There are many ways to save money on guitar making. Especially in the beginning, there can be many tools and materials needed. Learning the ways to save here and there can make a big difference.
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The keys to help you save money on guitar making are:
- Make as many tools and jigs as you can instead of buying them.
- Saw your own boards in the shop.
- Get to know what your existing tools can do before buying new tools.
- The most expensive wood is not necessarily the best.
- Make as many parts as possible, rather than ordering factory made parts.
- Buy a good book on making tools and jigs.
Make Your Own Tools and Jigs
The first way to save money on guitar making is to make your own tools and jigs rather than buying them. If you can make an acoustic guitar, you are more than qualified to make the jigs. There are hundreds of places online (including this website in the Guitar Making category) that explain how to make many useful jigs and tools. My Fret Slotting Jig and Fret Bending Jig are a couple examples.
Pick out a few easy jigs or tools, and some that are a little more complicated but expensive to buy. Make these in the shop, and the savings can be huge. Some tools will need to be purchased, but the vast majority can be made from scraps.
Another way to save money on guitar making is to saw your own blanks in the shop. Most woodworkers have a few tools that can be used to saw blanks. Store bought wood that is already thinned to guitar making sizes is expensive. Part of that expense is the tools that the mill owns, which they use to make the pieces. If this can’t be done in the shop, most hardwood stores will mill the pieces for a small fee. Most times, this is still less than the price of specialty pieces from a luthier supplier.
To save money on guitar making, look for inexpensive wood that has similar properties to more traditional choices. Bubinga, Padauk, and Sapele are great alternatives, and they are far less expensive.
Before buying tools, spend a little time getting to know what your tools are already capable of first. A jointer can be used as a small planer. Conversely, a planer can be used as a jointer. A router is practically a magician in the shop, and can be used for many things that are not obvious at first. Save money on guitar making by making sure you do not already have a tool that can be fitted with a jig to do the job of a new tool.
Another interesting point to consider is that the most expensive wood is not necessarily the best wood for making guitars. The best guitar makers in the world can make plywood sing like an angel if they wanted. The middle price point on wood ensures a nice looking piece that will not break the bank.
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When grading wood, the main factors are all about the way the piece looks. The appearance has nothing to do with the sound. East Indian Rosewood is a prime example of finding value in lower grade wood. High end Rosewood has very straight and even grain, with an even coloring across the piece. This is fairly boring to look at. Lower grade sets have more color variation, more grain line movement, and are frankly more interesting than high grade sets.
Look for lower grade wood that has a striking look, which will help you save money on guitar making. Many times, these are more interesting anyway, and the look will sell better than something more ordinary.
If you really want to save money on guitar making, you will need to make as many parts as you can in the shop. It is tempting to order a finished bridge or slotted fingerboard. These parts are more expensive than the wood used to make them. Making these things, as well as necks, headstock veneers, and binding strips, will save quite a bit of money.
Lastly, invest in a good book on making jigs. After making several tools and jigs, I was finally asked by enough people and I wrote a book. My book is called Acoustic Guitar Making: How to make Tools, Templates, and Jigs. This is not a step by step guitar making book. It is a companion that teaches many aspects of the process in an easy to follow manner.
I show how to make over 50 tools, templates, and jigs, as well as many other topics like finishing by hand and construction theory. With over 500 pages and 1600 images, there is a ton of great information. All of these tools are still in use in my shop, and I have had many of them for over a decade.
Once you make your guitar, you will need to finish it. My 10 Step Guide to Wood Finishing explains the process of hand applied finishes, making it very easy. For more about finishing, my article on How to Finish With Tru-Oil makes an expert finisher out of anyone.
If you have any questions on how to save money on guitar making, please leave a comment and I will be glad to answer them. Happy building.
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