DIY Projects

How To Build a Custom Electric Guitar

Submitted by: on October 14, 2011

How-To Build a Custom Electric Guitar

So, you want to build your own electric guitar? Be warned that building an electric guitar will be very expensive. Tools and raw materials are costly. Also, it is a time-consuming process. But building your own guitar gives immense satisfaction because you can build your guitar with as much care and precision as you wish. You can choose beautiful wood and also the choicest hardware, and custom-design it in any way you like. Above all, from being a passive consumer, you become the active builder of your own guitar. The kick you get out of building your own electric guitar is well worth the trouble.

Procure all the materials, components, and tools you will need. Plan and set up a controlled workspace where you will not be disturbed.

I assume that you are familiar with common guitar terms. The steps (in brief) to build your dream guitar are described in the following sections.

Step 1: Neck and Headpiece

  • Construct the neck blank.
  • Lay up headstock veneer blocks.
  • Cut a slot in the heel block, and trim the head block.
  • Neatly cut out the outline of the heelpiece.
  • Cut out the headpiece outline. You can engrave the headpiece for a dash of style.
  • Drill and slot the headpiece.
  • Carve the heelpiece.
  • Shape and finish the footpiece.
  • Fuse the ebony tension bar.
  • Cut the ledge for the top.

Step 2: The Plates

  • Join the plates (the top, the sides, and the back).
  • Prepare and bend the sides.
  • Take care to acquire plates.
  • Join the plates (top and back).

Step 3: The Soundhole Rosette

  • Design and build the mosaic log.
  • Cut and trim the required number of tiles.
  • Dig the rosette channels.
  • Fit and fix the rosette purfling.
  • Fit and fuse the rosette tiles.
  • Cut out the soundhole.

Step 4: Back Bracing

  • Apply the center reinforcement strip.
  • Bend the cross struts as arches and then glue them.
  • Carve and polish the bracing.

Step 5: Soundboard Bracing

  • Design a layout of the bracing pattern on the soundboard.
  • Glue down the flat-shaped grafts, the fans, and the finger braces.
  • Carve the fans (this is optional).
  • Carve and fix the bottom V-shaped upper cross strut and also the upper and lower transverse bars.
  • Trim the ends of the bars.
  • Trim the upper edge of the soundboard plate.

Step 6: Body Assembly

  • Fit and assemble the neck, the sides, and also the tail block.
  • Fit and fix the neck, the sides, and tail block assembly to top.
  • Make kerfed linings and tentelonnies.
  • Spread the tentellonies as well as linings to the body assembly.
  • Mark and notch up the linings to cover the back brace ends.
  • Fix the brace feet to the sides.
  • Prepare the lined edges to bear the back.
  • Fit and fix the back.
  • Join the guitar.

Step 7: The Fingerboard

  • Secure the fingerboard.
  • Fix the fingerboard.
  • Taper off and chafe the fingerboard.
  • Carve the neck and refine all the surfaces.
  • Scrape sand and prepare for finish.
  • Finish the entire guitar by presealing all of the surfaces, filling up the open pores, applying undercoats, and giving the final polish.

Step 8: The Bridge

  • Secure the bridge; finish and fix it.

Step 9: The Strings

  • Dress and polish the frets as well as the fingerboard.
  • Fit the nut and saddle blanks into their respective slots and induct the tuning machine.
  • Now string the guitar and do the final setup.

Step 10: The Electronics

The most important accessories of an electric guitar are the pickups. They transform the mechanical vibrations of the strings into electric pulses, which are sent to the amplifier. Pickups are based on magnetic fields, and strings are made of iron and nickel so that they can influence this magnetic field. The core of a pickup is one or several magnets, with a wire made of copper coil wound around it. There are two types of pickups: single-coiled pickups and Humbuckers. Single-coil pickups consist of one row of magnets with one coil around them. The higher and thinner the coil, the clearer will be the sound. But single-coil pickups are susceptible to magnetic interference. Humbuckers consist of two single-coil pickups next to each other. The sound may not be as clear, but magnetic interference is avoided.

Now provide circuitry to select, mix, and/or filter the signals, and send them to the output jack. There are two sorts of circuits: active and passive. Passive circuits are most common and do not require external power (batteries). Active circuits require external power, but they offer more possibilities and an amplifier-independent sound quality. Ensure that the preamplifier is able to deal with high-input impedance, because most pickups have an impedance of around 8000 ohms. Also, provide enough electrostatic shielding in the circuits to ensure that all ground pins of the components, starting with the one from the output jack, are connected together, without forming any loops.

Finally, give ample time to set the shape. On average, a minimum of 40 days will be required. Then recheck for the action and functionality aspects. If necessary, perform adjustments to fine-tune the guitar. Your dream electric guitar is now ready to rock the audience.