I have made several guitars, its a fun hobby. They’re a great sized project, and it doesn’t take over the garage like some others.
My Son had been taking guitar lessons for just over a year. This was back when he was young enough that he still wanted to do everything Dad does.
He was attending a School of Rock. They have an amazing program there that I wish I’d had been able to attend as a kid (I’m not affiliated and receive nothing for this flattery). Their program consists of semesters where you join an actual band. Your instructor works with you 1-on-1 and then you practice with the band weekly. At the end of the semester, you perform, on stage at a local restaurant/bar. Typically at an off time when the crowd is light to non-existent.
Anywho….he’d gone through a few semesters and was enjoying it. So we designed and built him a sweet axe. You can tell by the drawing how amazing it will be.
Having made several before, I’d always spent far too long pondering where the center line of the guitar is once the outline is cut. This time I started with the center line.
With the cavities all routed I cut the rough shape on the band saw, I aim for approximately a quarter inch fatter than the final shape. This allows me to attach a template and use the router with a pattern following bit to get a nice final shape.
I use round over bits in the router to take off the sharp corner and get a consistent edge. Depending on the look of the guitar, this can be slight rounding or it may be necessary to do it all with an aggressive rasp or file.
Nearly all guitars will require heavier rounding where the instrument comes in contact with your forearm, hip and thigh. I’ve (almost) always done this by hand. I have used power tools to get me close, but the final shaping is done with files and sandpaper. It’s the best way to get smooth transitions from one surface to the next.
Once the body is at its final shape, I focus on the neck. I’ve both bought and made necks/fretboards. For me, buying the fretboard with frets cut and making the neck is the sweet spot. The precision of the fret position (say that five times fast!) is critical and I didn’t get results that met my expectations when I’ve tried it.
To quote a friend “my expectations exceed my capability“. – JT
Shaping the neck requires patience and confidence. Confidence, mainly in your chosen material and your measurements. The guitar I reference for neck thickness has a rather thin neck. With a channel routed down the center for a truss rod, I always feel I’m going to make it too thin and the whole thing will come apart. The first necks I made ended up thick and heavy as a result.
A bonus to making your own neck is the ability to mate it to the body and get the heal (neck/body joint) to appear they were made for each other…cause they were!
I’ve also had fun and challenged myself with custom, wrap around fret markers as well as other inlay.
Once the neck is finish sanded, it’s time for paint. The recipient demanded a checkerboard pattern of white and metallic green. Automotive paint is commonly used for guitars, the wood has to be sealed with sand-n-sealer, then topped with a coat or two of primer. The gloss white went on first. Once dry we laid out the pattern using painters tape and an xacto knife, removing the sections that would be green. After a few coats the tape was removed to reveal the soon-to-be face melting shred machine.
At this point it always feels nearly done. It’s not. Wiring the electronics, installing the hardware, frets, nut and strings. Getting it all set up to play nice…this usually takes me a REALLY long time to get it right. In this case, I cheated. He had a performance coming up and we didn’t have the time for me to monkey with it. So we dropped it off at the local guitar shop for a pro to set up.