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Building a guitar


(@dbrownlee)
Active Member
Joined: 15 years ago
Posts: 18
Topic starter  

I am debating building a LP copy myself. Just wondering if anyone else has tried this, specifically from these plans-[url][ http://www.stewmac.com/shop/Books,_plans/Plans/1/Les_Paul_Plan/Details.html#details/url ] I have better than average woodworking and shop skills, just have never tried a guitar before. I'm not trying to do it to save money, just to see if I can. I'd appreciate comments on this pro or con. Am I going to end up with a lot of specialty tools that I'm likely to never need again, or an expensive pile of sawdust and wood shavings? Thanks in advance.

Dave


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(@timezone)
Estimable Member
Joined: 18 years ago
Posts: 209
 

I've "built" a couple of guitars, but I always start with shaped bodies and completed necks, so that's really more like "assembling" a guitar. (I do, however, do the finishes myself, which I enjoy.) I find the idea of completely crafting a guitar appealing, but I have neither the woodworking skills, nor the equipment (nor the space for the equipment). Anyways, what I'm getting at is, if you're not sure how deep into it you want to get, http://www.warmoth.com might be a good way to get started. I might suggest, since you say you have some woodworking skills, maybe just starting with a neck from a good maker (fender, warmoth, usacg, whoever) and making just the body yourself. That is probably how I would start, then you know even if the body looks like crap, at least the neck will be playable. ;)

TZ


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(@gnease)
Illustrious Member
Joined: 18 years ago
Posts: 5058
 

A Les Paul from scratch is a pretty aggresive first project, even with plans and skills. My first guitar building experience was in high school. I designed and built a maple neck completely from raw materials, figuring out how a truss rod "probably" worked, calculating the fret positions ... everything. And I did it with only my dad's sabersaw, drill + rotary rasp and finishing sander. I must have been out of my mind to put in so much work. But in the end, it actually worked. But my unfair advantage was not being good with woodworking -- I hadn't even taken shop class. I was good with mechanics, electronics and math. All of which I believe are more important in guitar building than following a set of plans. Understanding why a guitar is constructed as it is will be of more value than "simply" (not really that simple) following a recipe. That "exercise" in teen lust for a really cool Fender-like guitar all those years ago forced me to think about how-it's-done. And that became the real value out of the whole experience. (The neck ended up on a Teisco guitar, as I left for university before I had time to design and build the custom body.)

If you don't know much about guitar construction, build a bolt-on kit first -- or maybe even a glue together cheapie LP kit. The first kit I ever purchased (a year or two after university) was a glue-in neck LP. I never finished it, and in fact bought a second to retry (only $50 each, with no hardware included). But again, I learned a lot through the experience: about set neck alignment and laminated (maple - mahogany) construction, chambering, body binding and finishing by assembling and tearing down those kits. I even removed frets and fingerboards to understand what's what. In the end, I routed off the original top and replaced it with fresh maple, and also intended to do a fresh fingerboard and complete fret job. I some point, I decided, it was taking too much time away from playing, and switched over to other projects: an original lap steel from scratch (almost done), turning a Saga Tele kit into a truly playable and good sounding guitar (use it all the time), and modifying a gaggle of Squier '51s.

I agree with TZ: Start with a kit. There really is a lot of woodworking required to get a good guitar -- or better, a customized guitar -- out of a kit. And BTW, Stew-Mac is a really expensive place to buy luthier tools. Usually conventional tools work just as well for many luthering purposes, and are a lot cheaper.

-=tension & release=-


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(@97reb)
Noble Member
Joined: 19 years ago
Posts: 1223
 

Research, research and more research. Ask questions, and look further into things than you think you should. Try and practice some things maybe on scrap wood before "really" doing it. If you think you are ready for the project, plan it out, then do more research on exactly what you need. Plan some more and then, then, maybe have some fun. I still have a couple of projects in the works. Some have gone better than others. Some will need to be slightly redone due to rookie errors. I have one that may turn into an incredible guitar. So that one will be the last to be completed, after I finish the other 2-3. Good luck and try to have fun, but remember it is really cheaper to buy a decent or good quality pre-made guitar and do some minor mods.

It is a small world for metal fanatics. I welcome you fellow musicians, especially the metalheads!


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(@dbrownlee)
Active Member
Joined: 15 years ago
Posts: 18
Topic starter  

Thanks, all. I definitely plan on researching further before I make any decisions. I figured shaping the body would be the easier part, I'm just not too sure about the neck yet. I really hate to put that much work into something that might end up unplayable. The electronics don't bother me too much- I can read schematics, solder, etc., and I understand how all the components work. I do have an old electric I can play with some more first. I did rewire it once I finally started learning to play. It really needs new pickups and pots. At some point the finish was stripped off as well, so there is that to play with, also. It's some type of LP copy, of unknown vintage or manufacture. I'll likely redo that one to give to my daughter- the fingerboard is really too narrow for my liking.

Of course, when I mentioned making a guitar to my wife, she said "cool, but when are you going to finish the..." Might be better to put it on the way-back burner for now.

Thanks again for the comments, Dave.


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