How do I get started in guitar building? Budding luthiers frequently ask this question while trying to piece together what’s needed. And while there’s a lot of information available, putting it all together can be daunting. What would-be builders need are good general reference sources. To address this, I’ve compiled this list of 10 books, forums and sites to get you started on the road to building your own guitar.
1. Martin Koch’s Building Electric Guitars – If I could make just one recommendation, it would be to start with a book. While you could assemble everything you need to know from internet resources, you’ll need the patience of a saint. In addition, starting with a book will give you the broad overview and perspective you’ll need in order to ask intelligent questions of fellow guitar builders. And, believe me – you’ll have lots of questions. Martin Koch’s book takes you through the process of how to make a guitar with mostly basic hand and power tools – a key for getting started. Read my review. It’s also available as an ebook.
2. Melvyn Hiscock’s Make Your Own Electric Guitar – This is another highly recommended guitar building book which also takes you through the various steps. Many builders swear by it and consider it the bible on making electric guitars. With a forward by Brian May of Queen, it’s hard to go wrong. See my book review.
3. Project Guitar – This was one of my earliest discoveries and is still an important one for me. Among its resources are over 200 tutorials related to making guitars, finishing guitars, etc. You can’t go wrong with these for instructions and ideas. It is also the home to my next top resource.
4. Project Guitar Forum – Without a doubt, this is my favorite resource for ongoing questions and discussions about guitar building. Although technically a part of Project Guitar, it has so much value on its own I felt it deserved its own mention. Project Guitar Forum is an active forum of talented amateur guitar builders as well as professional luthiers who are genuinely interested in sharing ideas and thoughts with both the experienced and the inexperienced. The quality of discussion here is generally high and I go here almost daily.
5. Reranch – At some point in your build, guitar finishing techniques will come up. Reranch, a finishing supplies vendor, has several overviews of finishing techniques which can prove helpful. It also hosts an active guitar finishing forum where you can ask questions from a friendly bunch.
6. Stewart MacDonald – Aka Stew Mac, this vendor is one I think every guitar builder should familiarize him or herself with. Their catalog alone is a wealth of information giving you insight into the variety of options that exist when making guitars. They are also one of the premier vendors of tools specifically designed for guitar building and luthiery.
7. Kingbass.com’s Soldering Tutorial for the Mechanically Challenged – At some point you’ll have to solder and while there are several resources on the net for soldering, this particular one is clear, concise and focused on guitar and bass.
8. Warmoth – Another vendor I recommend guitar builders familiarize themselves with. They sell high quality bodies and necks with a variety of customizable options. They also have a very useful overview of different body woods and their effect on tone – Body Woods. This question comes up often and this is a quick reference on the subject.
For details such as working properties, seasoning, figuring and wood toxicity I suggest the highly regarded Wood Identification and Use. For more, see my review.
9. Guitar Nuts – If you can get past the minor annoyance of a pop-under window that shows several vendors that help support the site, Guitar Nuts is a wonderful resource for wiring. However, read carefully. You are dealing with electricity and safety is paramount.
10. Basic Guitar Setup Tips – Once you’ve built your guitar, you’ll have to set it up to make sure your action is good, pickups are at the right height, intonation is set, etc. This is one of the better sites I’ve come across on the subject.