A little help for building my first guitar

Construction and repair of Classical Guitar and related instruments
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A little help for building my first guitar

Post by hackedpineapple » Sat Jan 06, 2018 9:06 pm

After listening and seeing so many beautiful guitars i feel really inspired but also at the same time discouraged to build my own guitar. There are a few problems that i have right now:
  • I don't have any tools and buying them isn't feasible since(according to what i have read) all the absolute necessities cost around 600 pounds in total.
  • I really don't know from where to start learning.
    It seems as though whenever i think that I know every aspect of making a guitar, 10 more pop up out of nowhere.
  • I'm not sure which book and learning material is the most trustworthy as there are so many books out there with both great and bad reviews.
I'm thinking about buying a cheap set with ready made parts just so i can get a feeling of how it feels like to assemble a guitar in order to avoid breaking more expensive materials. Also the fact that I'm 14 isn't really helping my case either. Any advice would be appreciated.

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Re: A little help for building my first guitar

Post by printer2 » Sat Jan 06, 2018 10:48 pm

Start on a ukulele. Much cheaper and you still learn how to do most of the steps. Do you have anybody who has a few tools that would let you use them? You can build with much less than that amount in tools.

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Re: A little help for building my first guitar

Post by simonm » Sat Jan 06, 2018 10:48 pm

You will get conflicting advice. :-)

Personally I think a kit to learn the assembly steps is not a bad idea. I did a number of kits for exactly that reason. Finding a cheap kit is not that easy but not impossible. (I will send you a PM).

Regarding tools. Does your school have woodwork? If so you might come to some arrangement with the woodwork teachers. One of my cousin's sons did a guitar as a school project in Ireland a few years ago. The might also be evening woodwork classes somewhere near you where you could also use the tools.

You will get dozens of suggestions for books. For classical guitar the first one to get is Roy Courtnall's "Making Master Guitars". You might find a secondhand copy. None of the good guitar making books are cheap but they are worth it. Roy is a member here and occasionally posts. Another member is doing a guitar making course with him at the moment. Here is the thread. viewtopic.php?f=11&t=114497 Well worth looking at. Also have a look at this site: http://myplace.frontier.com/~nostberg/ The site looks a bit dated now, but the info is still good.

There are thousands of guitar making videos on YouTube so it is hard to decide what to watch. Be aware that there two major philosophies in guitar making. One aims to do as much as possible with hand tools and traditional methods. The other wants to use machines for everything and assume that you have an huge workshop. :-)

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Re: A little help for building my first guitar

Post by printer2 » Sat Jan 06, 2018 10:53 pm

Where do you live?

Some ukulele build instructions from Stewmac.


Just for kicks.

http://www.crane.gr.jp/CRANE_etc/A009Jo ... amirez.pdf

Scale this plan to 80% will get you a width of 11". That gives you plenty to work with if you had some 6" boards (real width 5.5") for joining a top or back. Sides about 24" long and a depth of 3". The scale length about 21". I would do the width of the neck full size. I could see doing this with wood you could get in many lumberyards.

A hand saw to rip some pine. Shave it to thickness. Joint the top and back with sandpaper on a flat surface. Side bending on a pipe if he could find someone to supervise. Radius the braces and then glue up with shims to give the radius. Do glue one brace at a time and use some weights.

I have been building with construction pine, a clean 2"x6" jointed on one side and then two pieces cut to size then the jointed sides glued together. Joint the fretboard surface of the neck blank. Cut out the neck shape. Wings for the headstock. A piece of 1/4" maple for the fretboard. I may be thinking up myself a new project.
Last edited by printer2 on Sun Jan 07, 2018 12:19 am, edited 6 times in total.

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Re: A little help for building my first guitar

Post by bushweek » Sat Jan 06, 2018 11:16 pm

Thats great you are interested in building a guitar - one thing to keep in mind is to consider it a lifelong hobby. Perhaps a kit is a good starting point, even having the various components to hold that you can then replicate.

