Woodworking and the Aspiring Guitar Builder

One of the challenges in being new to guitar building is developing an understanding of basic woodworking and finishing techniques. While guitar building books will tell you what tool to use, they typically don’t tell you how to use it. If you don’t have that knowledge or understanding you’re out of luck.

Being a newcomer to woodworking, I thought I’d list a few of the resources I have found helpful in developing enough of an understanding to undertake this project.

There are two books I find incredibly helpful. They are as follows:

  • Woodworking With the Router by Bill Hylton – if you only purchase one book about routers and router techniques, this is the one. Everything you absolutely must know is in here. The book is well written – detailed yet concise. Plenty of color photographs help bring the material home. Note: The original edition contains only black and white photos which aren’t as good at communicating information. Get the new one. Besides the color photographs, content has been expanded and improved.
  • Understanding Wood Finishing: How to Select and Apply the Right Finish by Bob Flexner – Like Woodworking With the Router, this is another “bible” regarding its subject matter. If you’ve looked around the web, talked to people about finishing techniques or explored the sites of finish product manufacturers, you’ve probably come across a great deal of voodoo about the subject. Bob Flexner gets you past all the nonsense and old wives’ tales. Here is detailed information on the various categories of finishing products, information on how to apply them as well as information on troubleshooting and correcting problems. Buy it. Buy it now.

Apart from these two books, tool catalogs are a great resource. I particularly like the Lee Valley catalog. However, it is rather specialized so you shouldn’t forget more common sources such as Sears. Flipping through these you begin to develop a better understanding of what’s out there to help you accomplish a given task. Flip through these with a critical eye though.

It’s tempting to buy every tool and device that suggests that it is the best tool for the job or will shave time off your project. Think about what you have and how it might be repurposed. For example, a bandsaw may be an ideal tool for cutting out a guitar body but a jigsaw, a much more common tool in the small workshop, will do the job as well. Do a rough cut with the jigsaw, follow it up with a rasp to take away some additional material and you’re ready to proceed with the router.

Another wonderful yet underutilized resource is the public library system. What your local library doesn’t have on its shelves may very well be available through a lending network. Oftentimes, you can obtain books from other libraries simply by requesting them through your local library or through an online system. I took advantage of this and tracked down all sorts of books on woodworking – from the very general to the very specific. I went online, performed my searches, made my requests and picked up books from my local library often within a day or two of my request. Go look into this resource.

4 Responses to “Woodworking and the Aspiring Guitar Builder”

  1. great resources! there’s lee valley store in vancouver that i check out all the time.

  2. Harbor Freight is another great place for tools.

    1. I like Harbor Freight’s catalog as well although I don’t have any direct experience with them.

  3. My table saw is from Home Depot, my jointer from Grizzly, my drill press from G.H. Mahon’s (Thunder Bay), my small appliance tools from Allinonewood.com (Mississauga), my oscillating spindle sander from Busy Bee (Mississauga), and various power tools from Canadian Tire.
    I shop and compare to get the best value. This doesn’t mean cheapest, but the best tool I can afford at the time. It’s not the size of your power tools, but how you use them that counts!