I get asked for practical acoustic guitar making advice all the time. I get it through email mainly, and I really enjoy helping people with their projects. Of all the advice that I can give, there is one thing that always comes up. Guitars are not made with magic. They are not about getting one or two big things right. They are a sum total of how well you perform all the small processes.
This is something I cover in my book, Acoustic Guitar Making: How to make Tools, Templates, and Jigs.
Practical Advice for the Process
That being said, it’s easy to lose track of that fact, and rush to complete each process. The mindset is that the faster you complete the process you are on, the faster you get to the next. This is a recipe for failure every time. The guitar is only as good as the way you make it. You have the ability to make a great guitar, you just have to commit to slowing down and making sure that you are doing everything as well as you possibly can.
If you cut corners constantly, blast through the build, and keep pressing on even though things look wrong, you will have a bad guitar in the end.
Each of the hundreds of processes leave their mark on the guitar. All the tiny things that you do have a tiny effect. These tiny effects add up over the course of the build, and determine how the guitar will sound and function.
Don’t Worry too Much about Your Guitar
Take comfort in the fact that you can make a small mistake in a couple processes and most likely not have a horrible result.
If you have a brace that is slightly out of place, or a neck with a little too much relief, or a back plate that doesn’t quite line up, don’t worry. It will probably not have much of an effect on the final instrument. The fact that you did the rest of the build well, and did each step as good as you can is what will make the difference.
Instruments are in a different class of woodworking. Not only do they need to look good, but they need to sound good and be structured in a way to resist the tension of the strings for decades. This is a lot of stuff that all needs to happen in order to have a great guitar. Rushing through a part to get it done before the night will not move the needle very far. It may get you out of the shop for the day, but you will not have advanced the project much farther than if you had performed the step with patience and care.
The Reward for Patience in Guitar Making
Anything worth doing is worth doing well. A acoustic guitar is no exception. What you are making now will last you a lifetime if you do it right. When you weigh the time cost versus the return in happiness, the scales are heavily unbalanced.
This guitar will be a treasure for you. I promise it will be. Especially if you play guitar. Even if your first instrument is not a show stopper, it’s yours. The fact that you went into the shop day after day and made it with your own two hands will give it extreme value. Make sure that you give it the value it deserves while it’s still in pieces. Treat it like it will treat you once it’s completed. Think about how much fun it’s going to be to play, and think about how may people are going to see your work.
The last thing you want to do is have a shoddy looking build for people to pick apart when they see it. You are going to want to show this guitar off to everyone. Spend the small amount of extra time to make it well, and you will enjoy handing it over for inspection.
If you have any questions about Practical Acoustic Guitar Making Advice, please leave a comment and I will be glad to answer them. Also, please take a look at Acoustic Guitar Making: How to make Tools, Templates, and Jigs. It’s a great resource for beginners, and will help you quite a bit. Happy building.
Additional Information About Westfarthing Woodworks
While I publish the overwhelming majority of my woodworking content for free, I also have several books available as well. You can see them on my Available Books Page, and they cover several different woodworking disciplines.
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