Having someone with experience help you out in the beginning will be invaluable, especially if you dont yet know how to set up handplanes or how to sharpen and use a chisel properly. There will always be more wood available but fingers etc sometimes dont grow back and even a chisel can be dangerous. Safety is important.

Do you have an adequate workspace? The process creates a fair bit of dust... so that should probably rule out working in the kitchen ...

You will need a workspace, workbench and a bench vice and then clamps and handplanes, chisels, rulers etc. All vintage and bought at yard sales etc are fine and cheap (the old planes are usually better than the cheap new ones). But it helps to know what you are looking for and then how to set them up. Do you have previous experience or a neighbour who is good at wood working? Over here in Australia there are "mens sheds" where mostly-retired guys do woodworking and help each other out with projects. If you can connect with a similar woodworking group it may give you access to tools and a workspace and enough guidance to proceed making all the usual mistakes we all make....

The other part is mindset - it is really important not to rush - treat each step as a project and get it right. Id maybe start with making the neck. But you first need to decide on an assembly method (bolt on neck and an outer body mold or solera with spanish heel etc....?). For that, connecting with a local luthier or someone else who has built an instrument to learn their methods would be invaluable.

A ukulele kit might be a good option

Pat Foster
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Re: A little help for building my first guitar

Post by Pat Foster » Sun Jan 07, 2018 5:45 am

Another vote for a kit. Luthiers Mercantile International has several classical guitar kits, allowing you to choose how much of the work you want them to do, so that your lack of large power tools wouldn't be so much of an issue. They are not especially cheap, but the materials are decent and their prep work is done well. They also have instructional DVDs. This won't get you a great guitar, but it could be a decent one, and the experience will be rewarding.

One word of advice that you probably won't hear contradicted: choose one book's or one teacher's method and use that through the whole process. Mixing and matching could easily get you a guitar that's impossible to play.

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Re: A little help for building my first guitar

Post by vesa » Sun Jan 07, 2018 8:18 am

It seems as though whenever i think that I know every aspect of making a guitar, 10 more pop up out of nowhere.
That is the facinating part of building and I can guarantee that the new things keep on popping out even you have made 10 guitars.
As said by Simon buy Courtnall and go for it. It is a good step by step book with several plans to choose from and a lot of general information about different aspects of luthiery.
Many of us began that way.
Kit or not - your choice, but buy only good tools, medium price is normally ok.
You can also find used, but that takes time.
You can make many of the special tools yourself,
you' ll find ¨how to¨ videos, threads, articles on the internet.
And this forum is a good place where you can ask when
you don't know what or how to do or when things go wrong.
---!We have all been there!---
Good luck
Vesa Kuokkanen

Antonio Marin nr. 813 1995 (Bouchet)
Vesa Kuokkanen 2016

Euan Hannah
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Re: A little help for building my first guitar

Post by Euan Hannah » Sun Jan 07, 2018 11:34 am

Read/Research your ideas as fully as you can, there is so much information available on-line now but remember there are several different ways of construction and this can be confusing when you are starting out.
You could buy one of the better building books (e.g Courtnall's) and follow his methods and plans.
Are there any college courses/ evening classes or such like available in your area, this is probably the easiest way to learn with guidance and tuition.
Good luck anyway with your chosen plans, don't spend all your budget on fancy tools.

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Brian McCombs
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Re: A little help for building my first guitar

Post by Brian McCombs » Mon Jan 08, 2018 6:08 pm

It isn't very romantic, but, you could draw a guitar......I recommend it as a first step. Even if you get an actual drawing from somewhere, you should get out your rulers, squares and straight edges, some pencils and paper and lay it out. Even if you are a CAD user or plan on buying a kit, try putting pencil to paper and draw a top view with dimensions. This will enable you to get used to converting between systems and units.....it will also identify what layout tools you don't have, of which, are often overlooked but wholly essential for success. It doesn't require much money. If you should find you don't have the patience or ability to do that task, you may be in for difficult time when you DO have costly materials in front of you.

