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ClaptonWannabe2 08-01-2018 12:47 PM

How hard is it to get into guitar building?
On a purely hobbyist level. The Collings and Kinnairds of Texas need not fear my wrath. Lol

I'd love to start a project. I'd also love to refinish a guitar or two. I mean a craigslist beater or pawn shop disaster. Sand and refinish. I actually enjoy refinishing and restoration of old pieces more than construction.

As for actual building I am interested, but to quote Clint Eastwood "mans gotta know his limitations ". Mine being space and patience. I can imagine spending 3 months crafting a beautiful stringed wooden box that sounded like a box.

Any of you guys dabble in restoring beat up inexpensive guitars?

Rodger Knox 08-01-2018 01:09 PM

Get a copy of Guitarmaking, Tradition and Technology by Cumpiano and Natelson, get a kit from Bluescreek or StewMac, and go for it. It's not that hard.

Actually, getting a really good finish is the hardest part of building.

redir 08-01-2018 01:18 PM

A friend of mine back in my college days built a guitar on his kitchen table. Where there is a will there is a way. It's not hard to get started.

Cameron_Talley 08-01-2018 01:22 PM


Originally Posted by redir (Post 5797788)
A friend of mine back in my college days built a guitar on his kitchen table. Where there is a will there is a way. It's not hard to get started.

Is it this guy? I've always loved this blog.

Truckjohn 08-01-2018 01:36 PM

Maybe we need to team up. I love building and setup but hate guitar paint/finish work....

In the overall scheme of things - guitar building is fairly straight forward wood work so far as things go... Except for the part about very thin wood and putting guitar strings on it at the end.... There are no weird, complicated joints.... It's basically all butt and lap joints... You just have to do it right so it doesn't fall apart and everything lines up where it's supposed to.... The final part separates furniture from instrument....

For folks who finish a guitar build - the usual time is about a year.. It's not your day job and so it has to share hobby time with the rest of your hobbies... Like fishing and sitting on the couch with the wife....

99% of people who dream about it never take the 1st step beyond dreaming...
75% of people who buy a kit never start...
90% of people who start never finish.


90% of people who actually build a guitar will build at least 1 more. Most get hooked... It's addictive.... Especially because each one is better than the last...

difalkner 08-01-2018 02:16 PM


Originally Posted by Truckjohn (Post 5797812)

90% of people who actually build a guitar will build at least 1 more. Most get hooked... It's addictive.... Especially because each one is better than the last...

I can testify to that, for sure! I just finished my first build and have already started the second - can't wait to get to number three!


Shuksan 08-01-2018 04:30 PM

The fastest way to get up and running in guitar building is to take a class. Not only do you go from zero to a completed functional guitar in a relatively short time, but you also learn inside tips on what and how to do things and just as importantly what and how not to do things based on the instructor's experience. You also learn what tools are necessary and which ones are nice to have but not essential.

My first class was through a wood worker's coop in the next city over and eight other students and I each built classical guitars. My second class was with one other student in which we built steel string guitars. It was taught by a local luthier who had been building about 25 years. After that, I was able to build just fine on my own.

Since you are near a big city, you might be able to track down a building class or get a local luthier to do a class for you.

redir 08-01-2018 05:03 PM


Originally Posted by Cameron_Talley (Post 5797795)
Is it this guy? I've always loved this blog.

Not not him, this was around 1993 or so. But cool blog none the less.

ClaptonWannabe2 08-02-2018 08:53 AM

I feel like I am falling into a wormhole. Found houston hardwoods website per a rec from one of the pros on here and also found another site that sold "backs and sides" for guitars in all of the woods discussed on this forum.

Man it is a lot of money??? And I don't say this to be insulting to luthiers. I say it out of fear. Fear of dropping $400 on materials and weeks of my time, to finally string and tune something to watch it collapse on itself like a black hole.

