tip number 177 is about gluing the braces to the plates really well. This does not mean that you need to use a gallon of glue. What is means is the braces need to be well prepared so that the gluing process is smooth. Here is the how and the why:
Gluing the Braces to the Plates
The braces themselves are very small. The surface area for gluing is small too. This means that the quality of the joint is very important. If you have some areas that are not flat, they can take away a large percentage of gluing area quickly.
When you are preparing the braces, make sure that the bottoms are nice and flat. Even on braces that are curved to arch the plates, the actual surface that meets the plate needs to be flat. This means you will not be able to see light coming through the joint when held together dry.
The better you prepare for this joint in the beginning, the less likely you will have to repair a loose or separated brace in the future. It does not take much to ensure that the braces are glued well, just a little prep work.
When you are test fitting the braces, make sure that you can’t see light coming through the joint while dry. If you can, then you have a high spot or a low spot affecting the surface. Here is how you ensure that you don’t have any light gaps… Read more “Guitar Making Tip No. 177”
Guitar making tip number 34 is about joining an online forum. There are a number of great forums available to join that are filled with guitar makers. Some of these people are new, and some are very experienced. There are a lot of advantages to joining a forum, and here is why you should take a look:
Join a Guitar Making Forum
Forums are loaded with great information. They are also loaded with great people that can give you nearly instant feedback on your questions. If you spend time helping people, you will receive the same help in most cases from the members of the forum.
Online forums and facebook groups are still popular with craftspeople and they can have many members that all share similar interests. If you frequent one of these groups, you can end up making many great connections with fellow luthiers.
One of the best things about a forum is that you can read through all the old threads and see what people have been talking about. This can help you as a new builder because you will get to see real interactions and discussion about different aspects of the build. This will really help you because… Read more “Guitar Making Tip No. 34”
This may come as a surprise, but you don’t need a lot of tools to make a guitar. If you are already into woodworking, you probably have the majority of the tools that you will need. There are some specialty tools that guitar makers use, but thankfully they are not terribly expensive. Here is how you get started.
You Don’t Need a Lot of Tools
Guitar making is just woodworking…the only difference is you are making an instrument instead of something else. Many of the tools that you are already using in your shop will work perfectly for making guitars.
In the beginning, most guitar makers buy their wood already roughed out close to the sizes that are needed anyway. This eliminates the need for a large band saw or a re-saw that can handle nine inch tall pieces.
Also, guitar making suppliers know that people making guitars may not have a ton of tools, so they have options. For example, someone with a lot of tools might pick out a fretboard blank that has not been slotted, tapered, or with a radius. They have the tools to perform all of those operations, so they do it themselves. If you don’t have the tools, then you just purchase a fretboard that has already been milled and slotted. Read more “You Don’t Need a Lot of Tools to Make a Guitar”
Guitar making tip number 9 is about choosing a finish that is easy to apply. It’s also a good idea that the finish be available in a local store. This has several advantages, and here is why this is a good practice:
Choosing an Easy to Apply Finish For Your Guitar
There are many advantages to choosing an easy to apply finish for your first guitar. The number one reason being that you already have enough to learn.
Since you are learning about guitar making already, then it makes sense to use a finish that you are already comfortable with.
If you are brand new to guitar making and finishing is a new skill as well, picking out something that is easy to learn will make the process that much smoother.
You are already in a situation where you need to learn a lot. Don’t make it any more complicated than it already is. You are going to learn more as a woodworker over the next several months of the build than you may ever learn again in such a small window. Over complicating the build can lead to this… Read more “Guitar Making Tip No. 9”