Alan Carruth
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Re: A little help for building my first guitar

Post by Alan Carruth » Mon Jan 08, 2018 6:57 pm

Many of the 'necessities' that I see people recommend on line were 'luxuries' when I started out. You don't really need a thickness sander, or a power saw, for example, at least, not at the beginning. I would say the only thing you will absolutely need that plugs in is some sort of bending iron or blanket: you can't just get the local blacksmith to make up a real 'bending iron' that you heat up in the stove. After that, if I had the money, I'd get a router, which is handy in many ways, and a table top small drill press/pillar drill, since I can't seem to make a perpendicular hole any other way.

Haunt yard sales for hand tools. It can take some time to learn what to look for, but keep at it. The thing that ruins most old edge tools is pitting of the cutters. OTOH, if you can find a good old plane that will clean up nicely it's usually possible to buy a replacement cutter fairly reasonably. This can be the best deal of all, since those old planes were often better made than any but the highest priced new stuff, while some of the replacement irons, such as the 'Hock' ones, are very nice. Don't ignore things like sharpening stones, rulers, and other layout tools like squares. Ditto vices and clamps.

Speaking of which; I get a lot of use out of a box of spool clamps that I made from dowel, thread rod, and wing nuts. For that you'll want a drill press. I also use rubber bands and sticks to clamp tops and backs for joining (the old boys used string or rope), and a long 'rubber rope', a continuous strip cut from a truck inner tube, to clamp on the binding. Making your own tools, and learning the hand tool methods, are educational in themselves. Once you know how to make it with hand tools you can figure out how to use power tools to speed things up, but the people who learn on power tools tend to be lost when they 'only' have hand tools.

I'll repeat the advice to stick with one method or book when you're actually building. Each maker has a slightly different system that produces a good guitar for them. If you try to mix and match methods or (especially) measurements without understanding the whole system you're likely to end up with a monster.

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Re: A little help for building my first guitar

Post by RedCliff » Mon Jan 08, 2018 9:16 pm

As you have spotted, there is lots, almost too much advice, including books. Much of it is great, but you can't really discern the parts that will help you from those that won't until you have several instruments under your belt. Find one book or online course and stick to it rigidly, the simpler the better. Flat tops are fine, zero neck angle is fine, a slightly high bridge is fine. A simple design made carefully and to the best of your ability will likely be a better guitar than a first attempt at something too complex. Even courtnall has lots of options, ifs, buts and maybes. Once it is finished, then read something else and take the parts that appeal to you and leave the rest.
Giles Ratcliffe

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Re: A little help for building my first guitar

Post by Michael.N. » Mon Jan 08, 2018 10:07 pm

If I had to start all over again but had my current knowledge I wouldn't buy 75% of the tools that I did. Sometimes you have to go through it all to reach such a conclusion. I can reflect and marvel how I made my second guitar with severe tool deprivation. I think it was partly ignorance, the hubris of youth and sheer determination that saw me through. Best to just go cut some wood and never look back.

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Re: A little help for building my first guitar

Post by mqbernardo » Mon Jan 08, 2018 11:00 pm

congrats on the determination at such an young age! my advice, besides everything else said, is don´t start this thinking you´ll save money when compared to buying a new instrument. wood is not cheap, and unfortunately good tools aren´t either - not that you need fancy "heirloom quality" stuff.
it´d be nice if you could meet someone local and see if he/she would help and advise you along the way. or, since everyone seems to be doing it these days, get a kickstarter campaign going. who knows, might work.

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Re: A little help for building my first guitar

Post by printer2 » Tue Jan 09, 2018 2:39 am

I hope we didn't scare him away.

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Re: A little help for building my first guitar

Post by hackedpineapple » Sun Jan 14, 2018 2:30 pm

Hahaha don't worry I'm still here I just had a rough week at school and didn't really have enough time to read everything and reply. I'll do that in about 2 hours as I'm not home right now.

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