When I first decided to build my first acoustic guitar from a guitar kit, I knew it was going to be a challenge. Looking back now, though, I realize that I didn’t have a clue what I was getting myself into.
Don’t get me wrong…I am LOVING putting this acoustic guitar together! So far it’s been an amazing experience. However, considering I have little instrument-building experience, I feel like I’m a blind man trying to get through a maze.
That’s why I solicited the help of my friend Dave Appel, owner of Scanlon Bros Guitars. I realized that I would learn so much more from this experience if I had the assistance of an experienced luthier like Dave instead of fumbling around by myself.
Dave provide incredible insight into how my guitar should be built. He also opened my eyes to the luthier tools of the trade – tools that I had no idea existed.
I’d like to share with you some of the things I learned from Dave. I do this in hope that you can enjoy the guitar-building process as much as I have.
5 Tips for Building a Guitar from Kit
If I could boil down what I’ve learned over the past couple months into 5 useful tips, here’s what I would tell you:
Don’t Do it Alone!
Not only is it more fun to do this project together with somebody, it also helps if that second person has a little experience. I would go so far as to recommend that you seek out a luthier who offers to mentor and guide you on your build, similar to what I did with Dave of Scanlon Bros Guitars.
Buy Pre-Shaped Parts
This is especially true if this is your first guitar kit. Whether it’s the sides of your guitar being pre-bent or the bracing being pre-shaped, I highly recommend giving yourself a break by allowing the professionals to do this for you. I first purchased my bracing from Luthiers Mercantile International and it arrived as three big blocks of wood. I was quick to get back on their website and order pre-shaped bracing since I didn’t have the patience to carve the bracing.
The best way to enjoy your guitar build is to set your expectations well. According to my luthier friend Dave, who has put together a number of different guitars over the years, he is able to assemble a guitar kit in just a couple weeks but it takes an additional 4-6 weeks to apply the finish. If you’re a beginner who is only doing this on the side, consider double or tripling that time period.
Research, Research, Research
Before you get started and even while you’re putting the guitar together, it’s a great idea to continue your research by reading books, watching videos and talking with other luthiers. Many times I found during my research that I would get answers to questions I didn’t even know I should be asking.
Watch Your Humidity
I thought I had good control over the environment where I was building my guitar. Then I noticed that my sitka spruce top was beginning to bow…nooooo!! I had to quickly adjust my humidity in the shop where I was working and make sure that I was carefully watching my external environment.
Recommended Luthier Tools for Guitar Kits
Instead of diving into a list of recommended luthier tools that make building a guitar from a kit so much easier, I suggest you take a look at the following video where Dave Appel from Scanlon Bros Guitars walks us through his shop to discuss which tools are absolutely necessary and which you can do without.
If you’re looking to purchase tools, you can look at one of the following websites which provide a number of quality luthier tools:
- Luthiers Mercantile International: This is where I bought my kit and I’ve been pleased with the quality.
- Stewart MacDonald: Another favorite place to buy tools for many luthiers.
Conclusion | Guitar Kit Tips & Tools
As always, make sure you continue to do your research before you jump into building your own guitar. A lot of headache and hassle can be avoided that way!
Are you building your own guitar from a kit right now? Chime into the comments below and let us know how it’s going for you. What have been the challenges that you’ve had so far?