From growing fresh herbs to using solar panels to generate your own electricity, some things are better when you do them. Many argue that building your own guitar is one of these cases.
Folks often ask, “Is it worth building my own guitar?”
Building your own guitar isn’t for everyone. However, it is an enriching experience that provides those who are up to the task with ultimate customization and quality. To answer this question accurately, one must first understand the guitar-building process.
Pros and Cons of a D.I.Y. Guitar
There are many considerations when building a guitar from scratch. As we said, the task isn’t for everyone. Thus, it is only worth taking a D.I.Y. approach to acquiring your next instrument if the pros outweigh the cons for you.
- Building your own guitar offers the most customization possible. When you make a guitar, you can choose every piece, including the neck, pickups (for electric guitars), body, tuning nuts, and more. Once you’re done, you’ll have a one-of-a-kind instrument fine-tuned to a very specific type of player — you.
- Creating a guitar from scratch is rewarding. Sure, there’s a passion to be had in owning a high-quality Stratocaster made in a factory by someone else. You may not have built it yourself, but you sure as heck maintained it. But when you build a guitar from scratch, the pride is immeasurable. You are the one who assembled it and tweaked it to perfection.
- A custom-built guitar can sound amazing. Granted, the first two factors — customization and pride — are the most common reasons people build their own guitars. But, nevertheless, because you’re likely to put more care and attention into building your guitar than someone else who works in an assembly line, the improvement in sound quality is noticeable.
- It isn’t cheap to make a custom guitar. People can indeed save money by building items like furniture and computers themselves. Unfortunately, this is not usually the case with guitars. Pickups, wood, and initial cost for the tools you’ll need add up quickly.
- It is time-consuming to build a guitar from scratch. If you don’t have ample free time and want to start playing A.S.A.P, buying a prebuilt guitar is better.
- Building a guitar requires skills. If it’s an electric guitar, you need to understand the basics of wiring. If it’s an acoustic guitar, you need to have a grasp on the science of acoustics and tone. In short, there are many principles that make guitar-building an intense mental activity.
How Hard is it to Build My Own Guitar?
We’ll put this bluntly: it’s not easy to build your own guitar. However, the difficulty level varies based on how you approach it. A D-I-Y guitar kit will expose you to the process while firmly guiding you if you want to start slow.
If you choose a kit, building your own guitar isn’t too challenging — although it’s harder than walking into your local guitar store and picking a model off the rack. So long as you can follow instructions, a good guitar building kit will provide everything you need to avoid complications. It’s also cost-effective — this guitar-building kit from Amazon currently costs $123, which is cheaper than most prebuilt guitars.
The difficulty rises quickly when you really want to build a guitar from the ground up. This is when you’ll need to bring in the palm sander, table saw, and soldering kit.
We recommend you become comfortable in the workshop first. Figure out how to make a wooden stool, for example, before tackling any musical instruments.
Electric vs. Acoustic Guitar: Which is Harder to Build?
Sure, they both have strings and a fretboard. But, beyond that, the way electric guitars make sound versus how acoustic guitars make sound are worlds apart. Consequently, you’ll need to take some things into account when building one over the other.
Electric guitars are harder to build when it comes to electronics, whereas acoustic guitars demand better woodworking skills. Thus, the question of which is harder to make depends on your existing knowledge.
If you can command power tools like Poseidon commands the sea yet consistently need to hire an electrician for household repairs, an electric guitar will be harder to build.
Likewise, if you work in with wires all day but cower at the sound of a table saw, an acoustic guitar will be a more significant challenge for you.
Costs of Building your Own Guitar
As we mentioned, building a guitar isn’t cheap. You need to purchase nearly a dozen parts before you can dream of playing your custom six-string. Therefore, it’s best to determine what the build will cost before starting.
Consider the costs of the following parts as you figure out a budget:
You can purchase a body or build one. Expect to spend between $60 and $200 for a guitar body if you want to buy it. Of course, more money buys better materials and craftsmanship, but it (obviously) comes at a steep cost.
A guitar pickguard protects the body from your intense strumming. But, again, the cost depends largely on the material (plastic is usually the cheapest). Ultimately, a decent pickguard costs between $20 and $200.
Headstock and Neck
There is a surprising variety of headstocks for guitar-building enthusiasts to select. Your decision comes down to what brand you’d like to emulate, be it Fender or Gibson.
Also, your decision comes down to how much you’d like to spend, which typically will be between $200 and $250 for a wooden neck and headstock piece.
Before you add strings, you need to have the hardware to tune them. You can purchase a tuning kit at a price between $20 and $50.
A bridge keeps your strings in place while you adjust them with tuners. There are many types of bridges, including fixed and floating bridges. If you want some whammy action, you’ll need to spend more on a floating bridge such as a Floyd Rose system.
Overall, a guitar bridge costs (on average) between $20 and $50.
Pickups generate an electric signal from electric guitar strings. They have the biggest influence on how an electric guitar’s tone. Unsurprisingly, they tend to be costly — between $100 and $300.
After sourcing the various parts you need to build your guitar, strings are an easy oversight. You’ll need strings that are easy on your fingers while providing an ideal tone. Bad strings can ruin your build, although it’s a cheap fix.
A custom electric guitar requires several wires and an output jack to work properly. Fortunately, the pickups already did most of the damage to your wallet. So an extra $20 should cover you, provided you have the tools to splice and solder.
You’ll also need an amp. While it’s not part of your guitar, a great-sounding amp is critical to crafting your superior tone.
How to Build a Guitar
Building a guitar is a complex process. This is no guide to building a custom guitar, but we will explore the process, so you know what to expect.
Step One: Order the parts
We’ve explored the many components that make a guitar work. Unfortunately, you won’t find everything you’re looking for nearby unless you’re lucky. Thus, you need to head over to Amazon, Sweetwater, or a specialized guitar parts store like Guitar Parts Online.
Step Two: Draw a blueprint
Your guitar parts have arrived, and you’re probably eager to begin! But before putting anything together, scrutinize each part and draw out how they will fit together.
A blueprint can range from a rough paper sketch to a detailed computer-aided drafting model. The goal is to plan your build and reduce the likelihood of costly mistakes.
Step Three: Build the guitar
Now starts the hands-on part of crafting your custom guitar. If you’re building the neck and body from scratch, you’ll need a table saw, router, and basic woodworking power tools.
If you bought premade pieces, you need to attach them. The neck should fit snugly into the cavity on the back of the guitar body, making for a solid fit once you screw everything in.
Either way, carefully follow your blueprint and take it slowly. (Remember: this is not a guide — just an overview!)
So, should you do it?
Go ahead if you’re ready for a fulfilling challenge and don’t mind spending some time and money! Building a guitar allows you to tweak things to your exact needs. It also provides the deep sense of fatherly/motherly satisfaction that allows you to say, “I made that!”
Just be sure to do your research. The more “from scratch” you start, the more planning it takes. If you know a luthier, we highly recommend reaching out to that person if this is your first time building a guitar. Plus, you will learn more about guitars from the experience.
So, do you feel you’re ready? If so, go for it!
Building a guitar can be worth it. For those who seek a one-of-a-kind guitar, it’s the only solution. Creating a guitar allows you to mix and match parts. You can even create custom parts from raw lumber if you’re an adept woodworker.
Nevertheless, we don’t recommend anyone who isn’t completely comfortable with the idea to try building a guitar from scratch. We also don’t recommend it to save money. Instead, building a guitar is something for those who crave a challenge and an immeasurably rewarding experience.