Like spending 16 hours cooking a brisket and everybody is hungry. You slice it and it looks like the calf slaughtering scene in Apocalypse Now.:D

Man, it does look like a fun hobby though. Again NOT a job. No delusions of grandeur or Luthiery. Just hobby

Jcamp 08-02-2018 09:23 AM

Iíve not built a guitar but Iíve been wanting to for a long time. For wood check eBay. And donít just look for rosewood or mahogany looks for stuff like oak or cherry or maple or some other not so common wood like walnut or locust. You should be able to get a back and sides (unbent) for closer to $40-100. For the top I wouldnít vary from cedar or spruce. You might contact stewardmac and see if theyíd have a blemished set that they can sell u cheap. I donít know what to tell you to do for the neck material.

Jcamp 08-02-2018 09:25 AM

Also keep in mind that if you are halfway careful in building the guitar itíll turn out ok. Johnson guitars are what I started playing on and they are made as cheap as they can be (probably not $10 in materials) and I never did see one of them collapse on themselves.

Truckjohn 08-02-2018 10:54 AM


Originally Posted by ClaptonWannabe2 (Post 5798526)
$400 on materials and weeks of my time,

He he he.... Yes... If only you spent $400 on your first guitar you would be doing a lot better than the rest of us... It could be 5x that if you have to buy all the tools and a work bench... And I assume you want tuners... This is probably the #1 best reason to do a class - access to the tools and the shop supplies.

Generally it's somewhere in between because you have some tools and some shop supplies... You will make do with what you have or can knock together on other operations, and you will buy some tools, parts, and jigs to supplement for stuff you can't live without....

$400-$600 on materials and a total budget of $1,200-$1500 counting tools and sundries is probably an honest estimate...


to finally string and tune something to watch it collapse on itself like a black hole.
That is usually never the problem #1 guitars have now that plans and books are available... They usually always suffer from terrible setup and bad fretwork because basically no book or video covers this part well.... Wonky intonation is another common first guitar problem because of people cutting their own fretboards and mis-gluing bridges... Typically - they simply end up quiet and unresponsive because it's built *WAY* too heavily....

Sorry if this seems like a bitter ray of sunshine.... But I am trying to paint an honest picture.

MC5C 08-02-2018 11:17 AM

A maple tree fell down in my friends back yard - I got around 400 board feet of pretty good maple, some of which is now guitar necks, sides and backs (the majority will be kitchen counters...) My first top (I make archtops) was a 2X8 deck board of red cedar from Home Depot - perfectly quartersawn and straight/tight grain. It's perfectly possible to build a guitar from found wood with hand tools - resaw with a rip saw, chisels, knives, shop built circle cutters and gramils, and I build all my instruments on a Black and Decker Workmate. I have lots of other benches, but for some reason all my jigs fit on that little bench the best. You do have to buy things like frets, tuners, a few other bits and bobs, but I bet you could get away with under $100 in materials, and no more than 10 different hand tools if you wanted to really get down with it. figuring out a totally cheap side bend would be an interesting challenge...

On the refurbishing - I have two things to say about that. One is that finishing and refinishing is the hardest and most annoying part of building a guitar. You don't do it often enough to get good at it, and you forget how to do it between times. But I can see it being a lot of fun to play around with, but very hard to get a pro result. As in all things, practice makes perfect... The second thing is that for me, building guitars and repairing guitars are two completely different pursuits. Fixing a guitar that got broken is, for me, orders of magnitude harder than building one from brand new stuff.

phavriluk 08-02-2018 09:12 PM

I finished my first scratchbuilt project a couple of months ago. I have less than $150 in the whole instrument. Solid wood body, Martin truss rod, laminated cherry/mahogany neck. Voice of an angel. Scrounging skills are a plus. Buying parts from the major vendors of such will drain the checkbook right quick.

redir 08-02-2018 09:57 PM

I built a parlor guitar for $35.50 once. The tuners were $10 bucks, the most expensive thing on the guitar.

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